Countdown to Croke Park begins for Kilkenny’s most enterprising students

5 teenage entrepreneurs from 2 local schools have won a place representing Kilkenny at the Student Enterprise Programme National Finals in Croke Park on Friday, May 3rd.

There was a hive of entrepreneurial activity in the Lyrath Estate Hotel Kilkenny last Wednesday 6th March when it hosted the Student Enterprise Programme County Final. Students from across the County were competing at the County Kilkenny Final which was held on Wednesday last 6th March as part of Local Enterprise Week. It was a great achievement for approximately 140 students reaching the finals stage of the competition from 9 secondary schools across the County.

The judges Jason Dempsey, AIB; Donna Byrne, MacDonagh Junction and May Stokes were involved in the Senior Category Judging while Jennifer McCreery, McCreery Cleaning, Bernie McCoy, former SEP Co-ordinator and Mark Rodgers IT Carlow were involved in the Junior and Intermediate Categories. They had a very difficult task and had to take numerous factors into account, such as business reporting, innovation, market research, risk management and finances. After much deliberation they finally decided on the projects that would go forward to represent Kilkenny at the Student Enterprise Programme National Final in Croke Park on May 3rd. Co-ordinated by the Local Enterprise Office Kilkenny, the competition is the most successful programme of its kind in the country.

Student Enterprise Programme

In the senior category the 1st prize category winners were awarded a €1,000 prize sponsored by AIB and specially commissioned Jerpoint Glass piece. The winners were Liam Foot and Tom Donald, students from Kilkenny College with their project Tree Ring Coasters. They were also presented with the Innovation Award which is sponsored by Institute of Technology, Carlow as the judges were very impressed with the innovative design and the solution the product was solving for the marketplace. Tree Ring Coasters offers Customisable Wooden Beverage Coasters which are made from discarded wood and are lacquered to make them water and stain proof. The boys carried out market research and approached many potential customers and have wholesaled to retailers, hospitality venues and drinks industry businesses.

In the Intermediate Category, Mark Ahern from Colaiste Eamann Rís, Callan was awarded 1st prize with his innovative business G Sock Ltd – a sports sock that fits and secures a shin guard protector inside.

Student Enterprise Programme - Intermediate Category

In the Junior category the winners were announced as Luca Harris and Pa Gibbs also from Colaiste Eamann Rís, Callan with their business Too Hot to Handle – who make and sell coffee cup holders from cotton fabric which prevent your hands from getting burned when you are holding take away tea/coffee.

Student Enterprise Programme - Junior Category

Runners up in the Senior Category were “Castlecomer Goes Green” run by Eva Brennan, Ciara Normoyle, Darragh Brennan from Castlecomer Community School. This business has accelerated the use of Re-usable Coffee Cups in Castlecomer by not only selling the Re-usable Coffee Cups but by educating locals and getting multiple retailers on board. Third prize went to an innovative product “Reeve Technology” from Kilkenny College developed by Michael E. Cunningham. This service the business offers is the creation of tailor-made, user friendly and affordable software to manage customers and logistics for small businesses.

The Best Branding Award sponsored by the threesixty was awarded to K9 Biscuits who produced healthy and nutritious homemade dog biscuits from the CBS Kilkenny. This project was lead by Tadgh Harrison, Cathal McCurdy, Tommy Doherty & Michael Corr. Best commercial potential sponsored by McCreery Cleaning was presented to Nathan Ryan from Colaiste Eamann Ris Callan who produced handcrafted worry dolls for children to aid with anxiety. The Best Display sponsored by St. Canices Credit Union and presented by Tom McWey went to “The Little Pops2 from St Brigid’s College Callan. Part of their prize is the much sought after prime position in St Canices Credit Union main window in High street for a week.

A number of other special merit awards were presented at the County Final event including Most Creative to Tia O’Sullivan for her handcrafted customised cards and stationary, best teamwork to Little Charmers team of Ria McCormack, Kirsten Cody, Katie Marnell, Emma Stuart, Jennifer Altamimi. The Social Initiative award was presented to Deirfiur Mor who produced a guidebook for teenage girls written by Aoibheann Holden, Cliodha O'Shea, Carla Garcia Fernandez, Charlotte Teehan.

Special guests at the County Final included Cathaoirleach Cllr Eamon Aylward, Mayor Peter Cleere, Cllr Maurice Shortall, Cllr Pat Fitzpatrick, Cllr David Fitzgerald and representatives from the generous sponsors AIB, McCreery Cleaning, threesixty and St Canices Credit Union. This year the local competition has received great publicity from KCLR96fm who officially launch the programme earlier in the year, visited the schools and hosted an outside broadcast at the final with Eimear Ni Bhraoinain. John Purcell also undertook the role of MC at the event.

At the presentation ceremony, Cathaoirleach Cllr. Eamon Aylward, Kilkenny County Council congratulated the efforts of the students involved saying “We have a very successful student enterprise programme here in County Kilkenny, with over 900 students from 14 local schools taking part this year. Our national finalists are excellent ambassadors for the programme and we wish them the very best of luck in Croke Park on May 3rd”.

The success of the Student Enterprise Programme is down to the entrepreneurial spirit of the students involved and the Senior Enterprise Development Officer Aileen McGrath congratulated all those who participated in the competition Every year we are blown away by the ideas, the business savvy and the confidence these students have acquired at such a young age. They really are a credit to their teachers and school staff who have helped to nurture this talent. The Student Enterprise Programme is growing appeal every year and we hope to see many of these excellent young students coming through the door of their local LEO in the years to come. We wish today’s winners all the very best as they go on to represent their county at the National Finals in Croke Park in May.”

The three category winners Tree Ring Coasters, G Sock Ltd and Too Hot to Handle will now prepare for the National Finals which will be held on Friday 3rd May in Croke Park – a venue that Kilkenny people are no strangers too and are noted for achieving success there.