Sunday 20 January 2019

'It's good for business' - meet the Co Meath teen sisters named in top young CEOs in Ireland and UK

Teenage sisters juggle homework with doing business with royalt

Not your typical teens: Kate (left) and Annie Madden from Co Meath, co-founders of FenuHealth
Not your typical teens: Kate (left) and Annie Madden from Co Meath, co-founders of FenuHealth
Breda Heffernan

Breda Heffernan

They have travelled to far-flung locations, met Prince Harry and Meghan, and set up their own business - all while juggling maths homework and hanging out with their friends.

It's fair to say that Kate (18) and Annie Madden (16), from Summerhill, Co Meath, aren't your typical teenagers.

They have turned what started out as a project for the BT Young Scientist exhibition into an award-winning business, FenuHealth, and now have been named in international payment company TransferWise's '20 Under 20' - a list of the top 20 teen CEOs in Ireland and Britain.

"We're very excited about it. It's fantastic to be named and it's good for the business to get the recognition," said fifth-year student Annie.

The sisters created a range of health supplements that can be added to horses' feed to prevent stomach problems.

They come from good horse-breeding stock - their grandfather Mike Madden has been breeding national hunt horses for 60 years - and as Annie explained: "We were learning to walk and ride at the same time."

Kate and Annie Madden with their range of products. Photo: Conor McCabe
Kate and Annie Madden with their range of products. Photo: Conor McCabe

Kate, who has just started on a scholarship at UCC studying food marketing and entrepreneurship, first entered the BT Young Scientist exhibition on her own in 2014 with a project that explored whether Mars bars could increase the galloping speed of a pony. At the time, Annie was only in sixth class so couldn't enter.

"The next year we entered together and our project was about flavouring horse feed. If horses are eating the same feed every day, some will go off it," said Annie.

The girls hit on the idea of adding the herb fenugreek to horse feed and discovered that not only do horses like the taste, it can also prevent them getting gastric ulcers, something that affects 70pc of horses. The project garnered a lot of attention in the horse industry and, two months later, the sisters attended the largest equestrian trade fair in the world in Germany.

Soon their idea morphed into FenuHealth which now employs nine people and counts several royal families among their customers.

"We supply five royal families. We can't say who but you can take a few guesses," said Annie mysteriously, before somewhat letting the cat out of the bag by revealing they met Britain's Prince Harry and his new bride Meghan when they visited Ireland during the summer. They have also met Prince Charles and Camilla.

Despite being at school and university, the sisters are involved day-to-day in the business, getting reports and keeping up to date with everything that is happening.

While Annie will be focusing on her Leaving Cert, Kate will be able to step up her involvement. And they have a younger brother and sister who may also get in on the act.

"I have a younger sister, Claire, she's in transition year and she's quite interested in package design, so she's re-designing the packaging for retail," said Annie.

"I have a younger brother, Michael. He's not doing much with his life apart from football and hurling. He's only 10 so we'll give him some time," she laughs.

Irish Independent

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