Winners of Foróige's Youth Entrepreneur of the Year Awards announced at the Mansion House

foroigeadmin May 14, 2015


Foróige Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship

  • Donegal teens crowned Youth Entrepreneurs of the Year 2015 for business which produces tasty treats using seaweed
  • 1,000 participants generate €250k turnover in Foróige Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship (NFTE) Programme this year

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 transition year students from Colaiste na Carriage 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.   

Transition year students from Colaiste na Carriage Mary Kate Carr (15), Aimée Byrne (16), Rebecca McShane (16) and Ronan O’Hare (15) from around Glencolmcille in Donegal were last night 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 realized 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 as such there was a gap in their market for their products.

“We realised that our target market could also be segmented into people who have a keen interest in health food and unique, quirky artisan products,” she continued.

The group used Facebook (milseog na mara) and twitter @milseognamara) to promote their business and were so successful that they trended fifth in Ireland.

The jars of jellies and chocolate mousse cost €3 and are available at select 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.”

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 group will now go on the represent Ireland at the European Youth Entrepreneur of the Year Awards taking place in Budapest in November.


Judging Panel

The overall winner was chosen by an expert judging panel including Deirdre O’ Sullivan from Jazz Pharmaceuticals,  Shóna McManus from Osborne Recruitment, Ron Immink from Small Business Can, Caitriona Fottrell from the Ireland Funds and John Cahill from Foróige.

Six finalists made an elevator pitch to the judges ala Dragon’s Den style for the top prize.

The finalists were:

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




About Foróige

Foróige is the leading youth organisation in Ireland. The charity works with 54,000 young people and 5,500 adult volunteers annually, through a network of more than 600 youth clubs & cafés, 150 targeted projects and national programmes such as Entrepreneurship (NFTE),  Citizenship and Entrepreneurship.  

About the Foróige Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship (NFTE):

The NFTE programme was founded by US businessman Steve Mariotti in New York in 1987 to prevent at risk young people from low-income communities from ‘dropping out’ of the education system.  

As part of the Foróige NFTE programme, young people study all aspects of starting and successfully running a business including idea generation, goal setting, customer services, marketing, book keeping, presentation skills, communication skills and social responsibility. They also engage with suppliers and work with business mentors. The programme also helps young people to build self-confidence and interpersonal skills, increase their prospects for employment and foster career and college aspirations to encourage school completion. The programme runs from September to May every year.

Research carried out by NFTE in Berlin among 3,600 young people who participated in the programme found that 70% of all participants have found a job, either as an employee or an entrepreneur.  The research also shows that each NFTE entrepreneur in turn employs an average of 3.5 people.