A spotlight on the young entrepreneurs of Northern Ireland

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  • Over 700 young entrepreneurs from across Northern Ireland gathered in Belfast last week as part of Young Enterprise NI’s third annual Big Market.

    Seventy student companies set up their stalls at St George’s Market and were soon trading and selling directly to the public. Chief Executive of Young Enterprise Carol Fitzsimons said she was delighted at the quality of the products “and also of the young people who have been developing them”.

    “What we’re about in Young Enterprise is giving young people the experience of ‘learning by doing’,” she says. “So often we talk about the need for more sales skills and, as this event demonstrates, there is plenty of sales skills on the ground.”

    Pupils Ellie Malcolm and Rakib Abdul are managing director and digital technology director respectively of Priory College Dynamo. Their app bundles up services from a range of different charities into a single interface. The Dynamo team fromPriory College are being mentored through the Excellence in IT project this year. This seeks to enhance the tech aspect of the products and involves mentors from Bank of Ireland, Kainos, Liberty IT and Allstate NI.

    Ellie Malcolm from Dynamo told Sync NI that their app is“ designed for young people in a local area from aged 16 to 25 to help them seek advice and support for things such as mental health, bullying, depression, drug and alcohol abuse, and LGBT issues,” says Ellie. “We're in the process of contacting charities at the minute to see if they could get involved.”

    According to Rakib: “My idea was to create a ‘one-stop app for giving back’. Within the prototype we have for donation options, charity events and news, as well as a section for advice which shows people how to get help.”

    The product is in prototype and they’re planning to launch it onto Apple and Play stores as ‘Charity Direct’ in the summer.

    MindSight is a company consisting of students from Belfast Boys’ Model and Mercy College Belfast. Their app is designed to generate awareness about mental health issues and to recognise warning signals. The product is information-based at the moment but the team are working on adding more interactive features.

    CEO Phil Burton said mental health was an issue that resonated strongly with the team.

    “Personally I know people from within my family have been affected by mental health so we thought it's time to make a change,” he says. “Mental health has a lot of stigma around it - it’s still a taboo topic and we want to break down the stigmas.”

    The app contains NHS Certified information, includes the Warwick Edinburgh Mental Wellbeing Scale and has been developed in collaboration with their charity partner Inspire NI.

    Young Enterprise judge at the Big Market pitch competition, and co-founder at Ormeau Baths, Aaron Taylor said the quality the companies “has been very impressive”.

    “For me, the level of ambition has been really exciting just to see people having a really healthy appetite for doing something big,” he says. 

    “I've been very impressed by the way in which companies are thinking through problems. In many instances they are are executing that solution in a way that meets the market need.”

    He had particular praise for Thirteen

    “This start-up was led by a young person whose brother has autism. She was tired of how people would treat her brother, so she designed and built a product to raise awareness about how to deal and engage with autistic children. She had a vested interest in making that successful and had a real passion for the product - and that really stood out for me,” he says.

    Young Enterprise programmes develop employability skills, increase confidence, and get young people to consider business start-up as a future career option. 

    “From the employer point of view it's about developing the skills that they can nurture and develop into their talent pool,” says Carol Fitzsimons. “But from an economic point of view, it's also about developing the entrepreneurs of the future and raising young people to understand that going into a start-up is a viable career pathway that's open to them.”

    Young Enterprise will be hosting regional trade fairs in January and February. Students or business seeking further information about how to get involved should log on to http://www.yeni.co.uk

    To find out more about Priory College Dynamo, log on to https://www.facebook.com/PrioryCollege//

    To find out more about MindSight, follow them on twitter @MindSightApp or sign up at https://mindsightapp.wixsite.com/mindsight/about-us


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