Ireland’s Best Young Entrepreneur awards

Bruckless woman scoops Young Entrepreneur award

Economist and broadcaster David McWilliams is special guest at awards event

Liam Porter

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Liam Porter

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Editorial@donegaldemocrat.com

Young Entrepreneur

Deirdre Ward winner in the Best Idea Category at the Donegal finals of Ireland’s Best Young Entrepreneur

Deirdre Ward from Bruckless was celebrating at the weekend when she won the Best Idea Category at the Donegal final of Ireland’s Best Young Entrepreneur competition in Letterkenny.

Deirdre, who has a background in education, having taught for eight years in Ireland and Abu Dhabi, said she was absolutely thrilled to have won.

“It is just so exciting, I won’t deny this has been such a challenge, but it has been absolutely invaluable. I was a teacher a few weeks ago, now I see myself as a businesswoman, but I couldn’t have done that without the help that I received," she said.

Deirdre explained that her idea had even changed throughout the bootcamp as she looked at her initial idea in more depth.

“I felt there wasn’t enough of a niche market for my initial idea so I changed it from a well-being programme for children and now it is entitled ‘Unlocked.’

My idea is to help children unlock behaviours and emotions that are caught within and to help educators and parents to alleviate challenging behaviours and teach them the skills that can be implemented.”

Finn Ní Fhaolain and Arantxa Lopez from Bundoran stop for a picture at the Donegal finals of Ireland’s Best Young Entrepreneur at the weekend.

She wasn’t the only prize winner from the south of the county on the day either with Bundoran’s Finn Ní Fhaolain taking runners-up spot in the Best Established Business category.

Ciara McGlynn won the Best Start-Up Category as well as the overall prize at the Donegal finals, with her business Niche Specialist Staffing partners, based in the Co-Lab in Letterkenny.

“It’s not often that I am speechless, but I am overwhelmed today. It has been a whirlwind few weeks and a whirlwind of a year. I am just so proud and so determined now to go even further," Ciara said.

Niche Staffing Partners are an international recruitment firm that recruits senior construction estimators (quantity surveyors) in the State of North Carolina. 


The winner of the Established Business category in Donegal, Thomas McLaughlin from Tadáias Premium Cycling Apparel, was full of praise for the IBYE competition, having entered a number of years ago in the idea category.

“I came to the competition with an idea two years ago and while I didn’t win, the help I have received since then from the Local Enterprise Office has been hugely beneficial to helping me grow and really establish my business.”


Other awards presented saw young designer Raphoe’s Niamh Porter of Mayfire Designs take runner-up in the Best Idea category for her new take on fall-alert technology, while Burnfoot’s Clare McLaughlin of the business ‘All Ears’ was runner-up in the Start-Up category for her range of furry animals. 


Earlier in the day, guest speaker at the awards ceremony, economist and broadcaster David McWilliams told the finalists “they are the future.”


Addressing a crowd of over 100 assembled guests, he urged businesses to continue to think creatively.


“In these disruptive times we need people who will think a little bit unconventionally and we have to change the way we think in Ireland so we can see the enormous potential in every person and in every company.”


He also urged those young businesses to stick to their dreams and not to be afraid to make mistakes.


“You only learn by making mistakes and being wrong sometimes. You cannot be afraid of being wrong or you will never learn to change your mind.”


David McWilliams also told the businesses that they need to continue to have the self-belief that they can compete on a global scale.


“You do not need to be on the periphery of anywhere,” he said.


Head of Enterprise in Donegal, Michael Tunney, urged businesses in the county to challenge the Local Enterprise Office to help them grow and be even stronger.


“We want more challenges, we don’t want to settle for less,” he concluded.


While they were not among the prize winners on the day, there were two other finalists from South of the county, Stephanie Kee from Ahoy Café in Killybegs among the finalists in the Best Start Up section while Bundoran’s Arantxa Lopez of ID Languages was among the finalists in the Best Established Business section.


Local Enterprise Office Donegal is supported through co-funding from the Irish Government and the European Regional Development Fund 2014 – 2020.