Entrepreneurial businesses spearhead Northern Irish economic recovery

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Entrepreneurship is critical for fast track sustainable economic growth in Northern Ireland.  Government and local business leaders must also look towards building stronger exports in order to see the development of a more sustainable private sector in the region.  These were the views expressed by EY in advance of its launch of the 2012 Entrepreneur Of The Year™ programme, in Belfast.

Cary Wilson, Lead Partner of the EY Entrepreneur Of The Year™ Programme in Northern Ireland comments: “Northern Ireland’s entrepreneurs, fuelled by an unparalleled level of dedication and commitment, continue to achieve success on a global scale, bringing employment, prosperity and confidence to the region.  Acknowledging and celebrating their remarkable success is critical in order to inspire the next generation of entrepreneurs and the future success of our local economy”.

Frank O’Keeffe, Partner-in-charge of the EY Entrepreneur Of The Year™ Programme comments: “Despite the numerous difficulties faced by our island’s economies and business in recent years, Ireland is trying hard to show the first real shoots of recovery – and entrepreneurs continue to play an enormous part in creating that growth .”

He continues: “As participants in an increasingly-buoyant export sector who are capitalising upon the presence of a highly-skilled workforce, an open economy and moving with global ambition, Ireland’s entrepreneurs – North and South - continue to push the boundaries of possibility and deliver a brighter future for all.”

In this, its 15th year, the EY Entrepreneur of the Year™ Programme continues to acknowledge and celebrate the achievements of entrepreneurs from across the island of Ireland.

Grainne Kelly, Managing Director of Bubblebum UK and 2011 EOY finalist comments: “It is so inspiring to be in the midst of such a positive group of energetic and enthusiastic people. While we may not be operating within the same industries as many of the EOY community, it is heartening to know that the it is not simply a network of valuable business contacts, but a group of positive, creative and innovative individuals, many of whom have become real friends, who I know I can contact at any stage to discuss any issues or challenges that may arise within my business.” 

Jeremy Fitch, Managing Director of Business International, with Invest Northern Ireland comments: “Invest Northern Ireland is proud to once again sponsor the Entrepreneur of the Year programme. This initiative provides the opportunity to celebrate Northern Ireland’s business community and the global success achieved by entrepreneurs who started with no more than a great idea. Last year we had seven fantastic companies progress through to the final, this year, I’m confident we can achieve more. I would encourage local entrepreneurs to enter this year’s competition and benefit from great opportunities and experience on offer.  ”

Margaret Hearty, Director of Programmes and Business Services at InterTradeIreland comments: “To grow North-South economic co-operation, we must encourage and support entrepreneurial excellence among home grown companies which will inspire others. InterTradeIreland has been a key supporter of the ‘Entrepreneur of the Year’ Programme  because it connects the best entrepreneurs across the island for their mutual benefit and provides role models for the next generation of entrepreneurs.”

By introducing participants to an environment that champions the spirit of enterprise, nurtures entrepreneurial progression and challenges finalists to be at the cutting edge of international business, the programme continues to go from strength-to-strength, stimulating economic growth and creating an exciting new vista of prosperity and hope in the process. 

The programme also creates an ever-evolving network of finalists, now comprising more than 300 entrepreneurs, which fosters collaboration, provides unrivalled business opportunities and generates a sense of collective pride in each other’s achievements. 

Following the announcement of 24 finalists from across the island in May, those short-listed will travel on a CEO retreat to Silicon Valley where they will avail of the chance to further enhance and develop their entrepreneurial skills, increase their business network, share their commercial experiences with local entrepreneurs, and develop lifelong peer relationships with others in the Entrepreneur Of The Year™ community along the way. 

In October 2012, all finalists, their guests and other luminaries of the entrepreneurial community will gather at a celebratory Entrepreneur Of The Year™ banquet that will be broadcast to a worldwide audience via RTE Television and online. Here, their stories and achievements will be acclaimed before a glittering array of 1,300 guests, culminating in the announcement of three individual category winners in addition to that of the overall recipient of the 2012 Entrepreneur Of The Year™ accolade.

The overall winner will then go forward to represent Ireland at the World Entrepreneur Of The Year™ finals in 2013, where he or she will compete with over 55 country winners for this prestigious global title. Most recent winners of the overall award here in Ireland, Joe Hogan – Chief Technology Officer, and Niall Norton – Chief Executive Officer, of Openet, were presented with their 2011 Entrepreneur Of The Year™ accolade by former President of Ireland, Mary McAleese, last October.  Joe and Niall will now go forward to represent Ireland at the 2012 World Entrepreneur Of The Year™ Awards which will be held in Monte Carlo in June.

Established in 1999, Openet was formed in a basement office in Dublin’s Fitzwilliam Square with just two people, and has since grown into a global team of 830 individuals. Openet provides software to communication and media service providers worldwide. 

Entry to the programme:
Entries for the 2012 Entrepreneur Of The Year™ can be made in any one of three
categories - Emerging, Industry, and International. A nominee must be an owner-manager who is primarily responsible for the recent performance of a company that is at least two years old. Founders of public companies are eligible provided the founder is still active in management, and anyone can nominate an entrepreneur, including the entrepreneur himself or herself, employees or company advisors.

A panel of judges, chaired by Padraig O’Ceidigh, Chairman Aer Arann and recipient of the award in 2002, will select the shortlist, to be announced in May.  The EY Entrepreneur of the Year™ programme is supported by The Irish Times, RTE, Enterprise Ireland, Invest NI, Intertrade Ireland and Newstalk. 

Entry forms are available on www.eoy.tv or by contacting EY on 01 221 2250.

The closing date for nominations is 30 March 2012.

Media Contact:
Valerie O’Reilly – Unicorn PR – +353- 87-2388641
John Ward – EY - +353-86-7801398