Teen entrepreneurs net €20k prize to develop seaweed drink

Three West Cork schoolboy entrepreneurs who created a drink made from seaweed have landed a prize worth €20,000 to help kickstart their business.

The 17-year-olds saw off established businessmen to secure cash support and mentoring in a nail-biting Dragons’ Den-style competition.

Students Barry Holland, Declan Moore and David Ryan aim to establish a food business producing high-quality fruit drinks, high in health-promoting antioxidants, extracted from seaweed.

They were outright winners of Clon’trepreneur, a competition organised by Clonakilty Chamber of Commerce and designed to boost local employment.

An audience of up to 300 people cheered as popular rugby pundit and broadcaster George Hook, who acted as MC on the night, announced the fifth-year students as winners.

They had pitched their product to the four judges — Colette Twomey of Clonakilty Black Pudding, Diarmuid O’Sullivan of Irish Yogurts, Eugene Scally of Scally’s SuperValu and social media guru and philanthropist Bill Liao.

The teenagers convinced the judges their product, OceanaBoost, had the best potential to create and sustain employment in the West Cork area.

Three other competitors, Michael O’Neill of Irish Atlantic Sea Salt, Steve Clery of the Clonakilty Cocoa Company and Richy Virahsawmy, a local restaurateur, had earlier competed with OceanaBoost for the cash and support package.

The prize included €10,000 in phased payments, as well as mentoring in everything from legal issues to advice on website development and accountancy.

The schoolboys also have the offer of a business unit in which to set up their fledgling business.

Each of the contestants made a seven-minute pitch and then faced 18 minutes of questioning from the judges who scrutinised their products, marketing strategies and logistics and drilled through their finances.

Mr Hook also offered each of the finalists time on the ‘Kickstart your Business’ slot on his radio show to pitch their products.

The youngsters started work on OceanaBoost as 15-year-old transition-year students looking for an interesting project to take to the BT Young Scientist Competition in Dublin.

The drink won a category award at the BT Young Scientist Competition in January and a national award at the AgriAware Green Dragon competition for young entrepreneurs.

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