Students from Boherbue Comprehensive School in Mallow, North Cork, strode away with the top award in the Student Enterprise Programme.
The transition-year students designed an ergonomic wooden device, Smooth Remove, an aid to help remove footwear.
Designed from wood with a heel-shaped groove, the device will fit any size of footwear and can be personalised with names and images.
Over 26,000 students took part in this year’s programme run by the Local Enterprise Offices and yesterday 222 representing 78 student enterprises reached the national final in Croke Park.
Chair of the Local Enterprise Office Network, Oisín Geoghegan, said the judges were particularly impressed with the Cork students’ business plan.
Mr Geoghegan said it was not just about the product, the judges wanted to see that the students possessed all the key attributes for success in business.
"It was very high bar altogether,” he said.
One of the students, Laura Moynihan, said their idea emerged when a family relation of one of their company members was recovering from back surgery and found it difficult to remove his footwear.
Smooth Remove is made from laminated pine and has a perspex wedge underneath for removing dirt from boots and shoes. The device was so popular they have now integrated it into a shoe box design that allows both the removal and easy storage of footwear.
Laura said the group invested €130 in Smooth Remove and began selling the device last November.
The standard device costs €10 and one with a laser-engraved image costs €15. The students, who have sold 380 already, have started to sell the product in Britain as well.
The 12 students, aged between 16 and 17, have forged a business partnership with Sullvet, veterinary suppliers based in Charleville, Co Cork.
The product is available in Boherbue Co-op, Central Shoe Stores, Kanturk, Co Cork, and Rhyno Mills, Castleisland, Co Kerry.
“We are just thrilled to have won the top prize. We now know how to run our own business and everything that is involved,” said Laura.
The students’ business teacher, Áine Ní Bhroin, said they were a hard-working and dedicated team.
Pet safety was on the minds of students at Presentation Secondary School in Castleisland, Co Kerry, winners of the intermediate category for Críos Mhadra.
Designed by 14-year-old students Katelyn Curtin and Kelly Anne Nix, the three-point safety harness provides comfort and safety for pets travelling in cars.
The harness comes in two sizes and costs between €32.99 and €34.99 and is finished by a local tailor in Castleisland. The duo have sold harnesses to pet owners in Kerry, Cork, and Limerick.
In the junior category, a practical solution for a parent’s tendency to misplace glasses at work was a big hit with the judging panel.
Ava Gilmartin, 13, from Malahide-Portmarnock Educate Together School in Co Dublin, designed Specrest, an affordable, biodegradable holder for glasses that can slide into bags, pockets, clothing, or even sun visors in cars.
Ava came up with the idea after her mother, a nurse, complained about her glasses falling off at work.
She’s exploring a patent application for Specrest, which costs €5 and is on sale in opticians, pharmacies, and supermarkets.