Transition Years Do It Again!
Student Enterprise Awards
Local Enterprise Week brought with it an event on Tuesday 8th March for entrepreneurs of all ages – mainly transition year students from all around County Wicklow. The annual Student Enterprise Awards competition, run by the Local Enterprise Office Wicklow is now in its 15th year. Over 1,000 students take part in the Student Enterprise Awards each year – only the top 10% make it to the County Final. 13 Schools from Bray, Greystones, Blessington, Baltinglass, Arklow, Carnew and Wicklow Town all battled it out in Clermont Hall, Wicklow County Campus. 33 Mini-Companies run by 15 and 16 year old students made impressive three minute pitches to the panel of judges in the morning. Some students included rap, song or dance, some included props but all included great pitch material telling the story about how they have set up and run their own businesses as part of their enterprise school curriculum. Judges and LEO staff commented on how inspirational the students were in their ability to set up, run and pitch their businesses with the conviction of any great entrepreneur.
Many of the students engaged in a lot of social media to market their products, which ranged from lip gloss and candles, to calendars, printed books and two fully developed board games, already on the market. The quality of the products and the obvious ambitions these young businesspeople have, reassure us that the future of our local economy is in safe hands. A lot of creative skills were on display, from little snowmen, to clocks, candlesticks and functional items such as organisers and how to display makeup in your bedroom.
Cathaoirleach of Wicklow County Council Cllr. John Ryan presented the awards to the young entrepreneurs. He spoke about the students, “utilising the skills developed in school and at home. Such creativity is really inspiring – businesses that see a gap in the market and decide to fill the gap – that’s what it’s all about.” Cllr. Ryan reminded the students that the Local Enterprise Office would be there for them when they left school and decided to start up other businesses in the future.
Guest speaker for the event was Patrick Keogh of Rathwood in West Wicklow. Patrick and his son James, who won Ireland’s Best Young Entrepreneur, have run Rathwood as a family business for decades, now employing over 200 people. Patrick was inspired by the 99 students in the hall, and was delighted to see many students whose products he was familiar with through the Christmas Fairs they hold at Rathwood at which Mini-Companies can sell their wares.
The Student Enterprise Awards County Final was held during Local Enterprise Week, a national initiative being supported by the Local Enterprise Office. Sheelagh Daly commented, “Showcasing entrepreneurs and celebrating their contribution to the local economy is what Local Enterprise Week is all about. With their energy, enthusiasm and creativity the students here today are shining examples of the entrepreneurial spirit that abounds in County Wicklow”.
Winners on the day included magnificent designs made out of recycled books by “Book Creations” from Colaiste Bhríde in Carnew, who won the Innovation Award. The students who made the Best Pitch to the judges on the day were “Misspelt” from St Gerard’s in Bray. Colaiste Chill Mhantain had two winners on the day – the superb “Garden of Ireland” who won Best Stand for their beautiful hand painted floral display, and “Jaconi Crafts” in the Intermediate Category. St David’s Secondary School had three winners with “Eclipse Food” winning the Market Research Award for their excellent exploration into Irish obesity levels, “Learn To Drive” winning the Social Media Award for their driving game, and “Wicked” earning a Special Judge’s Commendation for the high level of commercial potential of their natural organic candle business.
“Christmas at St Mary’s” from Arklow won the Award for Innovative Sales of their wonderful music album which they published before Christmas. “HydroBottle” from Loreto Bray was awarded 1st Runner-Up on the day, and really impressed the judges with their clever display, innovative product design and impressive sales record. Colaiste Chraobh Abhann also won three awards on the day – including the Overall Winner for the entire competition. “Kayloo Kids” have created a book that tackles literacy issues among children, winning the Award for Best Quality Product for the book. “Teanga Spraoi” came 2nd Runner-Up for their excellent board game, developed to help children and adults alike really embrace and enjoy their cúpla focail.
Second Year Student from Colaiste Chill Mhantain Coleen Brohan will go on to represent County Wicklow in Croke Park in the Intermediate Category with her wonderful business Jaconi Crafts. Jaconi make Minecraft themed accessories for avid gamers, and can be found at Minevention events throughout Ireland and the UK.
Overall winner on the day, who will also go on to represent the County at the National Final on 20th April in Croke Park, was “Headphone Helpers” from Colaiste Chraobh Abhann in Kilcoole. Sole Trader Luke Byrne has already featured on the Late Late Show, where he appeared with his innovative silicon product for holding onto your headphones as you work, walk or work out.
The competition this year was particularly strong; the judges had a very difficult task. The judges this year were Ann McLoughlin of the Kildare Wicklow Education and Training Board, Donal Murray of the Arklow Business Enterprise Centre and Jacqui McNabb of Your Business Resource.
Congratulations to all of the students who got to the County Final, and especially to Luke Byrne of Headphone Helpers and Coleen Brohan of Jaconi Crafts who will be representing County Wicklow at the National Final in April.