Offaly’s Best Young Entrepreneurs for 2019 and €50,000 investment fund winners were announced at an awards ceremony hosted by Local Enterprise Office Offaly this week.
As part of a nationwide search launched by Minister Heather Humphreys and Minister Pat Breen to find Ireland’s Best Young Entrepreneurs (IBYE) for 2019, the six winners and runners-up were chosen from a shortlist of fifteen local finalists and will now share a €50,000 investment fund.
IBYE, now in its fifth year, is a nationwide youth enterprise initiative to help 18-to-35 year olds with an innovative business idea, new start-up or established business. In 2019, 1,644 young entrepreneurs entered IBYE, which is an initiative of the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation, run by the Local Enterprise Offices and supported by Enterprise Ireland and local authorities.
The county final was hosted by LEO Offaly. Among the special guests at the awards ceremony were Cathaoirleach of Offaly County Council, Cllr Danny Owens, and Deputy Barry Cowen and a number of Offaly County Councillors.
The ‘Best New Idea’ category, with a €7,000 investment fund, was won by Brian Darby, aged 33, founder of 'Little Champions' School lunches in Geashill. Little Champions will deliver healthy school lunches to primary schools each morning. The runner-up award and €3,000 investment fund went to Martin McGuinness, aged 30, of ACM Energy in Edenderry.
The winner of the ‘Best Start-Up Business’ category and the €15,000 investment fund was Christina McLoughlin, aged 31, founder of Vove Media in Tullamore. Vove Media is a digital marketing agency specialising in social media management, content creation, website design and brand design for small to medium sized businesses. The runner-up in this category, collecting a €5,000 investment fund, was Conor Scally, aged 27, of S13 Ireland in Tullamore.
Meanwhile, the title of ‘Best Established Business’, with an investment fund of €15,000, went to Emma-Rose Conroy, aged 34, founder of Euro Stallions (Ireland) Ltd in Durrow, Tullamore. Euro Stallions is the first EU approved embryo collection centre in Ireland.The company also provides breeder and veterinary supplies for equine reproduction including their own in-house developed fertility supplement. The runner-up in this category, scooping a €5,000 investment fund, was Mark Feely, aged 35, of Carpentry Works in Daingean.
Emma-Rose Conroy was also awarded the title of ‘Best Young Entrepreneur’ for Offaly.
There were 40 entrants to the Offaly’s “2019 Best Young Entrepreneurs” Competition with 15 entrepreneurs reaching the Offaly County Final. Each finalist received targeted business supports through Local Enterprise Office Offaly. They attended an intensive Business Boot Camp, receiving mentoring and support on their business plans, pitch training as well as getting the opportunity to connect with other young entrepreneurs from Offaly. They also faced the judges at a “Dragons Den” style pitch. The businesses were judged under a number of category headings including the Quality of Application and Business Plan, Entrepreneurial Capability, Market Opportunity and Innovation.
The Local Enterprise Office Offaly would like to commend and thank the three judges, Evelyn Reddin – LEO Laois, Liam Holton – Future Ticketing and James Maloney – Enterprise Ireland, for their time and the effort involved in reviewing the business plans and listening to the pitches.
Orla Martin, Head of Enterprise with Local Enterprise Office Offaly said: “As our winners clearly demonstrate, youth entrepreneurship is thriving here in Offaly. IBYE is about discovering local potential and nurturing that talent through financial supports, mentoring, training and networking opportunities. In 2019, Local Enterprise Office Offaly supported forty young entrepreneurs through the IBYE competition and over 150 young entrepreneurs in total, since the competition began in 2014. We want to build on that success by supportting Offaly young entrepreneurs today and into the future”.
The county winners from Offaly will now progress to the regional finals, which take place on June 12.