Year 10 Business Studies students at the British International School, Ho Chi Minh City, recently tested out their ideas for new ventures before a tough panel of business experts.


Presenting any idea before an audience can be a daunting task for anyone. When you are a teenager, presenting your idea for a new business before a panel made up of people with decades of industry experience could be overwhelming.

However, the Year 10 Business Studies students from British International School (BIS) did just that recently in the school’s ‘Dragons’ Den’ business plan competition. The format is similar to the television programme of the same name that has been produced in the UK, Australia, Canada and many other countries, where contestants present their ideas to a panel of business experts.

With no previous Business Studies experience, the students are challenged to come up with a unique business idea and are given a few lessons to prepare to present it to the ‘Dragons’. Any business related terminology, theory or concepts they use in their research and subsequent pitches to the Dragons are completely self-taught.

BIS Head of Business and Economics, Deirbhle O’Neill says the ‘Dragons’ Den’ format was chosen because it was an engaging way to immerse students in the world of business.

“[The competition] inspires them to think ‘I could do that’ and aspire to have ideas of their own,” she says. “Business Studies is all about teaching students about real life, because regardless of what they go on to do in the future, they’ll be part of a business.”

“A good grounding in Business Studies will be useful to every student in their adult life and career.”

In this, the sixth year of the event at BIS, the panel of business ‘Dragons’ was made up of members from inside and outside the school community.

Greg Sklavounos is a Senior Consultant at digital marketing firm OgilvyOne and has worked with brands like Coca-Cola, Nestlé, Unilever and Vodafone on their digital marketing. He was joined by Steve Mueller, the founder and owner of successful tour company Vietnam Vespa Adventures and biofuel producer Green Energy.

The panel was completed by Paul Holyome, Principal at the British Vietnamese International School, Ho Chi Minh City, and Claire Durrant, Online Marketing Officer for the BIS Group of Schools in Vietnam.

”I found the quality of the plans and the presentations surprisingly good from all teams, considering they came from 14 year old students without any business or marketing lessons,” says Sklavounos.

“They spoke confidently about their plans and answered questions well, and some teams went the extra step of designing logos and visuals and presenting videos to promote their ideas.”

Mueller says they key message he had for the students was to be practical and realistic with their business ideas. “Most of the groups focused on the approach that having a cheaper product makes it easier to sell. That might be true but charging more and perception of a higher quality product works as well,” he says.

The winning team for this year’s competition was Tipi Pets, who came up with a simple yet innovative idea for a new type of pet bed.

Durrant says Tipi Pets won on the basis of their originality, because they had come up with an idea that was new and different. “I’ve heard of pet beds before, but not in a tipi format,” she says. “The construction process for the bed was simple and effective as well.”

Sklavounos added that the idea capitalised on a highly trending market in urban Vietnam and Tipi Pets found the gap in that market that their product could fill.

The students learnt much about what it takes to start and sustain a successful business during the Dragons’ Den exercise, including teamwork, creativity, market research and financial planning. This was no different for the Tipi Pets team, InGul Park, Chi Han Bui and Angela Kim.

“Knowing that our business was something new with real potential and individuality as well as a growing market was what motivated me the most to persist and contribute as much as I could to this competition,” says Kim.

“Hearing the Dragons tell us that our product was original as well as realistic made me feel successful in achieving the main goal, which was to win the Dragons’ investment and support,” she says.

Winners from previous years have also been inspired by their Dragons’ Den experience to go on and study business further:

Cameron Williams, a member of the winning team in 2011, is now applying for a degree in IT Management for Business at University College London with the ambition of achieving a successful career in the business sector.

“It was the Dragons’ Den process coupled with my studies in Business and Economics that ignited my intense interest and fervour for the world of business,” he says.

Alexine Yap, of the 2013 winning team said the competition fuelled her interest in furthering her business studies. “It was a good precursor to the knowledge that we would be gaining in Years 10 and 11.”