Teenage kickstarts: enterprising students deliver smart business ideas

Student enterprise national final sees plenty of young entrepreneurs battling it out

From adding bling to your bin to buying bowties for your bow-wow, there were plenty of exciting business ideas on show at Croke Park on Wednesday as 200 teenage entrepreneurs from across Ireland gathered for the annual student enterprise national final.

The overall winners of this year’s awards included a group of students who have designed a protection jersey for GAA players, and a young sole entrepreneur who makes furniture from recycled cars, trucks and tank engines.

Now in its 15th year, the Student Enterprise Programme is intended to bring the world of business into the classroom.

Some 22,000 students from 620 schools take part in the programme finals annually, with 200 youngsters from 77 different enterprises selected to take part in this year’s awards.

Top prizes

Teenage entrepreneurs from Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown, Wicklow and Louth took home the top prizes at the 2017 finals, which were organised by the Local Enterprise Offices for secondary schools.

We've had a lot of support from hurlers such as Cuala star Con Callaghan and Michael Fennelly from Kilkenny

ROC Protection from Clonkeen College in Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown won the senior category prize. The hurling jersey, which is designed by Carl Cullen, Ross Byrne and Cormac Spain (all aged 17), is specially designed to reduce the impact of sliotars and hurls striking the upper body.

The protective base layer is worn under team shirts and is strategically located around the shoulders, collarbone, centre chest, ribs and abdomen.

“We’ve had a lot of support from hurlers such as Cuala star Con Callaghan and Michael Fennelly from Kilkenny,” said Carl. “We’d like to keep going with the product and the goal is to expand and make some money.”

Scott Engine Tables from Coláiste Chill Mhantáin in Wicklow was the winner of the intermediate category for its coffee tables and lamps, which are recycled from vehicles. The brains behind the enterprise, Cillian Scott (15), has already appeared on The Late Late Show with his fancy furniture.

Bowties for dogs

Daisy’s Pawesome Bowties, the creation of Blathnaid Murphy from Our Lady’s Secondary School in Louth, won the junior category prize for her bowties and bandanas for dogs. Her product range is already available online through her shop on Etsy.

The top 20 students at senior level in this year’s finals will take part in a five-day business bootcamp at University College Cork (UCC) at the end of the month. In addition, a special prize was awarded by the Patents Office for enterprises that demonstrated the best awareness, understanding and inclusion of intellectual property in their business.

The project has really given Ella a bunch of business skills that will serve her well in the years to come

Among the judges at this year’s awards were Ciara Clancy, founder of Beats Medical, a start-up that has developed an app that offers individually tailored treatments for people with Parkinson’s, and Blaine Doyle, chief executive of hotly tipped biotech company GlowSX.

It is estimated that more than 150,000 secondary students have taken part in the student enterprise programme since it began in 2003.

Timetable pen

Ella McNamara (16) is one of those individuals. The student from Scariff Community School in Feakle, Co Clare is behind Pentables, which is essentially a pen that contains a timetable.

“So far I’ve sold over 1,000 pens at €2.50 a go and brought in €1,300 profit. It’s proving very popular with both teachers and students and I’m hoping that a retailer such as Eason may think of taking some of the stock,” she said.

Her father Kieran McNamara was full of praise for the programme.

“The project has really given Ella a bunch of business skills that will serve her well in the years to come and I’ve only good things to say about these awards, which are brilliant at giving teenagers a feel for what it like to go it alone in business,” he said.

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