Student entrepreneurs put their best foot forward

The future for new Irish businesses looks harmonious judging by the ideas of young company directors in West Cork.

An age-old problem for musicians of how to turn the pages of sheet music while playing could be solved by one group of students at a Bandon school.

Helen McCan and four fellow transition year students at Coláiste na Toirbhirte are working on the design for an automatic page-turner.

“The idea is that you wouldn’t have to use your hands, so it will be either electronic or maybe pressure-based with something like a foot pump,” said Helen. “All of us are interested in music and four of us play. We’ve only started the company in the last two weeks but a local music shop has told us there’s nothing like it available, so hopefully it will be a success.”

Theirs is just one of many fledgling schools’ mini-companies represented among more than 300 transition and fifth years at a student enterprise conference held by the West Cork Enterprise Board in Skibbereen.

Jason McCarthy and his fellow directors of a mini-company at Clonakilty Community College have an idea that could be of use to farmers and others making sheds from corrugated metal.

“When you’re drilling into sheets of corrugated iron, the drill often slips. We’re making a wooden guide that you can use to drill through and help avoid it slipping,” he explained.

“There’s two others, Robert Kingston and Stephen O’Brien, and we all did metalwork and woodwork for the Junior Cert so we plan to make them ourselves. We hope then that we can sell them into hardware stores.”

Shoe shops will be the target market for the Sole company at Schull Community College, which plans to bring in accessories from China that will be most beneficial if we get another bad winter.

“A few of us were talking about how we were slipping all over the place when the ground was wet. The Slip Grips can be stuck onto your sole or heel and it gives you better grip,” said Caoimhe McCormack, one of the firm’s eight directors.

They have already done some market research and found that it is the kind of product that younger people — including students and teachers at the school — say they would use.

Enterprise board adviser Christine McCarthy said two projects from each school in the West Cork Schools Enterprise Programme will compete in regional finals in March for a place at a national competition later next year.

“The programme is the first time in their school lives they are given control of setting up something which they will own and run. This is extremely important for them to develop vital practical business skills which they would not otherwise have the opportunity to experience,” she said.

In addition to business founders on hand to help motivate the students, yesterday’s conference heard from west Cork resident Steve Redmond who was the first person to complete the Oceans Seven Challenge this year.

“If you think you can be better and go further, embrace the uncertainty, learn and plan, accept that you will fail and prepare to try again,” he advised the budding entrepreneurs.

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