Supporting the next generation of entrepreneurs

Supporting the next generation of entrepreneurs
Participants in the Student Incubation Programme, also known as Student Inc, which has been set up to encourage student entrepreneurs to develop their business in CIT.

John Daly reports on the successful drive by CIT to support ambitious students across a range of disciplines developing a business on campus.

The Student Incubation Programme — also known as Student Inc — is a programme set up to encourage student entrepreneurs to develop their business in CIT.

Run over the summer period, the undergraduate students range from various different courses and are led by student enterprise interns, whose role it is to pilot and encourage students in progressing with their business.

Each entrepreneur receives €4,000 to fund their business, covering equipment, expenses and a wage to offset a summer job. They also obtain a fully serviced office space in CIT located in the Rubicon Centre and one module worth of credits.

Over the summer months, student entrepreneurs working on 10 projects are drawn from a multitude of undergraduate courses in CIT, including Culinary Arts, Herbal Science, BIS, Creative Digital Media, Business Studies, Marketing, IT Management, PR and New Media.

The programme is led by student enterprise interns Emilie-Kate O’Mahony and Miriam Adair, who play an important role in guiding these student entrepreneurs to develop and excel.

 Dr Helen McGuirk, Head, Hincks Centre for Entrepreneurship Excellence at the inaugural Women’s Rural Entrepreneurship Network (WREN) programme at Cork Institute of Technology. Picture: Darragh Kane
Dr Helen McGuirk, Head, Hincks Centre for Entrepreneurship Excellence at the inaugural Women’s Rural Entrepreneurship Network (WREN) programme at Cork Institute of Technology. Picture: Darragh Kane

Student Inc was funded by the Cork Institute of Technology, the Local Enterprise Office, Enterprise Ireland and CAMMS (Centre for Advanced Manufacturing and Management Systems) with the office space and staff expertise sponsored by the Rubicon Centre.

A major selling point of the programme is the peer to peer learning, not only between the 11 talented student entrepreneurs; but from the relationships that are built with a number of experienced resident entrepreneurs in the Rubicon Centre and the exposure to over 60 companies.

The programme offers the participants training and workshops in various aspects of business start up to ensure they are well informed in any decision they make. They also receive mentoring sessions on a one to one basis with industry specific mentors.

Student Inc has been accredited academically, and upon completion each participant will receive five academic credits at level 8 for the work they complete throughout the summer with their final evaluation in the form of a presentation.

Entrepreneur, Dell EMC campus ambassador

Dr Helen McGuirk, the Head of Hincks Centre for Entrepreneurship Excellence, provides this academic support to the students on completion.

MaryRose Shananhan is a Business Studies student in CIT, and, in addition, is a business owner, ex Student Inc participant and Dell EMC campus ambassador.

“For me entrepreneurship means a lot of things. It is not just about setting up your own business, it’s about the skills needed to be an entrepreneur. Its about being goal driven, you have to be determined and you have to be focused.

“Probably the main thing that I learned about being an entrepreneur is that you really have to believe in yourself as well as in your product or service and — at the same time — you have to be able to take criticism.”

She traces her own early entrepreneurial ventures back to age 15 when she first began working in her aunt’s nightclub, collecting glasses.

I learned a lot from working there and knew that I could build and develop what was offered at the time.

She now manages under-age and overage discos in O’Riada’s Nightclub in Macroom.

Gan Uisce is a project which MaryRose worked on as part of the Student Inc programme 2018.

“Gan Uisce is an underarm sweat patch that adheres to the skin,” she explains. “Ultimately it prevents perspiration marks and that horrible yellow staining cause by sweating.”

The 2018 award for Most Innovative Product/Idea went to Gan Uisce for its discreet and scented under-arm sweat patches that adhere to the skin.

“Student Inc is something that I never thought that I would have gone for. But, we need to be able to get outside of our comfort zone, push ourselves more. Don’t be the same as everyone else.”

Super Fungi food range

Hugh McCarthy and Martin Condon, who graduated from Cork Institute of Technology after completing their BSc in Herbal Science last year, went on to launch The Super Fungi functional food range.

Introducing high quality products derived from medicinal mushrooms into the Irish market, the venture came from their shared interest in medicinal plants and super-foods.

Excited by possibilities that emerged through their research into medicinal mushrooms, the pair went searching for these mushrooms in Health Food and Supplement shops around Cork, but were surprised to find a lack of mushroom supplements, especially high quality ones being produced in Europe.

Eventually they found a supplier for mushroom extracts, but which were in a powder form and difficult to fit into daily eating habits.

They ended up mixing them into a variety of foods and drinks and came up with a number recipes, including Hot Chocolate Nootropic Recovery Blend for those on the mend, and Raw Local Honey with Reishi and Chaga Mushrooms for keeping coughs, colds, seasonal allergies and asthma at bay. Super Fungi received the award for Best Business Opportunity with Potential for Growth.

“The Rubicon centre was pivotal,” says Hugh.

It gave us all of the skills and mentoring to complete a fully developed business plan and to begin product testing. But, more importantly it gave us time and a space to critique and develop our idea and turn it into a real business plan.

Martin adds his counsel for all potential Student Inc entrepreneurs: “I would say ask for help and advice early and often, people have been so generous with their time and knowledge and we wouldn’t be where we are today without having asked for help many times.

“Also, don’t take drawbacks or criticism to heart, at the end of the day it is a learning process and everybody will make mistakes along the way. If you have the opportunity to apply for The Student Inc programme then go for it, you have absolutely nothing to lose and all to gain.”

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