Portsmouth SEND students enter the Dragon’s Den for Shaped By Solent

From L-R Marian Glover, Vicky O’Brien, Cllr Suzie Horton, Steve Topliss, Sam McGrath. Stef Nienaltowski, Tom Lloyd and Abigail Haywood

Yesterday, Wednesday 14th December, our Shaped by Solent project was in full swing with a Dragons Den-style pitch from three schools across the Solent Academies Trust, Little Green Acadamy, Redwood Park Acadamy and the Mary Rose Acadamy.

The Shaped By Solent project brought together The Solent Academies Trust, Shaping Portsmouth and a range of high-profile businesses together to mentor and give business and public speaking experience to classes of SEND students.

Their task was to brainstorm, create, and present products the students could sell at the Shaping Portsmouth Conference in January, with funds raised going towards covering manufacturing costs and any profits going to the schools to benefit their students and facilities.

The products the schools came up with were a fidget pop socket to reduce stress and anxiety, an apron with accessible poppers and fastenings, a t-shirt and window sticker with a percentage of the profits going towards the development and upkeep of Portsmouth Parks, a keyring with added shells for a sensory aspect, and a teddy bear keyring.

Each team of students had a mentor from a local business, who sat with the students for three one-hour sessions and offered guidance and advice on their project ideas, such as where they could source the products from and how the product could fit in with Shaping Portsmouth. They were there through the design and execution phase to guide them also.

The Dragons Den style pitch brought together five ‘dragons’ from three different companies to be presented to by the groups, some in person and some via video, and to judge which product would be the chosen one to be sold at the Conference.

The students delivered presentations confidently and professionally and gave an in-depth look into the design process, including prototypes and product research.


Stef Nienaltowski, CEO of Shaping Portsmouth, said, “The Shaped by Solent project has just concluded as one of the most amazing things we have created all year. We had the idea not knowing how good it would be, but when you saw these SEND students’ involvement and the utmost passion, it just stole your heart.”

“So now we have to judge the product that will physically be represented at Conference. Whatever it is, they have all done amazingly well, and I look forward to returning to this project in 2023.”

We want to give a massive thank you to all who were involved.

The mentors, Terence Carvalho and Jonathan Bird from Delivered Social, Georgina Shepherd from Gunwharf Quays, Hannah Lowry and Harriet Elias from Nexus Independent Financial Advisors, Abigail Haywood and Jordan Newman from Traco UK and Dave Green from Lightning Fire.

Our judges, Tom Lloyd from Unloc, Steve Topliss from Kier Group, Sam McGrath from Shaping Portsmouth and Vicky O’Brien from Abri

Finally, thank you to Sharon Burt and all of the teachers and students from The Solent Academies Trust that made this project a success!

The winning team will be announced, and their product available for purchase at the Shaping Portsmouth Conference in January.