This past April, 123 students from the fourth-year Graphic Communications Management (GCM) Business Plan capstone course were invited to participate in Dragons’ Den style pitching sessions with leading graphic communication industry professionals for an opportunity to receive expert feedback, make important professional connections and a chance to work with preeminent businesses in the printing sector. This unique experiential learning opportunity connected students from The Creative School directly to the creative industries, and helped pave the way to bright future careers in the industry.
While the popular show Dragons’ Den calls on aspiring entrepreneurs to apply their business pitches for a chance at a substantial investment, lecturer Donna Razik organized a ‘Dragon's Den’ capstone project for final year GCM students to present to 15 industry leaders during a series of panel pitches over four days. Students developed a profitable three-year start-up idea that would create change or advancement in graphic communications, and then given the chance to pitch their print and packaging innovations and solutions in-depth. Topics included branding, premedia, packaging, print, publishing, and digital media.
Dragons included Troy McCann, Sr. Account Executive, CPG at Amazon Ads, Rebecca Hamilton, CEO of award-winning Fish Agency and sister agency Whitespace Brands Inc, Alexandra King, Marketing Manager at Molson Coors and Begum Walji, Global Software Product Marketing Manager at Ricoh Canada Inc., among others.
Razik, who was recently selected to receive a Dean's Teaching Award, believes these early networking and professional opportunities are vital to student success in and out of the classroom. “Creating live experiential opportunities for our soon-to-be-graduates with “real world” feedback from industry leaders propels their practical expectations and learnings exponentially."
Every student pitch project included the story behind the idea, proof that the idea was viable, a roadmap to its success, information about financials and ROI, and the ‘ask’. After the pitch, students engaged in conversation with the industry panel to discuss the ‘ask’ being made in the pitch. Pitches included requests for equity investment, financing, partnership, advice, network connections or simply overall feedback.
A total of 41 pitches were made during the Dragons’ Den exchange which took the form of a hybrid event with a combination of in-person and online panels in a mixed media presentation forum.
Feedback from the industry dragon experts was very positive;
"Congratulations to you and the students for a great event. The students did an impressive job with their presentations. Lots of great ideas."
— Charlene Codner, CCO Fish Agency
"I really enjoyed the session. [Donna Razik has] cultivated a strong dynamic class!"
— David Bigioni, Principal Brave Strategy
"I was blown away by the level of creativity and preparedness of every group. In my experience, you usually get a mix but everyone really brought their ‘A’ game yesterday."
— Janet Carmichael, TPH The printing house
One ‘dragon’ immediately connected with a student group about pursuing their idea to support recruitment methods in our industry, while another student received a job interview. In all, dragons chose three business ideas to pursue within their organizations, with conversations in the early stages.
Meet the Author
Marketing & Communication Coordinator at The Creative School, Toronto Metropolitan University
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