Enterprising young winners announced at the 2017 Laois Student Enterprise Awards

Lynda Kiernan

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Lynda Kiernan

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lynda.kiernan@leinsterexpress.ie

Enterprising young winners announced at the 2017 Laois Student Enterprise Awards

The SenseAbility business team from Heywood CS.

Judges had the difficult job of choosing winners out of 32 clever and socially aware business ideas at the county final of the Student Enterprise Awards, in the Heritage Hotel Portlaoise.

A product that could have far reaching beneficial effects for people with Dementia or Autism, has been awarded first prize in the Laois final of the 2017 Student Enterprise Awards, held in the Heritage Hotel Portlaoise on Wednesday March 8.

There were 32 businesses from seven Laois schools at the busy day, with enthusiastic and driven students explaining their business ideas to the independent judges, and mingling to view each others' work.

From chocolates to anti-bullying packs, to printed hoodies and shopping loyalty cards, the standard and variety was high, but coming out on top for the judges were the four girls from Heywood CS behind 'SenseAbility' producing a sensory blanket that is already in big demand in the marketplace.

"The biggest problem now isn't getting in orders, it's keeping up with production," beamed Ruth Bergin, speaking after the group accepted their award.

"The standard is so high, I'm glad we qualified, I don't even care about winning, it's the satisfaction of knowing we've helped people. Everyone has been so supportive," said Ellen McWey, thanking their teachers, the mentors from Laois LEO, Dragons Den's Alison Cowzer, and past winner Mark Dunne, for all their support.

With Arianna Mezzapelle and Megan Walsh, they impressed the judges as well as their fellow students and teachers at the exhibition day, with their product, their professional manner, and the thought behind it.

Announcing the award, co-ordinator for Laois Enterprise Board Sean Ryan, said it was chosen out of 70 projects across seven Laois schools, because of the work put in by the girls, the product they have created, and its potential.

The girls' teacher Paul Broderick said the project "blew me away".

"They are the most caring bunch I've ever come across, for people that age to recognise a need like that. From September they have been driving this forward, I've just been facilitating them. They put their everything into it, I'm glad they've got their award," he said.

The girls will now represent Laois at the National Student Enterprise Awards in Croke Park on May 3.

Second prize was awarded to Lockers Logic, from Mountrath Community School. Third went to HRM Model Farms, from St Fergal's Rathdowney. The Most Innovative Award went to Iomha, from St Mary's CBS. The Best Display Stand was awarded to Dressing Room One also from CBS, and the Most Promising Concept prize went to Smartsock, from Mountrath Community School.

Laois LEO is one of 31 across Ireland who hold the county finals.

"The quality is super this year," said Mr Ryan.

See next week's Leinster Express for full report and photographs.