Five teenage business women from Sligo are bracing themselves for success after being crowned the winners of the Youth Entrepreneur of the Year Awards 2014, organised and run by Foróige, for their business ‘Brace Yourself’. The group were amongst the 1,500 participants from low income communities who set up 600 businesses as part of this year’s Foróige NFTE entrepreneurship programme, generating a collective turnover of €250,000.
The Mercy College, Sligo students Rianne Keaveney (16), Róisín Shaw (15) Sinead Fitzsimons (15), Sinead D’Arcy (16) and Samantha Scanlon (16) won the award for their business ‘Brace Yourself’ which manufactures a handy tool to aid people fasten bracelets and zips with ease.
“I came up with the idea after watching my grandmother struggling to close a bracelet. She has no power in one of her hands and I thought if we could make a hook it would make her life a little easier,” said Rianne Keaveney. Market research carried out by the group found that more than 40,000 people in Ireland suffer from rheumatoid arthritis.
“Our original target market was for people with mobility issues but then we felt that the bracelet helper is a handy tool for men and women of all ages as it multifunctional and can also be used as a zip fastener or can opener. We also feel men could purchase our product for their female relatives and friends,” continued Rianne.
Working with a local manufacturer in Sligo, the group developed a prototype of the hook. However, the initial design was not as efficient as they would have liked, so they developed a second version with longer hooks which they felt worked a lot better.
“Our design is unique, there is nothing like it on the market. It is also the only such product made and sold in Ireland, and therefore we are creating jobs in Ireland and Sligo,” continued Rianne. The ‘Brace Yourself’ products are now being stocked in selected pharmacies in Cork and Sligo and cost €2 each. The girls marketed their products through word of mouth, Facebook and through press releases in their local papers. To date, the girls have sold more than 500 bracelets, generating an income of more than €1,000. All the profits from the sales of their first 1,000 bracelet hooks are going to Tanzania.
Commenting on their win, “Our involvement in the Foróige NFTE progamme and our experience in setting up our business has taught us so many invaluable skills, such as working as a team, communication skills and making deadlines. We loved the whole experience,” said Rianne. The girls will now go on the represent Ireland at the European Youth Entrepreneur of the Year Awards taking place in Vienna later this year.
The girls tell their business story in this video.
The overall winner was chosen by an expert judging panel including Hugo McNeill, Managing Director of Goldman Sachs Ireland; Tina Roche CEO of Business in The Community; Fergal Brophy, Founder and Director of Open Financial Services Ltd and Joe Redmond, Group Executive of Fexco. Eight finalists made an elevator pitch to the judges ala Dragon’s Den style for the top prize.
To learn more about Foróige’s Youth Entrepreneur of the Year Award, see www.foroige.ie/NFTE