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The Young Enterprise company Easy Lace from Lismore Comprehensive School has been named Company of the Year. They will go on to represent Northern Ireland, with their innovative magnetic shoe fastener, in the Young Enterprise UK Finals at the British Film Institute in London in July. The students finished off an exciting year exploring entrepreneurship and developing their business skills with the top award of the night.
Local charity Young Enterprise, with support from professional services firm EY and Ulster University Business School, staged the annual Young Enterprise Awards at Belfast City Hall to recognise the hard work and dedication from students who completed the Team and Company Programmes this year. Kaylee Rogers from Killard House School charmed the audience of students and guests with her famous rendition of Hallelujah, before Young Enterprise Alumni Iveta Liovinaite and Josh Donnell were quizzed by host Barra Best about their Young Enterprise experience.
Easy Lace represented the Southern Area as one of 6 finalists, out of almost 100 companies, in the running to become the Best Overall Company. The process involved a daunting pitch and interview at Invest NI Headquarters in Belfast facing a panel of some of Northern Ireland’s top business moguls. With guidance from volunteer business adviser, Martin Hoy from Hoy Dorman, this group of enterprising students have immersed themselves in the programme, building a brand, taking over social media, and even creating a professional advert for their product. They have secured stockists including Northern Pharmacies, pitched their product to Debenhams, and recruited sports stars as brand ambassadors.
Managing Director of Easy Lace, Conall Brady said: “From being titled the ‘Best Company of the Year’ award we have learned many valuable lessons. Most importantly, that nothing is unreachable with the support of others. At the start of our journey we couldn’t have ever imagined we would be standing where we are today. We wanted to bring an innovative product to the Northern Ireland market and our loyal customers and followers have allowed us to make that possible. Without their enthusiasm and unforgettable support Easy Lace would not be the award winning company that it is today!
“Although from the Young Enterprise programme individually we have all developed different skills – such as self-confidence, public speaking, social media awareness, creativity in our presentations, customer interaction and finance. However, one key skill we all equally grasped was impeccable team work. Without the dedication, ambition and total commitment shown by our six team members, we could not have succeeded in the various areas which we have. We understand that we can rely on each other for feedback and constructive criticism, but also in times of doubt and frustration. We firmly believe that this is a vital quality that must be enshrined in any business’s ethos.”
Derek Baker, Permanent Secretary for the Department of Education, said: “My Department is pleased to support Young Enterprise Northern Ireland and the Company Programme has provided the opportunity for school children to develop new entrepreneurial skills, work with local businesses and ultimately prepare them for their future career paths. I want to congratulate the students who have completed this year’s Programme and to wish the winning company good luck in the upcoming finals in July.”
Professor Mark Durkin, Executive Dean of Ulster University Business School, commented: “Ulster University Business School is delighted to support Young Enterprise. Experiencing how businesses actually work through the YE programme is an invaluable way of encouraging more young people to actively pursue a business career and ultimately contribute to creating a more entrepreneurial economy within Northern Ireland. Our vision is to be the leading centre for entrepreneurial education in the UK and Ireland by 2021. The young people who have completed this YE programme will now have had a taste of the excitement which business success brings and we look forward to them becoming part of our entrepreneurial vision for opportunity creation across Northern Ireland and globally through our 60,000 strong alumni network.”
The EY Entrepreneur of the Future award recognises individuals with a strong desire to set up and run a business in the future. The winner Kirsty Burrows from St Colman’s High & Sixth Form College and Runner Up Cliona Young-McGahey from Rathmore, will attend the Next Generation Leaders Forum in Canada in August to collaborate and network with global peers.
Cary Wilson, Transaction Advisory Services Partner for EY, who judged the EY Entrepreneur of the Future category, commented: “On behalf of EY, we are delighted to once again support this year’s Young Enterprise Awards. As a firm, we strongly believe that supporting business, education and entrepreneurship is fundamental to creating a better society and a better working world. The Young Enterprise Programme serves to inspire young people throughout Northern Ireland to be creative, think outside the box, and have the confidence to pursue their ideas and ambitions so we’re delighted to be able to do our part to support such an important initiative and to see it go from strength to strength.”
Michéal Mullin from Sacred Heart College, who came away with the Journey Award said: “This has been an unparalleled experience; gaining and developing new skills to help become successful independently and as a team. Although I have learned many skills, my most appreciable would be how to work as a team efficiently to get a desired result. Teamwork is vital within a business and the Living in the Dark team have learnt this by going far together rather than going fast alone – success takes time. We have had some knockbacks, but these have given us direction and I have learned to maintain a positive attitude, hard work and desire within the company.”
COMPANY PROGRAMME AWARDS
Asda Social Impact Award – Living in the Dark, Sacred Heart College.
Disney Creativity Award – Easy Lace, Lismore Comprehensive School
Runner Up – Hi Vis Hounds, Bloomfield Collegiate School
Overall Winner – Easy Lace, Lismore Comprehensive School
Journey Award – Michéal Mullan from Sacred Heart College
Entrepreneur of the Future Runner-Up – Cliona Young-McGahey from Rathmore
Entrepreneur of the Future – Kirsty Burrows from St Colman’s High & Sixth Form College
TEAM PROGRAMME AWARDS
Leadership Award – Mark Milligan, Everton Day Centre
Outstanding Progress Award – Megan Reaper, Knockevin Special School
Best Salesperson Award – Ben Gibson, Riverside School
Initiative Award – Dean McSorley, Knockavoe School
Guidance & Management Award – Jenny Vance, Omagh High School
Positive Impact Award – Nadia Allam, Sperrinview Special School
Best Teamwork Award – Sparkles and Sprinkles, Fleming Fulton School
Best Social Impact Award – Beechlawn Business Brains
Best Customer Service Award – BOOM!, Riverside School
Best Marketing Award – Knockavoe Ktichen Kraze, Knockavoe School
Best Creativity Award – Omagh Crafters, Omagh High School
Best Product Award – Classy Crafts, Lisanally Special School
Cary Wilson – EY
David Hughes – Department of Education
Kate Oakes – Asda
Kathryn Thomson – National Museums NI
Kevin Reid – Almac
Niall Casey – Invest NI
Nikki McQuillan – University of Ulster
Oonagh Murtagh – Danske Bank
Victoria Nicol – The Red Brick Creative Ltd
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