Start-up Inspiration @Cork Further Education Colleges  

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Five innovative Entrepreneurs shared their entrepreneurial journeys with students from five Cork Colleges of Further Education who have been participating in the 2022/23 “Enabling Entrepreneurship” programme. “Enabling Entrepreneurship” a Cork Education and Training Board programme is delivered each year in the Cork Colleges in partnership with JA Ireland.

The Further Education College students each completed an in-college entrepreneurship programme before embarking on developing their own business ideas.  Students gathered at the Cork College of FET Tramore Road Campus (previously CSN) to meet with some of Cork’s most ambitious startup Entrepreneurs and Makers.

The Entrepreneurs’ businesses ranged from urban farms, to creative industries, ecological control of invasive species to a nationwide mental health arts and cultural festival.

The “Meet the Entrepreneurs” event is always one of the highlights of the annual Enabling Entrepreneurship programme and this years’ event did not disappoint – it was a most fascinating morning of stories and successes. 

The Entrepreneurs and their businesses:

William Walsh started developing his business when he participated on the “Enabling Entrepreneurship” programme in 2019 at Cork College of FET Kinsale Campus, his project,  “Billy’s Rent A Goat” developed into a full-scale business. William manages herds of rescued male goats to provide a chemical free solution to invasive plants and land management for public agencies, local authorities and private land-owners.  The business went into profit in year one and it continues to grow.  Working with schools to manage their land led to the development of a new string to the company’s bow; the creation of ecology programmes for schools.

Maeve Murphy, Operations Manager at Ireland’s first Creative Hub, “BenchSpace”, in Cork’s Marina Business Park outlined the fast pace of growth of this unique Social Enterprise. “BenchSpace” has created an open-access factory for Cork’s creative makers, offering industry grade tools, technology and business support for professional makers & creative start-ups.  Artist in Residence at BenchSpace, Aleks Kowalczyk shared the importance, the support and the benefits of working within a creative environment at BenchSpace  as she set out on her creative career after graduating from art college.

David Keegan, currently a back to college student at Tramore Road Campus shared his social enterprise journey as co-founder of First Fortnight a festival that challenges mental health prejudice through arts and cultural action across Ireland.  The festival started as one event coordinated by David and his friend and developed into a national festival of best practice that focuses on facilitating conversations about mental health and providing support services.  Having served as CEO for ten years, David has returned to education to develop, you’ve guested it, a new social enterprise.

And finally, Brian McCarthy who founded the “Cork Rooftop Farm” on the Coal Quay set out how his enterprise emerged from the Covid lockdown.  Brian and his cofounder turned a flat roof in Cork City Centre into a green, fertile urban farm.  He initially sold the produce at the Coal Quay Saturday Market and in the Cork Rooftop Farm Shop. Brian travelled to learn from experts in Europe which allowed him achieve perfect health for his soil and high crop yields with sustainable agriculture practices.  Brian has a number of expansions in development among them a plan to develop his roof-top plot in the city centre to provide high quality crop yields and unique dinning alongside the farm.

Each of the entrepreneurs presented amazing businesses and challenging journeys and left the audience with a new and exciting view of Cork city; an interesting, dynamic city of ideas and talented people with the courage, creativity and innovation to build sustainable, successful businesses.

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