More than 70 young entrepreneurs from Dumfries and Galloway schools attended a Dragons’ Den event on Thursday, 21 March, sponsored by Koehler Renewable Energy (KRE) at The Bridge Centre in Dumfries in partnership with the Social Enterprise Academy. 


Pupils are running their social enterprises as part of the Social Enterprise Schools programme, delivered by the Social Enterprise Academy. It empowers young people to affect social change in their communities while developing key core employability and entrepreneurial skills for the future.


Pupil-led social enterprises from primary and secondary schools impressed the judging panel with their initiatives, products, and pitches. The eight presenting teams emphasised social responsibility, sustainable food and coffee, bio-bricks, tackling anti-social behaviour, inclusivity, tackling child neglect, and healthy living.


Pupils from Annan Academy won a £250 award for their “Guardians of Garden” social enterprise, which encourages sustainable gardening through their eco-friendly grow box made with recycled materials, climate-friendly compost, and seeds taken from food waste plants. Pupils from Kelloholm Primary School and their social enterprise, Kelloholm Carers, won special recognition from the judges for the best presentation about their efforts to tackle pollution in their community and provide healthy snack options. Each participating group received £50 to fund their projects.


Other partaking pupil-led social enterprises included: “Use your Imagination” from Annan Academy, “LAMP” and “STEEL” and “St Joseph’s Super League” from St Joseph’s Academy, “Greenbeans Schoolgrounds Biobricks” from Sanquhar Academy and “The Green Shop” from Moniave Primary School.


KRE donated £2,000 towards running the Dragon’s Den event and supporting transport costs for attending schools. An additional £2,000 of funding has been made available to school students specialising in green schemes and social responsibility projects. KRE paper and resources will also be donated to other participating projects. KRE is committed to the construction, ownership and operation of renewable energy projects in Scotland.


Fellow dragons for the full-day event included Graeme Galloway, Programme Director, DYW Dumfries & Galloway, Beverley Alexander, HR Manager, Shaw Europe Limited, and Zorica Ilin, Education Manager – South Scotland, Social Enterprise Academy. The event was hosted by youth worker Tony O’Neill.


The Dragons said they were amazed by the detailed documentation, confident pitching and the extensive skills the youngsters have picked up from their time running their social enterprises.

Following the Dragons’ Den, the schools involved will work towards a Social Enterprise in Education Award, which will be presented at a national ceremony in Edinburgh in June 2024.

Chief Dragon Alan Mathewson, Managing Director, Koehler Renewable Energy UK Director, said:


“KRE is dedicated to supporting initiatives that make our communities happier, healthier, and greener. There are no better leaders for this vision than children in our communities with a thing or two to teach us all.
“Social Enterprise Academy is a fantastic organisation dedicated to giving pupils across Dumfries and Galloway the skills and support they need to achieve their visions.  KRE is thrilled to partner and offer our expertise and support where we can.
“Every school and every social enterprise was possessed with enthusiasm and excitement, and it was a joy to listen to these pitches. KRE is excited to continue supporting these wonderful young people to drive forward their ambitions to the benefit of us all.”


Zorica Ilin, Education Manager for South Scotland, Social Enterprise Academy, said:


“It was a pleasure to see the young people of Dumfries and Galloway come together for a second year in a row to pitch their social enterprise ideas and raise funding! 
“We believe that Social Enterprise Schools has the ability to bring communities together and to change lives. Taking this place-based approach connecting valued corporate partners to social change in the community impacts everyone!  Thank you to everyone involved!”