Big day for budding entrepreneurs

With almost 200 students from seven schools competing in both Junior and Senior categories, this was one of the best years to date for the Laois Student Enterprise Awards.

With almost 200 students from seven schools competing in both Junior and Senior categories, this was one of the best years to date for the Laois Student Enterprise Awards.

The final was held in the Killeshin Hotel on Tuesday, March 6 and was hosted by the Laois County Enterprise Board. The participating schools included: Portlaoise College, Mountrath Community School, CBS, Scoil Chriost Ri, Clonaslee, Heywood Community College and St Fergal’s, Rathdowney.

The students arrived early to set up their displays and stands, and prepare themselves to ‘woo’ the judges with their prepared ‘elevator pitch’ about their projects, their experience and their learning curve.

Under the supervision of dedicated teachers, several months of work went into all the projects from researching and developing ideas to crafting a business plan which was submitted to Evelyn Reddin in the Enterprise Board in February.

The winners of the Senior category came from Portlaoise CBS. Under the direction of their teachers, including Pauline McCormack, they developed a concept they like to call the ‘Freddie Vest’. The concept is to make adapted baby vests, and potentially other items of clothing, for sick babies.

By having an easy to open section on the chest of the vest, the nurses can attend to the drips, cannulas etc in the baby’s chest without disturbing the baby’s sleep, and also saving the baby’s family adapting the vests themselves.

The winning team was Mark Dunne (MD), Churs Carroll, Tommy Rickard, Jonathan Finlay, James White, and John Fitzgibbon.

The Junior category was won by Kyle Kilduff of Portlaoise College for his enterprise which is an ‘online channel’ on YouTube. Kyle uploads content such as video game moves to YouTube.

It has proven so popular - 1.5 million hits so far - that Kyle is already earning a return on his enterprise by selling adverts around his page to pay for his efforts. Kyle is modest about his project describing it as only a ‘hobby’.

This project was supervised by Paraic Kenny outside of class time, and was a huge undertaking student and teacher.

The two winners are now editing and updating their business plans for submission to the National Final at Croke Park in April. Students will have a 1:1 mentoring session with Celine Ryan, the co-ordinator of the event in Laois, in the coming weeks.

The day wound down with a buffet lunch in the Killeshin Hotel compliments of the Enterprise Board and inspiring words from Pat Culleton, the Board’s Chairman.

There will also be a draw at the National Final in Croke Park, and five groups from Clonaslee College, Heywood Community School, St Fergal’s College were been selected and will be entered into this draw in April.

The organisers say the student enterprise experience helps students to gain an insight into running a business. They are assessed on their business idea, their marketing approach, and level of innovation, as well as risk management, personal development and their business report.

The final day also count towards the overall marks and the final decision made. This helps the students attain a well rounded learning experience, facilitated by their hard working teachers and the County Enterprise Board. The transferrable skills will then help them in future work and in business.

The judges were Hugh Reilly- CEO Meath CEB, Orla Martin- Assistant CEO Offaly CEB, Aileen McGrath- Assistant CEO Westmeath CEB.