Ciara Walsh, one of the members of Rockenga from Our Lady's Secondary School, Belmullet. Photo: Conor McCabe

Young people from Mayo reach Foróige NFTE Final 2024

Twenty-four youth businesses – including two from Mayo – represented their region at the Foróige Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship Programme (NFTE) Awards 2024.

Stick It by Annamai Condon and Clodagh Desmond from Loreto Secondary School in Clonmel, Co. Tipperary, was announced as the overall winner at the ceremony held at Richmond Barracks, Dublin.

Stick It won the title after competing against over 7,000 young entrepreneurs from all over Ireland through a series of local, county and regional events, with a total of 186 local competitions taking place leading to 30 regional finals.

The closely-fought national final saw the top eight young entrepreneurs in the Best Business category have the opportunity to pitch their business to an expert panel of judges from some of Ireland's leading companies as they battled it out to be crowned Foróige NFTE Youth Entrepreneur of the Year 2024.

That list included Rockenga by Felicia Bieber, Ciara Wash and John Conway from Our Ladies Secondary School, Belmullet. Rockenga is a frame production company based in Belmullet, with rocks and sea shells gathered from local beaches on the Wild Atlantic Way being used to create design ideas wrapped in a beautiful white wooden base frame.

In addition, Sustainable Sparks by Dylan Cummins, Charlotte Sherwin, Joshua Lally and Zack Stone of Scoil Mhuire Agus Padraig, Swinford, reached the Innovation category final.

Sustainable Sparks is a business making fire pits from recycled washing machine drums. The product, made from 100% recycled materials, looks great gardens and is light enough to bring to the beach or campsite, and small enough to fit in the boot of a car.

Elsewhere, the Best Innovation Award was won by Portanos (Taha Njie and Aidan Oscar from Colaiste Chiarain, Croom, Co. Limerick) and the Best Social Enterprise Award was won by The Little Lost Collection (Niamh Brett, Hazel Maher and Danica Tervit Kruger from Presentation Secondary School, Loughboy, Co. Kilkenny).

The winning businesses will now go on to represent Ireland at the European Youth Entrepreneur Awards in Berlin in October this year.

Each young person participating in the final completed the Foróige Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship (NFTE) Programme, which involves approximately 40 hours of learning and includes the facilitation of a number of interactive sessions that enable young people to come up with a business idea, develop their product or service, design a business plan and trade in the real world.

Speaking at the event, Odhrán O’Mahony, chairperson of Foróige, said: “We know from research, and from countless testimonials from teachers, parents, youth workers and most importantly from young people themselves, that the skills, confidence and experience they gain from being involved in NFTE is often life changing. It lights a spark that changes the way young people think about themselves and their own capability that is quite remarkable.

“It's a spark that, once lit, burns continuously through their lifetime so that they can do more, be more and achieve more.”