The ‘Dragons’ are waiting upstairs as entrepreneurs fiddle nervously with cue cards, fearing that their business plans and their futures could be about to be torn to shreds.
But this isn’t the TV programme – it’s the University of Buckingham where Business Enterprise students are pitching to ‘Buckingham Angels’ for up to £5,000 capital to set up a business, as part of their honours degree.
The Buckingham Angels are Dr Philip Smith, chairman of Milton Keynes Business Leaders, Katrina Hau, of the National Association of College and University Entrepreneurs, and University of Buckingham lecturers John Spoerry, Juliette Smeed and Anwar Halari.
The students are on the two-year BSc (Hons) Business Enterprise course – the first of only three programmes in Europe where undergraduate students must set up a business as part of their honours degree.
Students Simon Hodgson, Pressian Kragyozov, Shamal Patel and Oliver Sapsford are hoping that their pitch for money to start importing wooden sunglasses – the latest celebrity trend – will be successful.
The four give a polished presentation on the business venture, called Brightwood Buckingham, but face hostile questions from the panel, including: “Where is the financial data to back this up?”
As the judges make up their minds, the students are left wondering whether their lack of detailed research will leave them penniless.
But the panel agrees to hand over £2,500 to get the enterprise started, on the condition they change the price, review their financial plan and confirm costs with suppliers.
Student Tom Bowen plans to set up his business, The Golf Bundle, with Maliha Anis Matta.
The proposal is to offer a package of eight rounds of golf which can be played at a number of courses, for those who like to play at more than one course at an affordable rate, or wish to try out various golf courses.
The judges say it is one of the best pitches they have seen by Buckingham students, and the business is awarded £2,500.
A team of three – Abisoye Owolabi, Atsutoshi Yoshimine and Enqi Fan – have come up with an innovative pitch, the Electronic Translator Pen, which translates Chinese into English and many other languages.
There are concerns that the service already exists on mobile phones and tablets.
But as the target market is overseas students and Buckingham is particularly multicultural, the judges decide to award £1,500 on condition that the financial plan is revised.
The fourth pitch, by students Paul Mugisa, Bhavik Mavadia and Kelvyn Ajala, is for Student Proxy is a web-based study aid and helpful advice tool for university students, especially mature ones.
The angels think the proposal is overly complex but agree that, if students produced a simpler model, they would reconsider funding.
Dr Smith said: “The standard has been very high. There have been some very good presentations. Some needed more details to support their pitch. Our job is to enable. “It’s very valuable for the students to be able to do this. It’s very brave – they run the risk of failure.”