GCU student enters the Dragons Den

22 May 2013

Susan Aktemel with Thomas Lyon

Susan Aktemel with Thomas Lyon

A Glasgow Caledonian University student has won a Dragons’ Den style competition for his social business idea.

Thomas Lyon, 41, won an award worth £2000 for his concept for a soup café, where people in deprived areas could learn to cook healthy meals on a tight budget.

He was one of four finalists who pitched their ideas last night (Tue, May 21) at the Social Business Awards, run by the Glasgow Social Enterprise Network (GSEN) and GCU’s Yunus Centre for Social Business & Health.

The third year mental health nursing student’s winning business idea was ‘The Magic Cauldron’, a soup café in Glasgow’s Parkhead Forge that will provide healthy food as well as cookery and nutrition workshops.

He won £1000 in travel and subsistence to visit and learn from relevant social businesses and £1000 in mentoring from a leading Scottish Social entrepreneur to develop the business.

“It was nerve-wracking to pitch to the ‘dragons’ but it was a great learning experience and I was delighted to win this competition, which really gets you thinking about society in a larger way,” said Thomas, from Glasgow.

“People living in poverty often make unhealthy food choices through desperation to feed their family on a tight budget. Home-made soup is part of Scotland’s culture and is cheap and simple to make, and they can learn how at the Soup Café.”

Susan Aktemel, Chair of GSEN, said: “The winning business concept truly captured our imagination – it is a simple idea with a clear vision.

“Thomas demonstrated to the judges exactly how the business would be implemented and could be expanded in the future. We can’t wait to see how this business develops and flourishes in the future.”

The other finalists’ concepts were: micro-farming in Brazil to help poor diets amongst disadvantaged communities; charity pub quizzes that would support Glasgow charities; and Food for a Hundred a Day, which aims to feed a minimum of 100 people per day.

Professor Bruce Wood, who chaired the panel and is Chair of GCU’s Enterprise and Education Committee, said: “We had a difficult decision to make as the finalists were all motivated and passionate and had observed how they could use a social business to tackle a real problem in local and international communities.”

The other dragons were: Cam Donaldson, Yunus Chair in Social Business and Health, Neil Mclean of the Social Enterprise Academy; Karen McGregor of Firstport, which gives free business support to social enterprises in Scotland; and Ed Clack of Glasgow School for Business and Society at GCU.

Cam Donaldson said: “This award has been an exciting collaboration between GSEN and the Yunus Centre. We hope to continue the partnership to help and encourage the development of more social businesses from GCU students and graduates.”