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Food Cloud's Ward and O'Brien win top social entrepreneur gong

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Iseult Ward, Co-founder of Foodcloud.

Iseult Ward, Co-founder of Foodcloud.

Iseult Ward, Co-founder of Foodcloud.

FOOD cloud founders Iseult Ward and Aoibheann O’Brien have been crowned Ireland’s top young social entrepreneurs at this year’s Join Our Core competition.

This year’s finale, held across London, Singapore and Tokyo, saw the finalists from eleven countries (UK, Ireland, Netherlands, Sweden, Denmark, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, France, Singapore and Japan) go head to head, with one young entrepreneur from each region taking the title.

Join Our Core is Ben & Jerry’s and Ashoka’s annual, global competition to celebrate young people who are creating new models for sustainable business to help make a difference in communities. Winners Iseult and Aoibheann’s business is a super innovative virtual foodbank that connects businesses that have too much food with charities that have too little.

Ms O'Brien said:  “To be part of the Join Our Core final is amazing. Some of the previous finalists were incredibily inspirational to us and helped us kickstart our own business in Ireland. To join that lineup is great. Above the investment and recognition, it's the Ashoka mentoring part of the winner's prize that will really help us achieve our goals. ”     

A passion to solve hunger and waste food problems in Ireland earned Ms Ward (24) a spot on Time magazine's prestigious list of 'Next Generation Leaders'.

The former Trinity business student, from Phibsboro, Dublin, is the CEO and co-founder of FoodCloud - the country's first food-sharing non-profit company that connects businesses with surplus food to charities in need.

"In Ireland one in 10 people is suffering from food poverty and at the same time a million tonnes of food is going to waste", said Iseult, who was "speechless" when Time - one of the world's greatest news magazines - got in touch.

"I witnessed a problem that seemed quite bad and wanted to offer a solution," said Iseult who set up FoodCloud with her equally determined friend Aoibheann O'Brien (29), from Portumna, Galway.

As the only Irish person on the list, Iseult is joined by six other 'leaders of tomorrow'. From fighting HIV in South Africa, conquering wrestling gender barriers in Malaysia, to stopping superbugs in Australia, Time's "class of 2014", are all working hard to change their worlds today.

Iseult describes herself as "a social entrepreneur".

She defines her food-based enterprise as a charity that uses the "best practices of a for-profit business and applies them to a social cause".

"We developed a charity that generates revenue for social good so it's financially sustainable".

In keeping with that model, they designed an easy-to-use app to link retailers, including supermarkets, restaurants and bakeries, with suitable charities for a small fee.

"If businesses want to donate through FoodCloud all they have to do is download the app and give us details of the food that they can't sell at the end of the day, and the charities will be notified," said Iseult.

The Dubliner also often helps out on food runs.

Although the company started out in 2012 with "a simple idea and a lot of ambition", Iseult and Aoibheann now employ five staff members and work with over 150 food outlets including Tesco, Fresh and Starbucks, as well as 250 charities nationwide.

On top of Time, FoodCloud have also been awarded the Social Entrepreneurs Ireland award and received a €140,000 prize for their not-for-profit.

"We weren't expecting any of this but we'll be very happy if it raises our profile and helps us expand our geographical footprint.

"We want to fill people, not landfills. I'm going to work really hard to try to change the world in case Time decide to do a follow up in 10 years," said Iseult.

Sunday Independent