BUDDING entrepreneurs pitched business ideas as part of a Dragons’ Den-style event.

The Business Start-Up Course was launched in January, and aimed at unemployed people living in social housing.

Over 12 weeks, participants learned business skills, such as researching the market, raising the money to start a business, sales and marketing and business planning.

The course was a joint initiative between Wokingham Borough Council, community project charity Catalyst Gateway and three housing associations.

On Friday, the 15 hopefuls got five minutes to pitch their business ideas to a panel of ‘dragons’.

The panel included the Wokingham Borough Council leader Cllr David Lee; Roger Mabey, from Housing Solutions; Kate Lole, from Yellow Poppy Marketing; and Linda Wells, from Bracknell Forest Homes.

Andrew Nicholls, economic development officer at the council, said: “We had some great ideas – children’s entertainment, book-keeping, DIY, child minding, interior design – and we had such a cross section of people as well, from their 20s to their 60s.” After the presentation, they were questioned for five minutes on the proposal, taking place in front of all 15 graduates.

Mr Nicholls added: “We made sure the dragons were ‘cuddly’ and they gave constructive advice. It’s quite daunting to stand up and give a pitch.

“In the end, we were so impressed by everyone, that instead of picking winners, who would have got money to help their business idea, we’re now looking at securing more funding to provide support for everyone.” MP John Redwood presented certificates to the graduates.

Cllr Lee said organisers were looking at holding more courses in the future, following the success of the first cohort. He added: “I was very impressed with all the ideas, there were a number which were very clever.

“One of the best things was it shows that when you give people a bit of help and support they come up with some great ideas, and the majority of people want to become self reliant.” He added his experience as a dragon was ‘interesting’, even without a pile of money in front of him.