25 Jan 2022

Offaly students win national awards in Croke Park ceremony

Birr students to represent Offaly in national enterprise final

Pictured are Damien Delaney and Alex Byrne, students in Birr Community School, who will represented Offaly last week at the National Student Enterprise final

Two students from St. Brendan’s Community School, Birr have won the Natasha Lynch Commemorative Award for Excellence in Social Media at the National Finals of this year’s Student Enterprise Programme.
The programme encourages and celebrates the entrepreneurial spirit. The finals were broadcast virtually on Friday from Croke Park with An Tánaiste Leo Varadkar and Ambassador Derval O’Rourke speaking with host RTE’s Rick O’Shea, as the students and teachers watched on from across the country.
The two students were supported by the Local Enterprise Office in Offaly. The award they receive is the inaugural Natasha Lynch Commemorative Award for Excellence in Social Media.
The winning students are Damien Delaney and Alex Byrne, who worked under the guidance of their teacher, John McIntyre. Their student enterprise was called “Hology Photography”.
Hology Photography is a photography business which sells pictures framed, unframed and on canvas of the local area and more. Damien and Alex also plan to become a service provider taking pictures in the local area and expanding to even more products when Covid-19 restrictions are eased.
There were 72 student enterprises competing in this year’s National Final in what is Ireland’s largest entrepreneurship programme for second level students.
The initiative, funded by the Government of Ireland through Enterprise Ireland and delivered by the 31 Local Enterprise Offices in local authorities throughout the country, saw 29,000 students from almost 500 secondary schools across the country take part.
Leo Varadkar warmly congratulated the students. “I want to offer my congratulations to not only the finalists being recognised here today, but to everyone who took part in the competition. To be a finalist in the Student Enterprise Programme is a fantastic achievement in normal times and it's incredible given everything that’s happened this past year.
“Everyone who took part should be very proud of all that they have achieved. I want to make a special mention of their teachers, parents and all those who helped them along the way.
“The ability to create an idea, turn it into a business and to run that business is a skill that will be invaluable later in life.
“Ireland has a proud history of entrepreneurship and no doubt those here today will all go on to achieve great things. Government will back you every step of the way.”
Orla Martin, Head of Enterprise in the Offaly Local Enterprise Office praised Damien and Alex, calling it “a proud day for student enterprise in Offaly. She also congratulated the families of Damien and Alex, and their teachers in St. Brendan’s Community School. We would also like to pay tribute to all the other finalists and participants from around the country who are impressive ambassadors for student enterprise in their counties.”
Ms Martin pointed out that year-on-year the Student Enterprise Programme continues to produce “the very best of ingenuity and entrepreneurship amongst our secondary school students.
“It’s no surprise to see the challenges thrown up by the pandemic featuring in many of the student enterprise submissions and the ongoing willingness for students to create businesses that not only sell services or products, but that help address ongoing issues in society.
“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 20/21 we will see some business leaders and global entrepreneurs of the future emerge.” 
Damien and Alex are in Transition Year and they undertook this business project as part of the year's curriculum for TY.
Speaking to the 'Tribune', Damien, said working on the project provided an important focus during the difficult days of the pandemic. “Alex and I also decided that we would undertake something which we liked and which we knew we could do well. After discussing it for a while we took on this idea of setting up a photography business.” During the Christmas period, they started developing their advertising strategy for the business, placing their pictures in the windows of local shops and selling them.
“We got really into it and it was getting very exciting until lockdown happened in December,” he added.
Then on March 9, following the hosting of the Offaly final of the Student Enterprise programme, which was held live online for the first time in the history of the competition, the pair were announced as the winners in County Offaly. This year's competition saw almost 500 students from ten schools in Offaly take part.
“We were watching it live in the kitchen,” said Damien, “and we found out and were absolutely delighted. I wasn't expecting, out of the whole county, to win it. It was such an amazing thing to happen. To win something, it has been a great joy in our lives.” Having won the county segment, the two students got down to the task of completing the business plan for the national finals.
Damien said his love of photography began a number of years ago when he and his granddad would go for walks in Birr Castle and take photos.
“It was a thing that I started when very young. But, it was during lockdown when I started to think it could become a business, something which I could make some income from.
"Photography, for me, is something that allows me to appreciate everything that is out there. Hobbies like photograhy no doubt helped lots of people to get through t he experience of the pandemic and the lockdown. Photography focusses our minds on the beauty that is around us and focusses our minds on appreciating the beauty around us.” Currently, the pair are selling their photography in the Buddha Lounge. It is also on display in the window of Jerro's shop, along Main Street, Birr. Damien's work is available to see on Facebook: Hology Photography -
.com or contact 085 868 3014.
The National Finalists, who competed across three categories, Junior, Intermediate and Senior, saw judging take place virtually via electronic submissions.
Each student enterprise was 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. 
Other category winners on the day were: ‘Coppercase’ from St Macartan’s College, Monaghan, “T-Snappi” from Summerhill College, Sligo, and ‘Go Green Now’ from Salerno Secondary School, Galway. This year’s Programme also saw the inclusion of two optional competitions which required participants to map out the life of a successful entrepreneur and how that could be achieved. In the Senior category, there was a Covid-19 themed “Creative Business Idea” competition in which students could push their most innovative business ideas via a video pitch, without having to produce a product or service. Last year, the 2019/2020 Student Enterprise Programme National Final winners in the Senior category were Handy Hose Holders from CBS Thurles in Tipperary for their practical milking parlour hose solution that has since been picked and listed by Glanbia. 
Since the Student Enterprise Programme began in 2003, over 250,000 students have taken part, learning key skills on how to create a business idea, start a business and grow a business.  Full details of all this year’s 72 national finalists are available on the Student Enterprise Programme website at 

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