Toymaker wins entrepreneur award


An 18-year-old craftsman has been honoured as Ireland's young entrepreneur of the year after building a toy-making business following the birth of his son.

Kyle McMahon from Coolock in Dublin began handmaking wooden toy trains, airplanes, jigsaws and clocks as part of his course at Bonnybrook Youthreach and is on target to record a net profit of more than €3,000 for his first five months in operation.

He was selected for the Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship (NFTE) award by a judging panel including Small Firms Association director Patricia Callan, Ernst & Young partner Frank O'Keeffe and Insomnia Coffee chief executive Bobby Kerr.

Kyle’s business was one of 450 established by the 1,000 participants in the Foróige NFTE programme this year, 600 of which were honoured during a ceremony in Dublin today.

The projects, which range from sign printing services to baking and from jewellery making to ceramics, have so far generated revenues in excess of €180,000.

Mr Kerr, a judge on RTÉ’s Dragon’s Den, said the young entrepreneurs participating in the competition had demonstrated tenacity, creativity and an ability to develop a business without requiring a significant amount of capital.

“We’ve seen a bit of confidence, ambition and some dreams that they really want to realise. I’d be tremondously heartened and encouraged that these people will follow through,” he said.

Kyle said that, having being thrown out of secondary school for being a “messer”, he was delighted to have an opportunity to develop a business through his Youthreach course - even though he was initially sceptical about the prospects for his venture in the current economic climate.

He said he has always enjoyed woodwork but only began making toys following the birth of his son Aaron (1).

Kyle said news of his business spread by word of mouth and through some advertising in local shops. He said he hoped the marketing and financial management skills learned through his course would help him take his business on in the future.

“The next step is to sell enough of my products so I can get machinery and build a shed so I can work from home,” he said.