Ed Hollands, University of Derby graduate and owner of DrivenMedia, successfully pitched on BBC Dragons’ Den, securing a £30,000 investment from entrepreneur Jenny Campbell. Here, he explains how his degree helped him to pursue his dream of owning his own business.
Studying at the University of Derby seems a long time ago; in fact it’s only been about two-and-half years. So, how did it help me face the ‘dragons’ and ultimately get an investment from Jenny Campbell?
My degree is in Business Studies, which has proved useful in many areas of my business, from being able to do my bookkeeping to understanding the importance of brand, and let’s not forget intellectual property! In this blog I’m going to focus on the on the extra skills you’ll gain from going to university.
While I was at University, I was offered the help of a mentor to get advice and develop new skills. My mentor was Graham Mullholland, a leading Derbyshire entrepreneur. He would never have heard of me, let alone offered to become my mentor or in time become an investor, if the opportunity to have a mentor through the University had never happened.
We met at a University of Derby event ‘The Network of Entrepreneurs’, sponsored by Flint Bishop Solicitors (who I now use for my business), and our mentoring/investor relationship blossomed from there.
Bev Crighton, who was one of my University lecturers, has also been a key mentor. If you are a business student, go and introduce yourself to her. She is great to network with and is more than happy to listen to your ideas and support you in getting things off the ground
Mentoring has been critical to my business in helping to create and, ultimately, shape the brand for its first campaign for the University of Derby.
The University is a huge believer in networking and my network is part of my success. Get out there and meet people. You never know who you’re going to meet or have the chance to speak to. In my case, it allowed me to meet my mentor and gave me the opportunity to be Marketing Derby’s first rising star – an award for up-and-coming entrepreneurs in the city to receive a complimentary year’s Bondholder membership, along with local publicity and invitations to must-attend events.
Throughout my degree, my confidence rose tremendously from playing a completely new sport. I began playing Dodgeball, for the University’s team, The Derby Seahawks. Alongside this, lecturers constantly challenge you to do things you never dreamed of doing. We were encouraged to speak in front of more and more people, which made speaking in front of five ‘dragons’ a piece of cake! Okay, maybe not, but looking confident is a huge part of a presentation.
How can you pitch in the Dragons’ Den without presentation skills? Those hours trying to create the ultimate pitch were truly made easier by the resources provided by the University. Tone of voice and how you project your voice are just a couple of things I tried to add to my pitch.