Three students from Drumshanbo Vocational School have won the junior category of the 21st Student Enterprise Programme National Finals in Croke Park on May 5th, for their innovative farm safety tool, ‘Grasper’. The handheld tool, created by first-year students Freya Whitney, Alex O’Looney, and Amy Keaveney, assists farmers with the opening of slurry tank covers, boosting farm safety. The Grasper tool helps farmers to lift the lid of slatted tanks, saving them from the need to bend over and lift the slatted tank agitation cover by hand, and can also be used to close the cover afterwards.
The idea for Grasper came about when Alex saw her grandad bending down to try to open a slatted tank cover with his fingers and a pitchfork, which caused her concern. She raised the issue with her fellow students and the trio brainstormed to come up with a solution. Grasper was developed by their company, Handled With Hearts, under the guidance of their teachers, Sharon Feeney and Yvonne Traynor.
Grasper, which costs €25/unit, was warmly welcomed by farmers around the country. The students promoted Grasper through their Handled With Hearts social media platforms, with a video demonstration on Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok. The innovative product was awarded first place in the junior category of the National Junior Student Enterprise Programme Awards 2023, and the group also won the ‘most effective social media campaign’ award.
The winning trio, Freya Whitney, Alex O’Looney, and Amy Keaveney, received two trophies and a €300 me2you voucher. They started their journey in September 2022 with 25,000 other students from 500 schools. “To get to Croke Park and be in the top 82 student enterprises in the country was a massive achievement, but we were ecstatic to hear our names called out as number one in the junior category,” they said. They are proud to bring back their two national awards to their school in Drumshanbo and to Leitrim where they represented their Local Enterprise Board.
Future Cast, an innovation, education, and research and development centre focused on the construction and quarrying industries, has invited Handled With Hearts to its facility to discuss the girls’ success since they got second place in the Future Cast Young Entrepreneur Competition in Manorhamilton during the Winter Fest 2022. The students said that they would love if an engineering company would come onboard with them and develop their product. They have already received 500,000 views on their TikTok video of their Grasper product in action.
In the intermediate category, Clip Clop Designs from Co. Longford, took first place. Caitlin Morris from Moyne Community School created the business, repurposing horseshoes to make colourful decorations for the home. Two students from Co. Roscommon came away with first prize in the senior category. Joshua McCormack and Evan McNeil’s business, McCompactors, features a device that enables users to easily compact rubbish in standard wheelie bins. The steel-fabricated device will work on all standard household wheelie bins and they have sold over 100 to date through their social media channels.
Minister Neale Richmond commended the students: “Congratulations to everyone who made it to the national finals. With over 25,000 students taking part in this year’s programme, it is a huge achievement to make it to the finals and shows a real flair for entrepreneurship. Some amazing businesses and entrepreneurs have come from this programme – the majority did not win any prizes, but are still running successful businesses today. To those of you who won something, a huge congratulations, but most importantly, to you all, this is the first step on the path. You are the entrepreneurs and business leaders of the future and everyone is excited to see what you do next.”
Michael Nevin, chair of the Local Enterprise Office’s enterprise education committee, said that year-on-year, the Student Enterprise Programme continues to showcase the very best of Irish ingenuity and entrepreneurship among secondary school students. “This year produced a varied selection of businesses, from agricultural products and homemade gifts to products that were built on our unique ability to tell compelling stories,” he said. “We see every year that the national finals are not an end point for our student entrepreneurs, but a stepping stone on the next stage of their entrepreneurial journey. From our class of 22/23 we will see some business leaders and global entrepreneurs of the future emerge.”
The national final students who competed across junior, intermediate, and senior categories were challenged with creating, setting up, and running their own business, which must show sales of their service or product. The judging panel included business owners and representatives from enterprise agencies and associated bodies. The Student Enterprise Programme is a fantastic initiative that encourages entrepreneurship and innovation among young people in Ireland, and it is clear that it is producing some exceptional talent.