Four teenagers from Donegal are the winners of the Youth Entrepreneur of the Year Award 2015, organised and run by Foróige, for their business which produces tasty treats using seaweed.
The four were amongst the 1,000 participants from low income communities who set up 600 businesses as part of this year’s Foróige Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship (NFTE) programme, generating a collective turnover of €250,000. 1,000 participants generate €250k turnover in Foróige Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship (NFTE) Programme this year.
Mary Kate Carr (15), Aimée Byrne (16), Rebecca McShane (16) and Ronan O’Hare (15) from around Glencolmcille in Donegal were today crowned the winners at a ceremony in the Mansion House, Dublin.
Their business ‘Milseog na Mara’, meaning Desserts of the Sea, offers healthy alternatives to jellies and chocolate mousse using a type of locally sourced seaweed – Carrageen Moss – as the main ingredient.
“Our idea came to us when I got sick and my family made me a cold remedy using Carrageen Moss. Not only did I get over the cold quickly but I realised this jelly like substance could be used in alternative ways to make chilled deserts and jellies,” said Mary Kate.
Market research carried out by the group found that the only other Carrageen Moss product available was dried seaweed and that there was a gap in the market for their products.
“We realised that our target market could be segmented into people who have a keen interest in health food and unique, quirky artisan products,” she continued.
The group used their Facebook and Twitter accounts to promote their business and were so successful that they were the fifth trending topic in Ireland on one occasion. They also met with celebrity chef Clodagh McKenna who gave her seal of approval to their products.
The jars of jellies and chocolate mousse cost €3 and are available at selected country markets. Since Milseog na Mara was established last October, the business has generated an income of €438.
The group is now hoping to expand their business. “Our product has a huge potential for development as it’s so versatile. We are currently looking at healthy ice lollies for children further down the line,” added Mary Kate.
They will now go on the represent Ireland at the European Youth Entrepreneur of the Year Awards taking place in Budapest in November.
Commenting on their win, Mary Kate said: “We’ve gained so many valuable skills through the Foróige NFTE programme and from setting up our own business – though the biggest lesson is you get what you put in. It’s been a fantastic experience overall and to win is the icing on the cake – we’re thrilled!”
CEO of Foróige Seán Campbell paid tribute to all the participants but said more support is needed to sustain the level of participation in the programme.
“NFTE is an incredibly important programme to Foróige but it has proven difficult to secure sustainable corporate funding. This has reduced the capacity of the programme from over 1,500 participants to just under 1,000 this year.
“However, Foróige recognises the need for this programme based on the proven results and the popularity of NFTE among young people. Foróige remains committed to youth entrepreneurship and will continue to deliver this programme to as many young people as possible,” he said.
The other finalists were as follows:
MURE – produces and sells briquettes made from dried cow manure
Set up and run by Leitrim cousins and Transition Year Students from St Clare’s Comprehensive School in Manorhamilton Linda and Clare Dolan (16).
School Space Solution – a shelf system for student lockers
Set up and run by Erica Masterston (15) from Blanchardstown in Dublin.
Unique Hold – offers personalised grips for hurling sticks
Set up and run by Aisling Farrell (14) a second year student from Coláiste Pobail Setanta in Clonnee.
Tom & Dane’s Kitchen – produces a range of chutneys and jams
Set up and run by Tom Williams (15) and Dane Fogerty (17), Leaving Cert Applied Students from St Joseph’s School in Clonmel.
Candles4U – produces festive log candle holders
Set up and run by Alex Conroy (16) and Craig Lynch (16) from Chanel College in Coolock in Dublin.