CAKE-BAKING Sasha, 25, from Pickering, wowed her audience this week when she pitched her idea for a business before a panel of business leaders from the region’s Local Enterprise Partnership.

The Meet-the-Dragons event came about when Sasha, a former North Yorkshire care leaver, who has always wanted to set up her own business, turned to North Yorkshire County Council for help.

Inspired by her gran whose pet name was Nula, Sasha, who has a five year old son Alfie, is hoping to run “the ultimate sweet-treats” artisan business called Nula’s Fancies, from a specially bespoke van travelling around markets and festivals.

Using locally-sourced, organic products she aims to sell homemade American-style pancakes, cakes, bakes, pastries and hot and cold drinks. In the long run she dreams of turning it into a franchise to help care leavers in the industry.

Realising there are others like Sasha with entrepreneurial ideas, the County Council’s new Leaving Care Opportunities Team, pressed on with finding help and joined forces with the York, North Yorkshire and East Riding Enterprise Partnership to find mentors in the local business community.

It was decided that following the care leavers pitch of their business ideas, the mentors would offer their skills and expertise to make sure the venture is viable, support care leavers to create a business plan and apply for funding if required.

The first of these events was held at Gray’s Court Hotel, York yesterday.

Sasha said: “I am doing this for my little boy and to show him that you can make a success of your life no matter what.  I am so happy to have the support of the dragons with their advice and contacts. The thought of presenting to them was nerve-racking but I prepared myself well. Most of all I want to tell everyone like myself to keep going and never give up.”

The County Council hopes the event will encourage other care leavers who are thinking of setting up their own business, but are not sure where to go for help. It is offering a discretionary payment of up to £2,500 per applicant for start-up costs, in consultation with mentors, for ideas that are taken forward.

“As a local authority, acting as corporate parents we are here to help these young people achieve in a way that works for them,” said  Stuart Carlton, Director of the Children and Young People’s Service who attended the event. “Within just half an hour it became clear that the Dragons questions and advice was invaluable. With their further mentoring, who knows what else can be achieved. With the right support, the sky is the limit.”

The Dragons were all board members of the York, North Yorkshire and East Riding Enterprise Partnership (LEP) – which helps unlock growth in the local economy and regards the scheme as an opportunity to share its expertise and help everyone reach their full career potential.

Dr Ruth Smith Chair of the LEPs Skills and Employability Board, who runs two businesses specialising in leadership development and executive coaching, said: “A real ambition of the LEP is that everyone, whatever their background should have the opportunity to be the very best they can in their working lives. It is important for those who have faced significant obstacles to receive the support they need to achieve their ambitions. Inspiring the next generation is one way to do this and Sasha is a brilliant guiding light.”

Other Dragons from the Local Enterprise Partnership on the panel were David Dickson, a chartered accountant and business angel; Colin Mellors OBE, former pro-vice-chancellor at the University of York, and Jane Lady Gibson who started the consultancy Joined Up North and is founding chair of Make It York.