UP to 700 students from 15 secondary schools across Clare have attended Local Enterprise Board organised workshops to help inform them of the Student Enterprise Awards scheme. The Clare final of the national entrepreneurship scheme will be held on February 10, 2016.
On Monday in the West County Hotel, Ennis, the students were addressed by Pádraic McElwee, head of Local Enterprise Office in Clare. A workshop was also held at The Armada Hotel in Spanish Point.
“Our role as the local enterprise office is to promote enterprise in Clare. It’s critically important that we get schoolchildren involved at a very early stage and maybe they will go on to start their own businesses. It creates a bit of fun around business and there is nothing wrong with making a bit of money,” he said.
“You might have people who find that maybe business is not for them and this is a way to find that out. It allows them to try out an idea and if they get it wrong so be it, that’s part of business. If they develop a product that has real potential, well definitely they need to come and talk to us. We can offer them mentoring support, for example,” Pádraic added.
Among the many teachers present was Therese Lillis-Wallace, who teaches business and Leaving Certificate Vocational Preparation (LCVP) at St Flannan’s College, Ennis. She said the enterprise scheme is very helpful to some students.
“It helps them to tap into their entrepreneurial skill-set. They get to expand their existing skills and develop new skills, including teamwork, interpersonal, research and report-writing skills. For transition-year students, it’s another way of putting theory into practice. It’s also one of the modules for LCVP students. It takes them out of the classroom and into the real working world. They get to experience the highs and lows of being in business. It’s about them thinking for themselves, thinking outside the box and it might help them to stay in Ireland,” Therese suggested.
Kilnamona’s Regina Tierney, who runs her own company, Celtic Fusion Design, addressed the gathering and told them of her own experience in business. Regina is a designer and creator of natural textiles clothing.
“The clothing is inspired by Irish Celtic culture. My father, Vincent Tierney, was also an entrepreneur and had many varieties of businesses around Clare. It was drilled into me from very young that to be self-employed was the way to go,” she said.
Regina has been self-employed for 18 months and currently works from home, although she is planning to expand.
“In the next six months, I’m going to be taking up a new workplace and employing people. The vision for the business is part of the brand. It’s from somewhere that is natural and this is where we are taking the inspiration for the clothing designs. Then through social media, I’m reinforcing that,” she said, adding that she has created 28 designs.
“One side of it is very much based on tweeds and then the other side is for people who are into eco-design and natural textile design. I create the designs and then I have a team in India that I work with. It’s all ethically manufactured and I oversee all of the manufacturing. All of the textiles are sourced by me as well. The majority of the production is in India, although that is going to change over the next few years,” she explained.
Among the students at the event from St Anne’s Community College, Killaloe, were Ben Kiely and Hannah Mooney, who were accompanied by business teacher Mairéad Ryan.
“This experience has given me a great sense of entrepreneurship and I now feel that I want to do this in the future. If it wasn’t for this, I definitely wouldn’t be as informed as I am. I have been offered a family company but there are plenty of business opportunities out there. There has been a definite upturn in the economy,” Ben commented.
Hannah’s family are also in business. Her parents design websites.
“This student enterprise idea is really great. I did it when I was in first year and my sister did it before as well,” she said.
Mairéad believes that fostering a sense of entrepreneurship is good for students.
“I think it’s very beneficial in terms of the skills that they develop. We have a good mix of students in St Anne’s. Not all of them want to be entrepreneurs but they are all willing to go through the programme. It benefits them in terms of communication skills and even those who dislike it at the start, people like Ben and Hannah bring them on because they see them enjoying it. It forces them, in a nice way, to get involved.”
St Flannan’s College student Mark O’Loughlin, who is from Clarecastle, has first-hand experience of setting up a business to meet demand.
“Myself and my classmate, David Barry, set up a company called Docks Wooden Crafts. We made Christmas signs, cribs and personalised signs. We made them in the woodwork room at school with supplies and wood. We sold them at local craft fairs in Clarecastle. The teachers helped us out as well. They bought a lot off us,” he smiled.
They were given some help in money management by Mark’s father, Ger O’Loughlin.
“When he was starting out, he set up a transport company in Limerick. He gave us a hand in how to deal with money and that helped us. I’d like to be my own boss. I’d like to be over other people dictating to them, a bit like a teacher,” he laughed.
Meanwhile, Fiona Hogan (Mountshannon) and Anna Burke (Whitegate) attend Scariff Community College and are part of a group planning to set off mini-explosions around East Clare. They were accompanied at the workshop in Ennis by their teacher Dearbhla Hassett.
“Our idea is handmade bath bombs. Loads of people are buying them but they are really expensive. We said we’d be able to make them, sell them cheaper but still make a profit. They are really relaxing and they are good for your muscles,” Anna explained, adding that the ingredients include Epsom Salts, corn starch, baking soda and lemon juice.
“There are loads of different scents and each one will be labelled,” she said.
Fiona Hogan’s mother runs a B&B, which has been good grounding for her in terms of looking at possibly working for herself.
“I’m finding today fascinating. It’s a good experience to know how to start your own business. Working for yourself is interesting because you get to meet so many people from around the place. The usual people mam has in her B&B are Germans,” Fiona noted.
By Peter O’Connell