Ailbhe and Izzy Keane, founders of Izzy Wheels, a company that creates fashionable covers for wheelchairs, have been named among the most talented women entrepreneurs in Europe.
The sisters were among seven Irish female entrepreneurs shortlisted for the prestigious EU Prize for Women Innovators awards. These recognise women entrepreneurs behind major innovations.
The Rising Innovator award category is for entrepreneurs under the age of 30 and comes with a €50,000 award.
Izzy Wheels was founded in 2016. The company was inspired by Izzy, who was born with spina bifida and is paralysed from the waist down. Her sister Ailbhe designed a range of wheel covers as part of her final-year project at the National College of Art and Design that year.
The company recently collaborated with Disney to create a range of bright and colourful spokeguards for wheelchair users that includes characters from among other films, Frozen, Lion King and Toy Story.
A record seven Irish female entrepreneurs were shortlisted for this year's awards with Anita Finnegan of Nova Leah, Ciara Clancy of Beats Therapeutics, Lisa O'Donoghue of Votechinik, Patricia Scanlon of Soapbox Labs and Suzanne Moloney of Hidramed Solutions, in the running for the main award, which was won by competitors from the Netherlands, Denmark and Israel.
Ailbhe Keane and Ms Finnegan were also shortlisted for the same awards in their respective categories last year.
“It is a great privilege to award this prize to such exceptional innovators. This year’s winners are the hopes that will help change the face of innovation, and pave the way for more women entrepreneurs in future,” said Mariya Gabriel, EU commissioner for innovation.
The awards were launched in 2011 to help raise awareness of the need for more female entrepreneurs.
Although there are more women than men in Europe, three-quarters of start-ups in Europe are founded by men, with just 8 per cent established by all-women teams. In addition, 92 per cent of all funds raised by European VC-backed companies in 2019 went to all-male founding teams.