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A touching innovation for childcare

AN Ennis student is behind a business idea, which could revolutionise childcare management. Budding entrepreneurs Orlaith McMahon, from Drimeen, and her business partner, Mary O’Keeffe from Lixnaw, have developed a service allowing childcare staff to record information on a touch screen or tablet computer.

AN Ennis student is behind a business idea, which could revolutionise childcare management. Budding entrepreneurs Orlaith McMahon, from Drimeen, and her business partner, Mary O’Keeffe from Lixnaw, have developed a service allowing childcare staff to record information on a touch screen or tablet computer.
The innovative idea has come in second in the Third Level Young Entrepreneur awards, which were announced this week. Orlaith has now revealed that while her proposal did not take first prize, she now hopes to fund her project through the New Frontiers Entrepreneur Development Programme, the national programme for innovative business ideas.
Twenty-two-year-old Orlaith, an early childcare management student of the Institute of Technology in Tralee said she was thrilled to have made the finals of the Young Entrepreneur awards.
“It was just such an invaluable experience to be involved with this. It was such an opportunity for us as childcare students to do business plans, get quotes and other things that we wouldn’t normally have the chance to do over the past six months,” she said.
Orlaith explained where the business idea came from. “As part of my course, we had to come up with an idea for business that would solve a problem. Through my studies, I have to do work experience for a year and in pre-schools, everything has to be recorded, what the child ate, achieved, when they slept. It all depends on the curriculum of the pre-school but there has to be some record kept. I realised there was a need for a software programme for a touch screen, rather than manually writing things down.
“Through the programme, parents could log in and get the results for their own child rather than receiving a written copy that could get lost. This is a much more accountable and reliable system.”
She added that there is another more personal story behind her concept. “I am dyslexic and I attended the reading unit at Ennis National. When I was on my work experience, I wasn’t that confident with the spellings of the records that were sent home to parents. But with this programme, everything is already there in front of you and you just have to touch it. It’s a lot more professional,” she said.
As part of the Young Entrepreneur Programme, Orlaith and the other finalists got to meet President Michael D Higgins, which was a major highlight for Orlaith and her family.
“That was a lifelong dream for many of my family,” she said.
Orlaith and Mary’s project was one of four from the Institute of Technology in Tralee to have been shortlisted for the awards. As part of the competition, the finalists had to pitch their idea to a panel of entrepreneurs including John Concannon, MD of JFC manufacturing and Norah Casey of Harmonia and Dragon’s Den.
On Monday evening, it was announced that the project came in second in third-level finalists.
“I’m delighted that we entered the competition and had this experience. I’m very positive about the future of this project. We are now planning to enter the New Frontiers programme through Enterprise Ireland and hopefully, we will get some funding. In this competition, we will be able to skip some of the phases because we have the work already done. We are concentrating on finishing our dissertations now but if we got funding then you never know what could happen in the future.”

 

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