• James Armstrong

Local youth compete in Hudson Dragons’ Den event


Dragons and winners come face to face as the “mock” Dragons’ Den came to an end.

(Left to right) Dragons Sophie McCafferty and Mayor Jamie Nicholls, winners Jessica Lothian and Erika Berchez and Dragon Debbie Newton Eldridge.

It was an unprecedented decision for a Dragons’ Den event, but Erika Berchez and Jasmine Lothian were both declared first place winners for their business ideas they presented on Saturday, December15. They tied for first place in a field of eight participants before a panel of three judges or Dragons. It was an event organized by the Youth Leadership Course founded and designed by Mick McCafferty and his wife, Deborah McCafferty. Also vying for first place in the competition were Corbet Sheridan, Rachel Burnett, Abby Dumas and Sophie Coppola-Kuhn.

“We’ve covered a lot in eight weeks,” said Mick McCafferty before giving each participant a graduation certificate. He described how the course provided the tools for each of them to improve their public speaking skills and build their confidence. “The Dragons’ Den brings it all together, all the work that was done in the past eight weeks,” he said. Participants had to choose and develop a business plan and present it on the final day of the course. “Leadership is about persuading others to do what you want them to do,” McCafferty said. “The course introduces young people to public speaking. We deal with nervous fear by turning it into nervous excitement.” It developed from McCafferty’s organization, Or8, an organization that provides a helping hand with public speaking.

Taking on the roles of Dragons were Hudson Mayor Jamie Nicholls, Debbie Newton and Sarah McCafferty.

“It was great to be on the judging side of things,” said the mayor with a chuckle when asked how it felt to be a Dragon.

“I was impressed by all of the presentations by the young leaders,” he said. “This is a great resource that Mick and Debbie offer to the kids of our town.”

Fielding questions regarding their presentations kept the presenters on their toes, as they had to find answers on the spot.

“We thrive on feedback,” said McCafferty as the Dragons retired to consider their decision. A feedback system was built into the course in the form of direct commentary on the presentations, an ‘UmAh’ report that kept track of all the “umms” and “ahhs” and other filler words and a quiz that posed pertinent questions about the facts in each presentation.

Jasmine Lothian proposed a vegan restaurant named ‘Blue Root’ that promised to meet the individual dietary desires and needs of its clientele with the use of a smart phone application for placing orders. The app was a sorting device giving clients a variety of options including plate size, choice of proportions and units of proteins and vegetables. The application also provided the kitchen staff with the necessary information to process the order. When asked by one of the Dragons if she intended it to be a fast food restaurant, Lothian replied that it was between that and a sit down restaurant with wait staff. “Customers would place their orders and get them at the counter,” she replied.

Food also played a major role in Erika Berchez’s home-based business idea of providing healthy lunches designed to meet the needs of people who work. Her goal was to use traditional recipes from around the world and put a healthy spin on them. In her presentation, she dealt with the issues of food production at home, the need for supplies, packaging and labels. When asked about the size and scope of her business, Berchez said she intended to keep it within the vicinity of her location, preparing and delivering the lunches herself on a daily basis.

The Youth Leadership Course took place at the Stephen F. Shaar Community Centre in the Underground Teen Centre.

“The next one will likely take place in the spring, probably in April,” said McCafferty who knows from personal experience the positive effects learning to speak effectively in public.

“It’s an essential part of every successful career,” he said.