Fur-Real named Company of the Year 2023
US Economic Envoy to Northern Ireland for Economic Affairs, Joe Kennedy III, marked the end of his first visit to Northern Ireland by attending the Young Enterprise Awards 2023 at Belfast City Hall.
Just last week, the Young Enterprise charity was stunned to be included as part of President Joe Biden’s speech at Ulster University marking 25 years since the signing of the Good Friday Agreement.
During the event, the Special Envoy said:
“Young Enterprise is all about equipping young people with the skills that they need in order to not just navigate a changing world, but to lead it. To be able to ask questions and find answers, cut through hard topics. Giving them the resilience and confidence, to know that this is not going to be an easy path, but it is a path worth taking.
“Northern Ireland is an incredibly bright and capable hands. The young people here are as talented, as motivated, and as driven as any anywhere across the globe. What I’m so excited to do in my role now is Special Envoy to Northern Ireland for Economic Affairs for President Biden is to help champion these folks and shine a spotlight on them.
“The Belfast Good Friday Agreement was about creating peace and prosperity and stability for the people of Northern Ireland so that the next generation could have a brighter future and a brighter horizon. We are now 25 years after that historic day. It’s time for young people to take the lead.”
Chief Executive of Young Enterprise NI, Carol Fitzsimons MBE, said:
“A week ago, we welcomed the President of the United States to Northern Ireland, and were delighted that the charity, our alumni and young entrepreneurs were recognised in his speech – a real endorsement of our work.”
“It is a privilege to welcome his Special Envoy Joe Kennedy III this evening for the final event of his visit, to celebrate the achievements of our students here tonight.”
The event saw students from Bangor Academy and Sixth Form College named Young Enterprise Northern Ireland Company of the Year 2023.
Their business, Fur-Real, created a range of upcycled dog toys which were popular with shoppers across the charity’s Big Market events this year. The group competed against almost 80 student companies from across Northern Ireland and will now represent Northern Ireland at the Young Enterprise UK Company Final Awards in June.
The glittering return of the Young Enterprise Awards to Belfast City Hall, hosted by Pete Snodden, celebrated the charity’s top companies, volunteers and supporters. Guests heard from previous alumni including Matthew Thompson, founder of Best of Belfast podcast, Reuben McFeeters, founder of Hotties Hot chocolate, and were entertained by current Young Enterprise student, Andrew Dolan, from Omagh who is preparing to launch his first single.
Several additional awards were handed out at the event. Flavoured coffee bag company, Coffee & Co from Bloomfield Collegiate were named Runner-Up, while period product subscription business Flow-Mail from St Mary’s University College took the Start-Up Programme award.
St Bernard’s Primary School’s Krafty Kids were also named winners of the Danske Bank Sustainability Challenge as part of the Business Beginnings programme.
The Young Enterprise Company Programme provided entrepreneurship opportunities to around 800 young people in 2022 and is made possible by the support of Allstate Northern Ireland, EY UK & Ireland, and Ulster University Business School while the charity is principally funded by the Department of Education.
The external climate has never been more difficult for charities such as Young Enterprise. The support of the Northern Ireland and international business communities is vital to support the continuation of the charity’s work, impacting positively on the lives of young people across Northern Ireland and forging a strong economic future.
Young Enterprise Company of the Year 2023, Fur-Real, from Bangor Academy and Sixth Form College with (far left), Judith Totten, Chair, Young Enterprise and Paul Narain, US Consul General in Belfast; and (far right) Joe Kennedy III, US Special Envoy to Northern Ireland for Economic Affairs; Carol Fitzsimons MBE, CEO, Young Enterprise.