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Nottinghamshire Community Foundation delivers another excellent Dragons’ Den

Dragons Den Panel

The Dragons’ Den panel and guests.  

Pictured from the left is: Mike Sassi editor of the Nottingham Post, Richard Henshell of Strelley Hall, Tom Gray of Fraser Brown, Nina Dauban of Nottinghamshire Community Foundation, The High Sheriff of Nottinghamshire Dr Jas Bilkhu, Ashley Cooper of Turning Point Investments, Rob Atkinson of Uni-2, Mark Doleman of Deloitte and David Ryley of Ryley Wealth Management.





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Former Nottingham Rugby Football Club captain David Jackson was one of the budding entrepreneurs who won funding in a Dragons’ Den-style event aimed at supporting new businesses.

The 33-year-old, who retired from the club in 2013 after 14 years, demonstrated his “human flag” body exercise to judges.

It was part of a sales pitch for his new business, the School of Calisthenics, which provides workshops and online videos for the new bodyweight training style.

The company, which he runs with two other strength and conditioning coaches, won a £3,000 grant at the eighth High Sheriff’s Dragon’s Den event on Thursday to use for marketing and creating videos.

Two other start-ups were selected out of eight applicants for similar funding.

Mr Jackson, of Mapperley, said: “We decided to do a demonstration because we knew people would ask what it was but there’s always potential for it to go wrong.

“To a small degree it reminded me of the pressure I used to get before a rugby match so it was nice to get that exciting feeling back.

“We think we have a great idea and model for training people so it was nice to have that confirmed by business people who know what they’re talking about.”

The event, held at St James’ Hotel, in Nottingham, was organised by Nottinghamshire Community Foundation, with funding provided by Jas Bilku, the High Sheriff of Nottinghamshire.

Applicants were each given 20 minutes to pitch their ideas to a panel of six “dragons”.

They included senior representatives from companies such as Deloitte, Strelley Hall, Uni2, sponsor Turning Point Investments and Mike Sassi, the editor of the Nottingham Post.

The other two winners were The Busy Kitchen Company, which would sell homemade baking kits and preserves, and Tibeb Artisans, a social enterprise that sells recycled clothes made from raw materials.

Laura Marano, of Tibeb Artisans, works with student designers from Nottingham Trent University and donated five per cent of proceeds to wildlife conservation charities in Ethiopia and Kenya.

The 29-year-old, of The Meadows, said: “It felt like the right time to go for funding as we really need the support.

“It’s great that it’s a Nottingham fund promoting brands coming out of the city.”

The “dragons” said funding start-ups would help to boost jobs and create growth in the community.

Richard Henshell, chief executive of Strelley Hall, said: “The ideas are important but without the people it’s no good at all so they have to have the right attitude to business.”

Rob Atkinson, founder of student letting agency Uni2, said he founded his company after meeting an applicant at a previous event.

He added: “Although people are here pitching for grants, we have a panel here who are happy to invest in businesses if they see potential.”

Nina Dauban, chief executive of Nottinghamshire Community Foundation, said the benefits of the event extended beyond grants, with companies also getting free premises, new websites and machinery, marketing and IT support in previous years.

She added: “While we support our local communities through charity work, we know that the sustainability of community services also relies on enterprise.”

Dr Bilkhu said: “My aim is to encourage innovation and entrepreneurial spirit within the county.

“Dragons’ Den is my way of encouraging local budding entrepreneurs by giving them a start.”