Thursday 18 September 2014

Mercy College girls are the business!

Harry Keaney

Published 06/05/2014 | 05:40

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Samantha Scanlon, Sinead Fitzsimons, Roisin Shaw, Sinead D'Arcy and Rianne Keaveney, transition year students from the Mercy College, Sligo with their project 'Brace Yourself' who were announced overall winners of the Foroige Youth Entrepreneur of the Year Awards. Photo: Colm Mahady

Seven Sligo teens have been crowned Youth Entrepreneurs of the Year 2014.

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They had a smart idea and turned into a business reality.

For that, they won the national award for designing, making and marketing a handy tool that helps people fasten bracelets and zips.

The competition was part of the Foróige Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship (NFTE) Programme.

The girls, pupils of the Mercy College Secondary School, are: Rianne Keaveney, Róisín Shaw, Sinead Fitzsimons, Sinead D'Arcy, Samantha Scanlon, Paula Ortiz and Leah Friedrich.

Rianne came up with the idea after watching my grandmother struggling to close a bracelet.

She said: "My grandmother has no power in one of her hands.

"I thought if we could make a hook it would make her life a little easier."

The adopted the idea for their Transition year mini company project.

They got a mould for the hook made by local company Sligo Tool and Die.

After refining the design, they came up with a final product which is now on sale in a number of jewellry shops.

Market research carried out by the group found that more than 40,000 people in Ireland suffer from rheumatoid arthritis.

Rianne added: "Our original target market was for people with mobility issues.

"But then we felt the bracelet helper is a handy tool for men and women of all ages.

"It is multifunctional and can also be used as a zip fastener or can opener.

"We feel men could purchase our product for their female relatives and friends.

"Our design is unique, there is nothing like it on the market.

"It is also the only such product made and sold in Ireland. Therefore we are creating jobs in Ireland and Sligo."

The 'Brace Yourself' products are now being stocked in selected pharmacies in Cork and Sligo and cost €2 each.

The girls marketed their products through word of mouth, Facebook and through press releases in their local papers.

To date, they have sold more than 500 bracelets, generating an income of more than €1,000.

All the profits from the sales of their first 1,000 bracelet hooks are going to Tanzania.

Rianne said: "Our involvement in the Foróige NFTE programme and our experience in setting up our business has taught us so many invaluable skills.

"These include working as a team, communication skills and making deadlines.

"We loved the whole experience."

Sligo Champion

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