Anyone who ever doubted the level of entrepreneurial talent and business initiative in Ireland today would have been well served by a visit to the Kilkenny Student Enterprise Awards last week.
The end product of six months’ hard work was showcased in the Newpark Hotel, where nearly 150 of Kilkenny’s sharpest young minds were involved. Thirteen different schools took part, with a total of 39 different entries.
While there could only be one winner in each category, it is unlikely that the success of the runners-up will end here. Many of the innovations on display at last week’s event have already garnered interest from existing businesses and market experts.
The judges were particularly impressed with a prototype developed by Nicholas Dunphy for preventing the wrong fuel being put into cars at filling stations. Nicholas has designed a working magnetic system that controls the release of the nozzle based on a selection of fuel type required.
Already attracting major interest from the likes of Tokheim - a fuel and forecourt engineering company in the European market - Nicholas was presented with the ‘Science and Technology’ award sponsored by the Institute of Technology, Carlow.
Meanwhile, the ‘Best Commercial’ award, sponsored by the Kilkenny Business Club, was awarded to ‘The Silver Factory’ - a project by Cameron Cavaliere (16) from Kilkenny College. He is already making waves in the fashion world.
His Enterprise project is Silver Factory, for which he makes his own designs and prints them on t-shirts. His designs have already appeared in fashion magazines, and even in a Rihanna music video.
“I always had an interest in design, and the t-shirts would be a part of that,” he says.
“Some designs sell out very quickly on pre-order, they are limited edition and people want them more.”
Cameron uses orders blank shirts and then uses silk-screening and vinyl to print unique patterns and designs. It costs him about €5.50 to make each shirt, which then retail at €20. He is already making plans to expand into designing other apparel and jewellery.
The ‘Most Innovative Product’ award was won by ‘The Brocket’ - the brainchild of a group of Presentation Secondary School students. Tired of being stuck for somewhere to store small items such as keys or money on a night out, Ailis Butler, Michaela Keneally, Tamsin English and Aisling Nolan had a brainstorming session.
They came up with ‘The Brocket’ - a bra pocket. It is sold for €2 as a small pocket of linen, which can be ironed onto the inside of a bra. What’s more, the girls are donating all profits to breast cancer charities.
The Loreto Cookbook was the project from Loreto’s young entrepreneurs. It is a compilation of meal recipes as supplied by some of Kilkenny’s best-known names and faces.
For just €5, aspiring chefs have access to Henry Shefflin’s recipe for traditional Irish stew, instructions on spaghetti bolognese from Minister Phil Hogan, or Deputy John McGuinness’ strip-loin steak. The books are flying off the shelves already, with just 150 left from the 500 printed.
The Loreto girls were presented with the ‘Social Consciousness Award’, as all profits will be donated to charity.
Eanna Ni Dhugaill, in third year at Colaiste Pobail Osrai, won a special category award for ‘Best Display’. She had designed a range of eco-friendly jewellery to appeal to environmentally-conscious fashionistas. Bracelets and necklaces are made using the shells of pistachio nuts with small beads inset. Most of Eanna’s materials are recycled or sourced from second-hand shops.
“These have never been seen in the market before,” she says.
“We have had a lot of interest from younger girls and I’m looking at new designs for the younger girl market now.”
Meanwhile, one group from Castlecomer Community School, comprising Niall Buckley, Siobhan O’ Neill and Mary Buggy, won the Health and Safety award. They came up with an innovative way to store crutches easiy. ‘Crutch Safe’ is a bracket with a fitted clip or clips, which can be attached to a wall or chair to keep crutches close to hand, but out of the way.