View from the Chamber, September 26

Dragons' Apprentice Challenge 2013

Dragons' Apprentice Challenge 2013 - Credit: Archant

This week sees the launch of the Dragons Apprentice Challenge 2014, a fantastic community initiative which provides a platform linking students from schools and colleges with local businesses and local charities/community groups.

Schools identify their interest in participating and encourage Year 12 students to put themselves forward and form teams of six. Each team is matched with a local business mentor (their Dragon) and a local charity or community group. Teams are given £100 and challenged to turn it into £1,000. Dragons provide support in the form of advice, and access to resources, to help their team achieve their business goal and funding target.

All profits made by the teams go directly to their allocated charity/community organisation, and the Challenge runs annually from September until March with support from the Centre for Voluntary Service (CVS) for St Albans and District.

During the 2013 Challenge 27 teams of students from schools and colleges across St Albans, Harpenden, Welwyn and Hatfield and Letchworth worked hard to devise ways of earning money for 27 local charities. With support from local business Dragons, teams held fundraising projects including race nights, themed dinners in local restaurants, bin spraying, a fashion show, a comedy evening, quizzes, sleep overs, concerts and cake sales. One team designed and sold teacher Top Trumps cards and another devised a version of “Would your teacher lie to you”. Together the teams raised almost £30,000.

To date over 400 young people have participated, 42 local charities have benefitted and over £82,000 has been raised in the St Albans area alone. I have seen many of the team in action over past years and have always been so impressed by their entrepreneurial spirit and sense of social responsibility. If you would like to support this initiative or would like more information contact Wendy Henrys on or go to

The St Albans Chamber likes to work co-operatively with other organisations that promote commerce and strengthen business relationships and in the past we have worked with Herts Institute of Directors, Watford Chamber of Commerce and the Hertfordshire Chamber of Commerce by hosting joint events.

This is very beneficial to our members as they are able to widen their networks and raise their company profile to new people they do not usually have the opportunity to meet. Over the last five years there have been many networking groups popping up in this area, all offering different opportunities to get out there and improve your connections. Some might sat there is a saturation of groups and it is difficult to choose which ones to join! The Chamber has been established since 1907 so we do feel we have stood the test of time!

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It is all very well having hundreds of contacts on Linked In, Twitter or your business Facebook page but how many of these people do you actually know and have a genuine business relationship with? What percentage of your social media connections have you ever met with face to face for a coffee, training, seminar or similar? Like me I suspect not as many as I would like! This is why finding the time to do some regular networking is so important!

Ever tried speed networking? This is the fastest and most cost-effective way to positively promote your business and it is actually really good fun - honestly! We’ve had to schedule more of these events by popular demand, they are so popular. Speed networking works like speed dating only you are supposed to make business contacts not romantic ones!

In fact, you’ll make more business contacts in just one evening of speed networking with us than in weeks of what we call ordinary “slow” business networking. Many people tend to gravitate towards those they may already know at networking events, never getting the opportunity to meet others who could be great business contacts.

Come along to our next event, step out of the comfort zone and meet every single delegate! Market your business effectively and enjoy a delicious buffet and a glass of wine at The Bistro Westminster Lodge, St Albans on Wednesday November 20 at 6pm. Places can be booked online or by calling the office on 863054.

We have over 20 representatives from schools, colleges and universities across the region attending our networking lunch with Secretary of State Michael Gove MP on Friday October 11. There are already 180 guests attending but as the event is at Sopwell House Hotel we can accommodate more people in their largest banqueting room the St Albans Suite.

This is a great opportunity to hear what Mr Gove has to say about all the proposed changes in the education system – which really affects us all. Is he developing the next generation of business leaders? At this event we hope to have a better idea of how our government is preparing young adults to be ready for your business! If you would like to come along either alone of with some clients, please do get in touch as soon as possible.