Embracing Innovation: Insights from a Week of Inspiration

Huge congratulations to GM Engineering who won the County Roscommon Student Enterprise Programme competition in the Athlone Springs Hotel this week.  Their anti-backing bar is designed to make farms safer with an innovative and elegant solution.

Well done to all the participants, their teachers, PJ & Garry from Whizzkids and LEO Roscommon for putting together a fantastic event!

As someone who spends their days juggling multiple hats—as a part-time lecturer at @TUS and a financial and ERP consultant – I recently had the pleasure of donning yet another hat as a judge at this competition. As a first-timer at this, I was lucky to be Robin to @James Donlon’s Batman who was very patient and generous in showing me the ropes. It was a hectic week filled with excitement, creativity, and a LOT of reports to read, but most importantly, it left me feeling incredibly optimistic about the future.

The energy of the students in the room was infectious as they manned their carefully-prepared stands for the judging sessions. Their passion for their businesses was palpable, and it was privilege to share in their experience. From new agritech solutions to quirky upcycling startups, the ideas they brought to the table were as diverse as they were impressive.

It was great to see the sustainability theme register so highly with many of the entrants but I must admit, I was a little surprised by the low representation of tech-focused entries. As someone who gets a real kick out of finding tech solutions to everyday business problems, I couldn’t help but wonder: are today’s students more interested in being tech-savvy consumers than tech-bending innovators? Food for thought. I certainly expected to feel like more of a dinosaur than I did and I wonder if the IT element of our STEM strategy needs more work in primary and secondary schools.

What struck me most about the competition, though, was how well it captures the entrepreneurial rollercoaster. From the highs of imagining and finally showcasing their ideas, to the nerve-jangling on-the-spot pitch, handling the roadblocks that inevitably come along and wrestling with the dreaded paperwork, the students certainly experienced the full gamut of the startup world.  I am pretty sure I spotted a few that looked like they were hooked and I can’t wait to see where they go with it next.  There were also entries that really excelled in marketing and financial savvy too so plenty of new talent in the pipeline for TUS Athlone in another couple of years.

As educators and mentors, it’s our job to be the safety net for these budding entrepreneurs—to offer guidance, support, and remind them to enjoy it along the way. Taking your business seriously doesn’t mean you have to take yourself too seriously, so I have to give a special mention to the Sweetoonies business entry that gave me the fabulous caricature pictured.  (Note: no filter applied, no photoshop employed, ahem).

So here’s to the dreamers, the doers, and the daring souls who aren’t afraid to shake things up. The world is yours for the taking, so go forth and conquer it with creativity, passion, and maybe just a sprinkle of craic along the way.

Oh yes, and come on the Rossies for a two-in a row at the National Finals in May!

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