Teenage entrepreneurs have taken part in a new Dragon’s Den style initiative, with a difference, aimed at propelling their leadership skills to new levels.

The Crags Young Leaders Programme has kicked off in Edinburgh offering a unique chance for youngsters to get involved in a nine month programme providing them with real world industry experience thanks to CALA Homes.

12 bright young sparks, fought off fierce competition for a place on the programme and were teamed up with business experts from the UK’s most upmarket home builder at the launch event.

However, it’s not just the young people who will benefit from the first of its kind project as it will also act as a development experience for the CALA executives from across the UK, who had no idea what the challenge would entail until the day of the workshop.

The innovative project, designed to put both the young people and CALA leaders through their paces was devised by Richard Knight, Founder and Director of Maasai Camel Ltd, a leadership and organisation development consultancy.

He said: “There were certainly some shocked faces when we unveiled the challenge to the CALA team.

Crags Young Leaders Programme

“Mentoring a group of 15-18 year olds was probably the last thing they had in mind when they were asked to take part in a leadership course but I’m delighted to say the prospect has been met with great enthusiasm.

“It was fantastic to see the CALA team work with the young people, brainstorming ideas for their pitches and helping add some real life business insight, wisdom and creativity to their proposals.

“I have no doubt that the experience will be exceptionally valuable for both the CALA staff and the young leaders and I’m looking forward to seeing how the chosen project pans out.”

The group of youngsters and mentors were split into four teams of six and given a brief to devise ideas aimed at increasing revenue for the Crags Community Sports Centre to help secure its long term future.

As part of the workshop, the teams had the chance to visit similar social enterprises across the city, including The Melting Pot and Edinburgh Palette at St Margaret’s House, to get a flavour of the types of schemes they could come up with.

Following a day of planning, the teams took part in a nail biting, Dragon’s Den style pitch, where their ideas were scrutinised by a panel of Board Directors and trustees from both the Crags Community Sports Centre and CALA Homes.

Simon Turner, Crags Development Manager, said: “It’s been an eye opener in a really positive way for both the CALA managers and the young adults, as both have been exposed to a range of ideas and people they wouldn’t normally interact with.

“The passion, drive and ingenuity displayed by the young people has been truly inspiring and with a little help from the mentors their visions have been transformed into real life feasible projects.

“We’d like to thank CALA Homes for their energy and enthusiasm in the project and I am delighted to see the collaboration create positive outcomes for all involved.”

After much deliberation the Dragons selected their favourite idea, focusing on raising additional funds for the Crags centre which will now be seed funded by a £5000 donation from CALA Homes so that it can be transformed into a live project.

Now the group of young people will work on the selected project and will be coached by members of the Crags Board as well as attending monthly leadership workshops covering topics such as building and maintaining confidence and communicating ideas.

Kevin Whitaker, Regional Chairman at CALA Homes (East) who was one of the dragons said: “Taking part in the programme has been a challenging but rewarding experience for both our team and the young people involved.

“It’s been great for our executives to step out of the corporate world and give something back to the community.

“The creativity and ambitions of the youngsters was fantastic to see and their pitches were very professional.

“It has been a privilege to work with some of the brightest youngsters in Edinburgh and perhaps following the project they will develop into some of the business leaders of the future.”

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