“I am delighted to say that we have already allocated a large portion of the investment towards our first hire!”

Ahead of the IBYE Regional Final which takes place on Thursday, January 19th we asked the Cork winners to share their IBYE experience. First up is Michael Sheehan from Milis Bio

Michael won the Best New Idea category from LEO Cork City competition, receiving an investment of €7,000 in his company. Michael also walked away with the title of ‘Best Young Entrepreneur’ for the Cork City region.

Michael’s business Milis Bio is making novel proteins to act as healthy flavouring ingredients for the food and beverage industry, starting with a sin-free sweetener.


So Michael, why did you enter IBYE?
IBYE was recommended to us by some friends in the startup environment in Cork, and we then stumbled across the application again when looking through the Local Enterprise Office website.

What is the biggest thing you’ve learned from your IBYE experience?
The most valuable thing that we have learned I think would be an updated and more advanced understanding of the business model canvas, as well as how to tackle some of the trickier elements of a business plan such as financial assumptions and projections. These can be notoriously difficult for a young startup without experience of our own to draw upon, so the mentorship that came hand in hand with our involvement in IBYE was invaluable and will undoubtedly pay further dividends in future as we look to grow and raise funding.

How do you plan to use the investment you won?
I am delighted to say that we have already allocated a large portion of the investment towards our first hire! Mr Diarmuid Cahill has joined our business development team to help bring the company into our first round of funding smoothly. While the position is at present an operations internship role, we all hope that this will develop into a full time COO role provided the internship goes to plan. The rest of the funding will go towards Intellectual property protection, again a crucial expense for a biotech company such as ours.

Any advice to other young entrepreneurs?
Go for it! I fully believe that there is no greater way to capitalise on your position as a young Irish person than to pursue that great idea you’ve been sitting on, with support from world-leading initiatives such as IBYE and the fantastic people at your LEO who are dying to help you make it a reality.


“The IBYE process makes for a great experience in many aspects of forming a start-up and running your own business”


Jack Crotty, founder and owner of The Rocket Man won Ireland’s Best Young Entrepreneur “Best Existing Business” category from the Local Enterprise Office Cork City in 2015. He told us a little about how his business has grown and what’s next….

The Rocket Man Food Company will celebrate its 5th birthday in March 2017. What started as a farmers market stall has grown to a company employing 15, many of whom are full time and has a network of up to 40 local producers on our books.

Our second Cork City location E A S T is almost a year old and trade is great.

Our next moves are as usual a big secret, but for the time being focuses are being put on our existing outlets to polish and reinvent some of our offerings.

IBYE is not only a great chance for financial assistance, the process also makes for a great experience and vital training in many aspects of forming a start-up and running your own business. I couldn’t recommend it more.



“IBYE was the helping hand we needed to bring the business to the next stage”

vancouver-day-37-9Stephanie Lynch is the founder of OnTheQT.ie, an innovative tourism and digital marketing business.

OnTheQT was an idea which came to Stephanie while working in an American summer camp in the USA. An idea she turned into a successful, award winning business.

OnTheQT was named IBYE “Best Established Business” from the Local Enterprise Office South Cork in 2015, scooping €20,000 investment.

We chatted to Stephanie about life since IBYE 2015, and here’s what she told us:

IBYE was the helping hand we needed to bring the business to the next stage. Winning IBYE 2015 meant we could grow the team, grow our sales and expand at a much faster rate.

Since IBYE 2015, we launched our vlog section to our site, which acts like an online TV series, an area which is growing from strength to strength for us. We just won Ireland’s Best Vlog 2016 in the Blog Awards Ireland 2016.

Since IBYE 2015, we have also grown our team, our sales, and our brand to the next level. At the moment, OnTheQT is working with larger brands worldwide in the area of content creation, digital marketing, and innovation. We are looking to expand the team in the next 12 months, while also expanding our client base in the USA.

We haven’t looked back since our success at IBYE last year, and I would recommend it to any young entrepreneur looking for a kick start!



Be bold, be brave, #StandOut like Breffney O’Dowling Keane

Breffney O’Dowling Keane, founder of FruitCubed won the ‘Best New Idea’ category from the Local Enterprise Office Cork City in the search for Ireland’s Best Young Entrepreneur last year. We asked her to tell us a little more about her business and share her advice with those considering entering IBYE this year.


Hey, I’m Breffney – a food scientist, chef and Cork’s biggest food pusher. If it’s fresh, local and healthy – it’s mine!

I started Breffney & Co, my blog (@breffneyandco) to help me share some of my recipes and foodie finds around Cork.

Around the same time I began to look into why people in Ireland aren’t consuming their 5-a-day of fruit and vegetables. After a lot of research I pinned it down to four main reasons:

  1. Price – Eating healthy, fresh fruit is expensive!
  2. Perishability – We have all been here. Buy raspberries on a Sunday, getting ready for the healthy week ahead. Open the fridge door on Wednesday and half the raspberries are mouldy, so you throw them out vowing NEVER to do it again. Next week comes and you do the exact same thing!
  3. Preparation – No one, and I mean no one wants to get up 15 minutes earlier to prepare fruit and vegetables for the day.
  4. Prettiness – 20% of all fruit and veg are left on the branches to rot because they are imperfect looking. This further increases the price of fruit and it all goes around in a vicious circle.

I wanted to create something which removed all these factors and make healthy eating accessible to everybody, so I created FruitCubed – a blend of nutritious, delicious fruit and vegetables, cubed and proportioned to 90g ready-to-eat cubes! They can be blended with liquid to make smoothies, spread on toast like a sugar free jam or even added to curries to give a fruity note.

I was lucky enough last year to win LEO Cork City’s ‘Best New Idea’ category in the search for Ireland’s Best Young Entrepreneur, and this was invaluable to me. IBYE helped build my networks and was the best kick start I could have asked for.

Entering IBYE was one of the best decisions I could have made. I can’t think of any reason why you should not to enter. My advice for those considering entering IBYE is be yourself and show your personality. Your business is a reflection of you and you have to embrace that and show it off and show why your business is different. Be bold, be brave, #StandOut

IBYE advice from 2014 winner Richard Barrett, co-founder of Pundit Arena

Richard Barrett, co-founder of Pundit Arena and winner of LEO South Cork Start-up of the Year 2014 has taken some time out to share his IBYE experience and advice with those considering applying at www.ibye.ie before the July 31st deadline.

Just do it, like… Will Martin, LiveDuel

So Will, tell us a little about your business…

LiveDuel makes games that engage readers of sports media content. Content producers already produce content on a daily basis, and LiveDuel’s games compliment this content and give it an extended life by adding readers’ thoughts and opinions. ??

What inspired you to start your own business?

Being a part of online communities is something I have been passionate about since I first went online in 1998. Bringing together strangers based around a shared interest is a powerful thing. Building games to help foster that community is something that I am passionate about.

How did you get your business off the ground and what supports did you avail of?

A lot of hard work and conversations with people who could help me. Having the drive to get up every morning and just do it like is something unique to entrepreneurs as you can’t just go through the paces, you have to go above and beyond on a daily basis.

The South Cork Enterprise Board, now known as the Local Enterprise Office South Cork, and Enterprise Ireland have been a great resource and support.

What is the best piece of advice you’ve been given?

Write things down and break things down into small manageable tasks. When I started on the IGNITE Programme at UCC I was told to write things down as you will forget things, and it reaffirms things having them written down in your moleskin. Breaking things down to their smallest parts ensures you can get through your to-do list but also to do it in a natural flow.

What has been the biggest challenge you’ve faced, and how did you overcome it?

Conveying the concept to customers, users, investors, mentors etc. Being involved in the idea so closely, it is easy to get caught up in it, so being able to communicate efficiently to people who have never heard of you is a constant job of refinement.

Who is your hero?

I don’t just have one. There are many thought leaders around the world that I take inspiration from, but the ones closer to home are people I look up to greatly. They have been there and just done it, and have all the time in the world for you if they think they can help you. People like Pat Phelan, Connor Murphy, Peter Coppinger and the SoundWave guys are inspirations and very easy to talk to and get value from.

What’s the best thing about having your own business?

Being able to build something innovative is something that I am fortunate enough to be able to do. Building your own company up from nothing has given me great experience in all aspects of business and I have met some amazing people. Being a part of that unique community is amazing and I love giving back to it.

Looking back now, is there anything that you would have done differently?

Talking to customers earlier and focussing more on customer development instead of product development. It is easy to stick yourself in your office night and day trying to build your vision and put all the polish in the world on it, but talking to customers earlier will reduce a lot of the wasted costs and allow you to build a product your customers actually want and will use, rather than building something you assume they want.

What are your business plans for the next 12 to 18 months?

Rolling out existing products to more customers, focussing on international growth and building on our product offerings with the help of our vision and our customer feedback.

If you had one piece of advice to offer someone considering starting a business, what would it be?

It’s hard to just offer one piece, but talk to as many people as you can, don’t be shy and don’t feel like you can’t discuss your idea. If your idea can be copied after one conversation then chances are that there are many others out there doing the same thing as you. You will need help and guidance, so go out and get it. Distil this advice down and form your own opinion, it is easy to follow every bit of advice to the letter and end up going in circles!

If it’s a technology focused business, then attend a Start-up Weekend, it’s like a 3 day crash course in technology entrepreneurship and it will accelerate your learning, as well as showing you what it’s like to be an entrepreneur.

Just do it, like… Sarah O’Sullivan, Seahorse Atlantic

Tell us a little about your business Sarah…

Seahorse Atlantic, which I founded in 2013, produces Kelp Care, a natural Irish animal feed supplement, derived from 100% organically grown seaweed.

What inspired you to start your own business?

Once I finished my college education in Zoology and Marine Biology, I really wanted to have a career with research and/ or animals. From a young age I always had entrepreneurial tendencies and ran a successful cattery business for a year in-between school and college years, so I was never a 9 – 5 person. My passion and love of the marine environment together with animals brought me to the concept of the idea behind Kelp Care products. I could see huge benefits in the research into seaweed properties and how these could be utilised and developed into products to successfully treat poor causes of health in animals.

How did you get your business off the ground and what supports did you avail of?

I initially self-funded a lot of the business at the early stages, and then approached the West Cork Enterprise Board, now known as the Local Enterprise Office Cork North and West, while I was living in West Cork at the idea stage. They provided the business with a feasibility grant which assisted in developing the product from concept right through to packaging etc.

I had to move back home to Cork whilst setting up the business and it was here that I approached the Cork City Enterprise Board (Local Enterprise Office Cork City) for a priming grant to help support my full time dedication to getting the business up and running.

I also took part in the IGNITE Programme which was of great support in offering advice, mentoring and practical training workshops along with support of fellow entrepreneurs like myself. I spent a full year conducting the research and veterinary trials behind the product before I set up the company in 2013, which is when I moved onto Enterprise Ireland to help grow the company internationally.

What is the best piece of advice you’ve been given?

Never give up… if one idea does not work out, then you have just figured out one way of “how not to do it”.

What has been the biggest challenge you’ve faced, and how did you overcome it?

There have been so many challenges and each one has just spurred me on to work harder and never give up. The hardest challenge is asking yourself “am I doing the right thing?” when you have those days that are quite hard. Running a business is like a rollercoaster, some days good, some days bad. One of those hard challenges is being able to switch off from the business mentally which is very difficult as you almost become the business itself, also the amount of time and hours you put into the week makes seeing friends and family quite difficult.

Who is your hero?

I don’t have a particular hero but I admire anyone who puts themselves out there and gives something a go. If you have the drive and passion to try something out and not worry about the consequences, then I believe that is truly admirable in a person. Bill Branson always springs to mind, I am currently reading his book to keep my motivation levels up!

What’s the best thing about having your own business?

Best thing about it is when a customer comes back to me with a simple thank you or sends me a testimonial of how my once “idea”, now a product, has helped her pet/ horse’s life – this makes all the long days and hours worthwhile. A trend in recent testimonials has been “Kelp Care has changed both owner and pets’ life” which has been an inspiration for me to develop more for the future Kelp Care range.

Looking back now, is there anything that you would have done differently?

There have been lots of things I would have changed, but each one has only made me stronger and developed me as an entrepreneur and as a person; so no, I do not think I would change anything.

What are your business plans for the next 12 to 18 months?

The Seahorse Atlantic plans for the next 12 – 18 months are very exciting, we have a lot in the sales pipeline here and abroad, and we plan to develop into new markets and further develop our current markets. We hope to expand our team to reflect the growing demand for Kelp Care, and my main target is to conduct some exciting research and development into new Kelp Care products.

If you had one piece of advice to offer someone considering starting a business, what would it be?

Be yourself, believe in your product/ idea, and if it doesn’t work the first time, there is an infinite number out there for trying and trying again, believe it will work! Always ask for help and assistance and approach your Local Enterprise Offices, they are there for friendly chats/advice and can guide you to the right point. Consider an entrepreneurial start-up programme that is connected with the Local Enterprise Offices, such as IGNITE in UCC or New Frontiers in CIT… and just do it like!