Student Enterprise Programme

Student Enterprise Programme

We all know that the youth of today are the future of tomorrow and while this applies to all aspects of society, it is especially true of industry, where their ideas, inventions and ingenuity will oil the wheels of the next generation of business.


So, it is vital that the entrepreneurial spirt of Ireland’s youth is nurtured and promoted to facilitate those who may become the industry leaders of tomorrow.


To this end, for the past 21 years, the Student Enterprise Programme, run by Local Enterprise Offices, has had over 350,000 participants annually from schools nationwide and aims to help students to develop an interest in business and turn their ideas into reality.


Each county has a designated Schools Enterprise Co-ordinator and schools can avail of workshops, free teacher and student resources and visits by local entrepreneurs who will endeavour to motivate the students with advice from their own experiences, all linked into their Local Enterprise Office.


With three main categories - Junior, Intermediate and Senior - students are encouraged to establish their own business and enter regional competitions for a place in the national final from the 25,000 that take part every year.  This year the Final takes place in Croke Park on May 5th.


“The aim of the Programme is to instill an entrepreneurial spirit and passion for innovation in our young students with the hope that in the future they may consider entrepreneurship as a viable career choice,” said Yvonne O’Neill, National Co-Ordinator of the programme.


“Students get to set up their own business and do everything a real-life entrepreneur would do - from coming up with the business idea to marketing and writing a business plan. The programme helps them to learn that self-employment is a real option for them after school – as many of them will have never considered this before.


“It also helps students put what they have learned about business and team-work at school into operation in a hands-on way. They also learn many life skills during the programme such as teamwork, creativity and innovation, financial management, public speaking, how to promote themselves, how to solve problems and how to pick yourself up and overcome obstacles.”


There were 82 entries, both individual and student teams, sealing a place at the national final - spanning a variety of different sectors including fashion, beauty, education and tech and O’Neill says that along with being a fantastic addition to any student’s CV, there are many other benefits to taking part in the Student Enterprise Programme.


“Participation enhances creativity, improves communication skills and provides practical uses for Business Studies topics,” she said. “It also encourages students to consider self-employment as a career choice and equips them with the skills to set up and run their own business by combining classroom learning with real life experiences and the opportunity to meet and learn from entrepreneurs in the local community.”


Anthony Gorman can attest to this as he got involved with the Student Enterprise Programme in his school when he was just 13 years old. Now, 18 and about to sit his Leaving Cert, he not only had success in the competition, but has also established a thriving business which he hopes to expand once he has finished his studies.


“When I was 13, I wanted to buy a new phone, but didn’t have any money so I came up with the idea of making wooden reindeers and asked my business teacher if it would work,” he says. “She thought it was a great idea and after I made 50 of them, I brought them into school to sell to my teachers, who were the first customers. I also sold to family and neighbours. Then just two weeks after that, the Student Enterprise Programme was on and my teacher said she was going to enter me into it. I was delighted to be included and won the best in my county. Then I went on to the national competition and even though I didn’t win that, I didn’t care because the experience had been great and it started my love of business.”


Following the success of his first foray into business, the young man from Offaly upped his game and after setting up a Facebook page dedicated to generating publicity and sales, the next year, he made 1,000 reindeers and was contacted by Dunnes Stores who were interested in stocking them.


This initial collaboration was such a success that order numbers have increased each year with the chain selling 10,000 of his product in 54 stores around the country last Christmas.


“It has been brilliant and I can’t quite believe it sometimes,” he said. “I am definitely going to carry on with having a career in business and have already got an order for wooden planters for Dunnes for the summer. So, I would encourage any young person who has an idea to get involved in the Student Enterprise Programme as there is so much help available from the Local Enterprise Offices - the support they have given me all the way has been unbelievable.”


Yvonne O’Neill says that although not everyone who participates in the Student Enterprise Programme (SEP) will end up running their own business, they will all have gained from their experience.


“The SEP alumni definitely have more strings to their bow from taking part,” she said. “In particular, those who fulfil the position of MD in their student enterprise have a greater appreciation of what’s involved in managing a team of people and how important it is that everyone pulls their weight.


“They will have developed very strong pitching and promotional skills from going out selling and promoting their products - and year after year our students blow us away with how confident they are in this area. Overall, they will have an excellent appreciation of what it takes to make a business a success and the issues facing employers.”


To read more about the Local Enterprise Offices’ Student Enterprise Programme go to