Big ideas from mini-companies

From pampering baskets promoting wellbeing, to a boot bag that tackles sweaty trainers, Cork school students have come up with some great mini-company ideas as part of the Cork City Schools Enterprise Programme, writes Clodagh Flynn
Big ideas from mini-companies

SHOWING SUPPORT: Scoil Mhuire student Alice Hannon showcasing her group’s mini-company “Squish Support Foam Fingers”. Picture: Brian Lougheed

RUN by the Local Enterprise Office, The Cork City Schools Enterprise Programme 2017/2018 gives second level students the opportunity to set up and run a mini-company over the course of the academic year in order to learn what it’s really like to be an entrepreneur.

I remember my own experience of a mini company and it really prepared me for working in an actual company — with deadlines to decide, orders to take and producers to contact. Some of the company ideas may even go on to become successful businesses.

This year, more than 30 mini companies drawn from 13 schools across the city took part in the programme. Ahead of the regional finals on March 2, we spoke to some of the finalists.

SCOIL MHUIRE ON WELLINGTON ROAD

This school has two mini-companies taking part in the finals.

‘Flavours of home’ is a company that was created to make cooking more enjoyable for students. It is a search engine that matches you with a recipe based on the ingredients that you find in your cupboard.

With students moving away from home to attend university, cooking for oneself is one of the first challenges of living independently. Money is tight to afford expensive ingredients and the cooking itself can’t take up too much time, with busy college life.

Team member Lucy Murray said: “Flavours of home is an online platform to make cooking easy. The general idea is a search engine and you put your ingredients in and it gives you recipes based on the ingredients you have.

“The idea came about because a few of us have older brothers that have just started college this year and they are living on noodles and soup. We thought this would be a great way to step into cooking and taking care of yourself.

“As part of the research we looked up what we normally have at home and researched what young people or young professionals might eat. We used the website Weebly to create the website and it would run on a subscription basis.

“We think, in this day and age, physical health and wellbeing is so prominent and important. We all thought within the group it would be something we could use ourselves.”

Another project from the same school is called ‘Squishy Support’, involving crazy foam fingers that students can use to show their support for their school team, at matches. They won ‘Best Business Idea’ at the pre-Christmas showcase. It is the brainchild of students Erin Porter and Alice Hannon.

Erin explained: “Our business idea began when we were wondering what would cater to our whole school and our greater school community. An area of common interest in our school is sport so we based our ideas around that.

“Due to Alice’s time living abroad in America, we were able to compare what school pride and support is like in Ireland versus America. We noticed that there was a lack of school-based memorabilia in Ireland, which led to the idea of school-themed foam fingers.

“By choosing foam fingers, we catered to everyone, from those who enjoy going to matches, to those who want these foam fingers as a memory to represent the years they spent in school.”

TO BOOT: Colaiste an Spioraid Naoimh students Hajin Manoj, Raymond Cotter and Guilherme Ventura with their project Excl. Picture: Brian Lougheed
TO BOOT: Colaiste an Spioraid Naoimh students Hajin Manoj, Raymond Cotter and Guilherme Ventura with their project Excl. Picture: Brian Lougheed

COLÁISTE AN SPIORAID NAOIMH, BISHOPSTOWN

A sports team from Coláiste an Spioraid Naoimh in Bishopstown decided that they were sick of their mother’s complaining about their sweaty boots after training, so they decided to do something about it.

They developed ‘Excl’, a sports bag with a difference. The bag contains silica gel and activated charcoal to destroy not only the smell from the sports boots but also dry out the boots overnight. They were awarded ‘Best Overall Mini-Company’ at the showcase back in 2017.

Joey Harrington from the team said: “Our product is a boot bag that removes smell and moisture from football boots with silica gel and activated charcoal in a net bag.

“Team member Rory researched the idea because we all play sports and have the same problem. With our initial contribution to the startup of the company, we bought in the elements to create the product.

“We initially bought the bag, then got the printing done in Cork. the most expensive elements were the silica and charcoal which we got from the UK. However, the great thing about these two products is that they are reusable. After six months, you can pop the silica in the microwave for a few minutes which reboots it. Charcoal has a lifespan of two months, which can then be left to sit out in sunlight for an hour or two and it’s ready to reuse again.

“Already within our school we have 30 enquiries and we plan to customise these bags.”

The team have even managed to secure a sponsorship deal with Munster Rugby.

NORTH PRESENTATION SECONDARY SCHOOL

The girls of North Presentation Secondary school in Farranree have decided that self love is the best medicine, creating a business called ‘Pamper Hamper’. They produce beauty packages catered to students.

Teacher Stacy Higgins said: “The girls themselves found third year quite stressful and they wanted to cater to exam students by creating a product that was not only aimed at taking care of themselves with beauty products but also looking after their mental health and wellbeing.

“They have two suppliers in which they source most of their stock with reduced VAT and the remainder of their bits and pieces are bought in Dealz in Blackpool.

“The hampers themselves contain a L’ Oreal hair-mask, fluffy socks, Cadburys hot chocolate which they packaged themselves, sweets such as minstrels and smarties, Lavender scented candle, lip balm, nail varnish, Schwarzkopf shampoo, Pure face wipes, Salon hair brush and our key product a Beauty Pro facemask which was featured in Hello Magazine.” The hampers costs €15.

“The girls managed to get reductions from the suppliers. They sort everything out themselves. Even though each department has a specific role, they all jump in to get involved,” said Ms Higgins. “We are aware there are students that might not be able to afford a hamper so the girls also decided to create jars containing positive messages promoting positive mental health. On the bows of the hampers themselves the phone numbers of Samaritans, Pieta House and Bernardos are all stapled on as the girls have realised that the number of students developing anxiety and mental health issues are increasing. The jars are sold for €2.50 — all the profits made go to a charity of their choice.”

Check out their business on social media. A Twitter page @pamperhampernps and Snapchat account ‘Pamperhamper’

They were awarded ‘Best display stand’ at the showcase late last year.

The finals take place on March 2.

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