Edinburgh in Colour: the benefits of extra-curricular activity

main image cropChallenging oneself in an extra-curricular way is a difficult task at the best of times. However, in the words of a self-pitying master’s student (me), the short duration (and intensity) of the course plus the significant financial investment and the pressure to find one’s career passion (graduate job), can make the act of pursuing an intensive extra-curricular activity almost impossible – in fact as I am writing this blog, I am simultaneously juggling three other study-related metaphorical plates. However, there are particular moments in your life when an extra-curricular activity, although demanding, is equally if not more rewarding. This was certainly the case with the entrepreneurial challenge, Dragons’ Glen.

This story began all the way back in the balmy heights of mid-September, when I received an email about an entrepreneurial challenge called Dragons’ Glen. Dragons’ Glen is a competition pioneered by Children 1st which tasks teams of millennials from different organisations (e.g. Ernst and Young, Skyscanner, University of Edinburgh) to raise £5000 in 5 months, from an initial investment of £500. The initial investment comes from a panel of four enigmatic business professionals (the dragons) to whom the teams pitch their money-making ideas. The University of Edinburgh’s team, aptly named CreatEd, pitched the idea of an Edinburgh-themed colouring book (“Edinburgh in Colour”), in order to capitalize on the meteoric rise of the adult colouring-book industry, pioneered by Edinburgh’s-own, Johnna Basford.

Pitch day came and, contrary to regular Dragon’s Den viewing, went exceedingly well with the team gladly receiving £500 and a fantastic dragon. However, although the pitch was a success, the momentum was short-lived as assignments soon took their inevitable toll. The situation was so dire that by December, with no product in sight and momentum at an all-time low, we were beginning to give up, believing the words of the great Guy Kawasaki who stated that “ideas are easy; implementation is hard”. We had a great idea, but with a lack of practical experience had no idea how to design, produce or distribute it.

This is where Dragons’ Glen really comes into its own. For a student like me, who has spent the vast majority of his existence nestling comfortably within the bosom of education, I am like a jelly-legged astronaut trying to run a marathon when attempting to turn ideas into a real-world practical success. Dragons’ Glen is fantastic in the fact that it serves as the ultimate educational middle-man, bridging the gap between education and the ‘real world’, by affording students the rare opportunity to run their own mini-start-ups within relative safety. This opportunity is extremely advantageous, enhancing vital and often overlooked soft-skills, whilst also affording students the opportunity to experience significant practical challenges. Moreover, benefits also include a holistic business experience, as well as the fostering of cross-curriculum participation.

Kritiya Piyaseth, a student on the challenge and former Honda employee, states “although I already have commercial experience, the entrepreneurial aspect of the competition has provided me with experience in many areas (design/distribution/sales) of business”. Moreover, commenting on the significant participation of the Edinburgh College of Art, she states that “the competition enables students from diverse areas of study to leverage their individual strengths to work towards a common goal”.

Since the turmoil in December, team CreatEd has gone from strength to strength, with the recent launch of their new product “Edinburgh in Colour”. On a personal level, the roller-coaster of experiences has helped me learn that although momentum can fluctuate, mistakes can be made, and many challenges can be presented, an effective team structure and a well-defined direction of travel can enable great ideas to come to fruition. Dragons’ Glen was a great learning experience for myself and the rest of the team and this is what makes it so valuable to students. I would definitely recommend it to anyone who wants to contribute to a fantastic cause whilst also making themselves irresistible to employers.

“Edinburgh in Colour” is available in the Potterrow shop (EUSA), the Visitor Centre, and online.

Robert Yates

Robert Yates is a Carbon Finance Masters student and Managing Director of team CreatEd. He is on a mission to develop his extra-curricular skills, particularly in leadership, communication and teamwork, in preparation for his career outside of education. He also dabbles in ironman triathlon in his spare time.

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