The Foróige Youth Entrepreneur Awards celebrate young people who participated in the NFTE Youth Entrepreneurship Programme in schools, youth projects or alternative education providers right across Ireland The winners were announced today across four main categories - best innovation, best business, best social enterprise and a special recognition award. NFTE, which stands for the Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship, is a cutting edge, evidence based programme that helps young people develop a whole range of business and life skills
The four winners from this year’s competition beat over 6,000 young entrepreneurs from across Ireland who completed the NFTE programme this year through a series of local, county and regional heats before the National final.
The Best Innovation Category was won this year by Bright Mind. Bright Mind is the brainchild of Shauna O' Keeffe, 16, David Peskett, 17, and Lea Voigtlander, 16, from Castleisland, Kerry. Bright Mind is an app which allows students to communicate in confidence with their teacher during a lesson. The app is essentially a voice for all students to engage in class that allows teachers to establish at the click of a button where each student is in relation to the learning. The team created the app to address educational inequality and specifically to support the large numbers of young people who experience anxiety when it comes to speaking up in a classroom setting.
Chloe O' Sullivan from Bright Mind said “We’re so excited to have won in this category. We worked hard to create something that could potentially have such a big impact on so many lives. We’re thankful for this opportunity to take part in the NFTE programme, we enjoyed every step of the way and we can’t believe we won! Working as a team has been great to learn different skills. This is a huge achievement for all of us and you know what, we’re so proud of ourselves!”
The Best Business category was won by Smartarntu which was created by Niamh O’ Mahony, aged 17 from Desmond College, County Limerick. Smartarntu are coloured Smart Panes that help reduce errors due to ADHD and Dyslexia. As someone with dyslexia Niamh finds it harder to read, concentrate and absorb knowledge from a page which is how she came up with this idea to create a discreet, affordable and professional tool that can help to overcome this problem.
When asked what she has learned during her time in the programme, Niamh said “Endurance, persistence and patience were probably the skills that I developed the most throughout the duration of running this business. I have learned so much about dyslexia that I never knew nor understood before.”
Speaking about her win, Niamh stated “I want to thank NFTE and all of the judges for choosing Smartarntu as the Best Business this year, it means so much to me, particularly after all the hard work I’ve put into creating this product and developing something that is so close to my heart. I think I’m still in shock but I’m so excited to see where Smartarntu goes from here!”
The prize for best Social Enterprise went to L & M Books designed by Millie McCourt, Livvy Curran and Lucy Van Ruiven all aged 16 from Mulroy College in Milford, Donegal. L & M Books is an inclusive interactive book for children between the ages of six and twelve. This book is creatively designed to help children understand hidden disabilities. One activity asks children to draw what they think each hidden disability looks like, so that they can express their different views of the world. Millie, Livvy and Lucy’s intended mission is to spread awareness of hidden disabilities in children. This idea comes from the fact that two members of the group live with different hidden disabilities.
Commenting on her group’s experience in NFTE this year, Lucy said “Working in a group can be difficult as different people have different ways of working so it took us a while to find our roles and to settle into them. It’s so important to work well in a team. We know now for the future where our skills lie. Our group has gained more confidence in ourselves and in the group. The experience has taught us skills that will help us in our future school lives and beyond.”
Livvy from L&M Books commented “We’re so glad we persisted and stuck with each other to continue on and win in this category! Thank you for this opportunity and picking us as the winners. We’re so excited for the future of L&M Books! We want hidden disabilities to be seen, for better understanding, better recognition and for people to know that they are not alone.”
This year’s Special Recognition award went to Eoghan McCabe from Scoil Ui Mhuiri, Co Louth. Eoghan was nominated by his NFTE teacher Martina Farrell for organising his own tractor run charity event “Eoghan's Home Run” to raise money for Williams Syndrome Ireland and Ardee Hospice Homecare. Eoghan worked tirelessly to arrange meetings in the evenings with his family and entire community, he created posters to promote the event, he organised and took part in interviews with local newspapers, radio stations and he sourced spot prizes for the raffle. On the day of Eoghan’s tractor run thousands of people attended to support him and he raised €30,000.
Eoghan says “I choose Williams Syndrome Ireland because I myself have Williams Syndrome. I wanted to show people that someone like me can do something as big as organise a Tractor Run and I also wanted to support other families who have a kid with Williams Syndrome.
Judges for this years National competition included Ronnie Griffin, basis.point; Claire Byrne,Mastercard; Paul Fagan, ActionCOACH Ireland; Justin Egan, basis.point; Susan Dunphy, Curriculum and Assessment Policy, Department of Education; Eoghan Ryan, Rethink Ireland and Barbara Daly, Chairperson of Foróige.
Séan Campbell, CEO of Foróige, commented on this year’s young entrepreneurs “We're amazed each year by the young entrepreneurs who participate in our NFTE Youth Entrepreneurship Programme, and this year is no different. These young people have gone above and beyond to showcase their innovation and problem solving skills. We’re so proud of what they’ve achieved throughout this year while taking part in the NFTE programme. So much of what we do in this programme is about encouraging young people to be brave, take a leap of faith and back themselves and their abilities. Whether it’s highlighting a gap in the commercial market that needs to be filled, tackling a social challenge or identifying a need that should be met for the neurodiverse, it’s remarkable work done by these teenagers. We can safely say, the future is safe in the hands of young entrepreneurs who are thriving and turning problems into solutions”
Seán continued “We have been incredibly fortunate to receive Dormant Accounts funding through the Department of Education to continue to grow this fantastic programme, in addition to significant support from basis.point, JP Morgan and ActionCOACH. Funding for the new social enterprise category was received through the Department of Rural and Community Development and corporate support from. Over 6,000 young entrepreneurs took part this year making it the largest number ever to participate.”