Kiddie Krawlies is a range of comfortable and fashionable kneepads that were conceived by Aisling Ní Shúilleabháin from Dingle. She came up with the idea for the Young Entrepreneur Programme (YEP) run by Institute of Technology Tralee, Kerry Technology Park and Jerry Kennelly, former chief executive of image company Stockbyte.
“I saw my aunt put her husband’s old socks over one of their children’s trousers, to stop him from getting bruises crawling on a tile floor. When they were looking for ideas for the programme, I thought of this because we were told the best business idea is for something that solves problems,” said 16-year-old Aisling, a fifth-year student at Pobalscoil Corca Dhuibhne.
The idea won her first prize last April out of all the entries from second and third level students who took part in the YEP programme.
But as well as a trip to Silicon Valley during the summer, she has had prototypes made by Tralee man John Dillane in his sock factory in Lithuania.
While a product made in Australia uses the same material as wetsuits, Aisling’s Kiddie Krawlies are made from a sock-like material which is less restrictive to a child’s movements.
“We’re in discussions with a distributor in Scandinavia, so maybe early next year they might be in shops over there, but we won’t be rushing into any decisions,” she said.
This year’s YEP programme begins on Friday when 600 students from 21 schools in Limerick and Kerry hear from Aisling and other top entrepreneurs at the Blue Sky Day event in Tralee. The programme has been extended to the University of Limerick this year, with prizes for second and third level students, and for the best school.
Meanwhile, projects in next year’s BT Young Scientist competition could become commercial opportunities under a new initiative. Around 40 entrants at January’s event will be mentored by leading executives&. Six of the top performers will develop their interests with summer placements in third level colleges.