Thinking small not on the agenda for entrepreneurial winner Dee

WHEN Dee O’Leary’s then three-year-old son wandered away from her while she was paying for groceries and a sense of dread overcame her, the idea for an award winning business was born.

Thinking small not on the agenda for entrepreneurial winner Dee

Despite her little boy being found safe and well in a nearby café patiently waiting for his lunch, the event convinced her that a quicker way to identify her child was needed were he to ever wander away again. There and then, the idea for iDME was born.

iDME wristbands do exactly what the name suggests: they allow strangers to identify a child should he or she be separated from their parent or guardian’s side. The wristbands contain a foldable ID card with the wearer’s name and that of their guardian, an address, any medical or allergy notes and an emergency contact number.

Like many of the best ideas its beauty lies in its simplicity and with over 20,000 wristbands sold to date there’s clearly a strong demand for the product – even if one market is proving elusive for Dee.

“We have sold 20,000 units in 15 countries and six continents so far. The only continent I haven’t sold one in yet is Antarctica. I’m thinking of just getting a postcode and sending one down there to say I’ve sold in every continent in the world,” she joked.

While the wristbands originally started out with kids in mind, Dee, from her base in Carrigaline outside Cork city, has much bigger plans in mind.

With the introduction of adult wristbands, iDME has positioned itself to take advantage of a whole range of new markets.

Sports enthusiasts, Dee points out, could benefit as much as anyone from wearing the simple accessory. From competitors in extreme sports to field sports and athletics, the importance of carrying easily-accessible, vital personal information could prove critical.

Additionally, elderly people or those with illnesses could benefit from wearing the bands.

Further developments are in the pipeline too as the start-up is currently working with Cork Institute of Technology’s (CIT) electronic research centre, Nimbus, to develop tracking capabilities. The end goal, Dee says, is that the iDME brand would be synonymous with safety awareness all across the world.

This week the latest accolade was bestowed upon Dee and her company when she was chosen from a field of ten Cork-based female entrepreneurs to travel to the United States to meet industry leaders and develop her business with the help of their expertise.

The initiative, organised by Cork Foundation, in collaboration with Cork Innovates, brought together ten of the county’s finest indigenous female entrepreneurs and invited them to pitch their ideas to a panel of eight top US business women for the chance to travel to the US — a prize that is likely to change not only Dee’s life personally but that of her business too.

“It is absolutely amazing, I’m so honoured,” she said after the event. “The calibre of women in that room is phenomenal, the fact that I was chosen… I’m very humbled. It was so refreshing to get talking to other women in the room… We all had the same issues, regardless of our business; it didn’t matter.

“When you’re setting up a business you have your head down so much you forget to stop and recognise when you’ve done something well, when a meeting goes well. You forget to stop and give yourself a pat on the back… I think this trip is going to be life changing and absolutely eye-opening,” she added.

One of the key things she took from the event was the positive attitude of the US businesswomen in attendance. Whereas Irish entrepreneurs can be afraid to ask for help and almost apologetic about their ideas at times, entrepreneurs across the Atlantic think much bigger and act much bolder, according to the founder of iDME.

Having landed the plum prize courtesy of her impressive pitch, and doing so fast on the heels of scooping the €30,000 Cork Innovates business bursary last year, one could forgive the mother-of-three for thinking her work was done, but the reality couldn’t be further from the truth.

Not only does she claim to have a lot of work left to do, she attributes much of her success to the support network of organisations and entrepreneurs in Cork.

“I’m nowhere near my end goal yet, I’ve a lot of work to do. I wouldn’t be where I am without the networking in Cork. I’ve been very lucky, firstly through my Local Enterprise Office and Seán O’Sullivan who pointed me towards Cork Innovates and from there I heard about the Rubicon Centre in CIT.

“The next big thing was winning [the] Cork Innovates [business bursary]; that was me putting myself out there for the first time, Cork Innovates helped me raise my profile and raise my game. “What’s happening [in Cork] is magical, I’m so grateful. Cork Innovates and Cork Foundation: there’s nothing like that in other parts of the country,” said Dee.

When you’re from a small town it’s easy to think small with your ideas, but that just doesn’t apply anymore,” she added.

With a trip to the States ahead, an award-winning business and a band of supportive like-minded people behind her in Cork, thinking small isn’t something the Carrigaline-based entrepreneur can identify with anymore it seems.

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