EY Entrepreneur Of The Year™ Ireland nominations are now closed.


Nomination Process

The categories in our EY Entrepreneur Of The Year™ programme apply to a wide range of businesses across all sectors on the island of Ireland.

These range from fast growth entrepreneurial businesses, established international groups to longstanding family enterprises. This wide range of business leaders and entrepreneurs is the backbone of our alumni community and what makes it such a valuable and unique network.

A winner will be selected from each of the Emerging, Established & International Categories, and of these three winners, our overall winner will be selected.

Every nomination will be categorised under one of the following

Emerging - Nominees in the Emerging category run businesses that have been trading for a minimum of two years (and up to 8 years). They are ambitious entrepreneurs who have started a business which is growing quickly. They are high-potential, dynamic, resourceful and ‘ones-to-watch’ for the future.

Established - Established, longstanding businesses with a pedigree of growth and innovation, contributing significantly as employers on the Island of Ireland. Including some of our greatest family businesses, our Established finalists are market leaders in their sectors and have made a significant contribution to the economy over a considerable period of time.

International - The International category consists of entrepreneurs who are global players. Their companies operate in multiple markets across the globe and can be headquartered here in Ireland or overseas.

An overall winner will then be announced as Ireland’s EY Entrepreneur Of The Year and will go on to represent Ireland and compete at the EY World Entrepreneur Of The Year Awards in June.

The Sustainability Award

Recognising the critical importance of innovation leadership in meeting our collective sustainability challenges, we are introducing the new Sustainability award to the EY Entrepreneur Of The Year™ Ireland programme. This award is presented to the finalist who is making the biggest contribution towards environmental sustainability through their business. They are striving to protect our future by providing solutions and taking transformative business actions to address some of the world’s most pressing environmental issues and concerns.

The following criteria should be met to be considered for the EY Entrepreneur of the Year™ programme:

The EY Entrepreneur Of The Year™ is an all-island programme.

Nominees must own a minimum of 5% of the company (publicly listed companies will be assessed on a case-by-case basis).

Nominees must be primarily responsible for the recent performance of the company.

Nominees must either be Irish or running a company based on the island of Ireland and have a turnover in excess of €1 million or £1 million.

The nominee’s company must be trading for a minimum of two years (companies with a long R&D process pre-commencement of trading, early stage life sciences and technology companies and companies that have received significant investment are dealt with on a case-by-case basis).

Figures for Revenue, EBITDA, and Employee Numbers for the past three years are required when submitting a nomination (two year figures only for companies trading for less than three years).

Any nominee through to interview stage (first Judging round), will be required to provide their latest set of Director's Reports/Audited Accounts.

If nominees have previously applied and not been shortlisted for the final 24, our independent judging panel welcome and encourage them to apply again.

Some of our previous finalists, and even winners, have successfully been invited into the programme after multiple applications.

Judging panel and criteria

The independent panel of judges is comprised of past Entrepreneur Of The Year Award winners, along with representatives from our sponsor agencies. The judging criteria includes a thorough assessment of:

  • Entrepreneurial spirit and vision
  • Financial performance
  • Strategic direction
  • Risk management
  • Innovation
  • Sustainability and growth
  • National and global impact
  • Personal integrity

Meet the Ireland Entrepreneur Of The Year Judges

Michael Carey, East Coast Bakehouse
EY Industry Entrepreneur of the Year Ireland 2005

Michael started his ‘entrepreneurial’ life just before his 40th birthday in 2002 when he established Jacob Fruitfield Food Group, building upon experience over nearly 20 years as an employee in a number of multinational food companies in Ireland and the UK.

He is currently co-founder and Executive Chairman of ‘East Coast Bakehouse’, Ireland’s only commercial scale biscuit producer and co-founder/chairman of ‘The Company of Food’, a specialist food investment business. He is also Chairman of the Housing Agency.

In the past, he has been chairman of a number of public sector and commercial organisations including; An Bord Bia, the Grow Dublin Tourism Alliance, Zaragoza Restaurant, Soul of Haiti Foundation, Traidlinks (East Africa) and the Marketing Institute of Ireland. He has also held directorships at Drury Public Relations and Valeo Food Group.

Earlier in his career he was Managing Director at Evian/Volvic (UK), Fox’s Biscuits and Kellogg’s (UK and Ireland).

He won the EY Industry Entrepreneur of the Year Award in 2005, the Bord Bia Food Entrepreneur Award 2004, and the Smurfit Graduate Business School Alumnus of the Year 2010.

He is married to (and is in business with) Alison Cowzer. They have two daughters (aged 18 and 14) and live in Rathmines, Dublin.

Harry Hughes, Portwest
EY Entrepreneur Of The Year Ireland 2017

Portwest is owned and operated by three brothers Cathal, Harry and Owen Hughes. Harry is the representative in the EY Entrepreneur final. Cathal’s son Cathal J and Harry’s son Henry have recently joined the business.

Harry studied at St. Jarlath’s College Tuam and Hollings College Manchester where he completed a four-year degree in Garment Technology and Production. Following the completion of his degree he worked in the UK for seven years before returning to the family business in 1978. Harry is currently married with five children from the ages of 21-28 and continues to work alongside his brother’s Owen and Cathal in building the business from nearly €200K in 1979 to over €140 Million in 2016.

Harry’s career has included managing the garment factories in Westport, Castlerea and Barnsley UK, employing over 300 staff. After globalisation in the early 1990’s, the business model changed to sourcing in Asia and the local factories ceased production in early 2000. In the last five years, the business model has changed to taking control of production and Portwest now own and operate their own factory in Bangladesh with 1,600 workers, and plans are advanced to open two more factories in Bangladesh and Myanmar.

Anne Heraty, CPL Resources
EY Entrepreneur of the Year Ireland 2006

Anne Heraty is CEO of Cpl Resources plc, a recognised leader in workforce solutions, specialist recruitment, managed services and outsourcing. With an annual turnover in excess of €522.7 million, the company has over 670 permanent employees.

In any one week Cpl also has over 12,400 temp/contract staff under management in customer sites. Her company has grown through both strong organic growth and strategic acquisitions.

Anne won the Business & Finance ‘Business Person of the Year 2014’ and her company was ranked as ‘Best Place to Work 2019’ in the large organisation category.

Anne was the 2006 overall EY Entrepreneur Of The Year™ winner. Anne is the Chair of judging panel for the EY Entrepreneur of the Year Awards in Ireland and former President of IBEC.

Denis O'Brien, Digicel Group
EY Entrepreneur of the Year Ireland 1998

Denis O’Brien is Chairman of the privately-owned Digicel Group,  Denis founded Digicel in 2001 when the company launched a GSM cellular phone service in the Caribbean. Digicel has extended its operations to 31 markets with over 13 million subscribers in the Caribbean, Central America and Pacific regions. He is one of Ireland’s leading entrepreneurs with extensive investments across several sectors including Radio, property, healthcare, industrial services, golf and other leisure interests.

Edmond Harty, Dairymaster
EY Entrepreneur of the Year Ireland 2012

Dr. Edmond Harty is the Technical Director of Kerry-based Dairymaster, a world leader in the development and manufacture of dairy farm equipment. Headquartered in Causeway, County Kerry, the company also has operations in the UK and the US, and exports to customers in over 40 countries worldwide including the UK, US, Australia, New Zealand and Iran.

A Mechanical Engineer by profession, Edmond joined the family business in 1998, whilst studying for a PhD in UCD where he focused on the area of milking performance. This focus on in-house R&D, manufacturing and the application of advancements in engineering technology has remained core to the business’ international success, and has enabled the company to be at the cutting-edge of product innovation while retaining jobs locally – a factor that is very important to Harty. Dairymaster employs 270 people internationally, 245 of whom are based in Ireland.

Dairymaster’s innovative product range encompasses five key areas: Milking Equipment; Automated Feeding Systems; Hydraulic Manure Scrapers; Cow Fertility Monitors; and Milk Cooling Tanks.

By milking each cow an average of one minute faster than the competition, Dairymaster’s state-of-the-art milking equipment delivers 5% more yield in scientific trials. In turn, this superior milk-out, natural milking and a focus on automation allows the dairy farmer to make smarter management decisions.

Connection to The Cloud allows remote monitoring of the farm which ensures the correct allocation of energy and minerals within the animal’s feed which subsequently results in fewer health issues for the dairy herd and improved milk yields.

Jerry Kennelly, Founder & CEO, Tweak.com

Jerry Kennelly, Tweak
EY Entrepreneur of the Year Ireland 2005

Jerry Kennelly founded Stockbyte and Stockdisc, two companies based in Tralee, Ireland that captured 10% of the global royalty-free stock photography market in ten years. In April 2006 both companies were sold to Getty Images (formerly GYI) for a consideration of $135 million. Kennelly’s companies produced the highest pro-rata profit and profitability per employee in this worldwide industry.

Kennelly, a photojournalist, who started his first business as a photographic news and picture agency in 1981, has been honoured by the Deloitte Fast 50 Awards and was selected as the Ernst & Young Emerging Entrepreneur of the Year in 2005. Stockbyte is also a former winner of the DHL Exporter of the Year Award. He was awarded and Honorary Fellowship for his contribution to Entrepreneurship by the Institute of Technology Tralee, in 2009 and was awarded an Honorary Doctorate in economic science by the University of Limerick in 2010.

Kennelly has spearheaded the Young Entrepreneur Program (www.youngentrepreneur.ie) since 2006. 2400 students have or are in the process of experiencing the Young Entrepreneur Program, researching their concepts, producing a business plan and in some cases starting businesses while still in high school. Along the way, they are mentored and inspired by some of the most successful Irish entrepreneurs. In 2009 Endeavour, an adult version of the program was launched, selecting 15 start-ups with global potential that Kennelly and his team are guiding through the start-up trajectory. A number of those firms are trading very successfully. Completed or imminent investments now puts the value of those companies in excess of €10m.

Kennelly has collaborated with the international poverty relief agency GOAL in documenting, leading a team of photographers who documented the work of the aid agency throughout Africa and Asia. The creative images they produced are used to tell the story of victims of poverty through the media, exhibitions and calendars.

In October 2010, Kennelly led a Tweak.com sponsored team of media colleagues to Haiti to produce a set of branding still and moving images to position the country as a holiday location and emphasizing its potential for foreign direct investment. The images will be made available to the Haitian Government and international agencies who seek to reposition Haiti as a business and leisure location.

Kennelly edited and produced EYEWITNESS, a best selling coffee table photo book documenting Ireland’s social history from the 1950s to 70s in 2009 and set up the accompanying archive (kennellyarchive.com, a not-for-profit) of 250,000 images, now one of the largest online historical archives globally.

In February of this year he led a global team for the launch of his new venture, Tweak.com.

Tweak.com is the world’s largest source of customisable design today announced a partner strategy to facilitate content creation for the world’s largest printing brands. The offering is available as a Tweak hosted solution requiring no integration or a more customizable embedded version of Tweak.com’s easy to use application.

There are more than 500,000 designs customised for the particular needs of 300 vertical business types available on Tweak.com today and this number will rise to more than a million pieces by 2012. Tweak.com’s unique offering of high quality design combined with an easy interface is being offered to the world’s major print franchises and print providers who are pursuing the fast growing online print marketplace.

Tweak.com has already won a major accolade – it has been described by PC magazine as, “the simplest, most refined user experience. For small businesses looking to make a good impression without breaking the bank, Tweak.com puts high-quality stock photography, copy , and design at your fingertips.” PC Magazine has been reviewing the technology industry’s newest products for nearly 30 years, and has earned a reputation for being one of the most stringent review programs in the industry.

Evelyn O'Toole, CLS
EY Industry Entrepreneur of the Year Ireland 2017

Evelyn O’Toole is a native of Clifden in County Galway. She holds a certificate in Applied Biology from AIT and diplomas in Pollution Assessment and Control from SIT; Train the Trainer from NUIM; and Business Development from the IMI.  Following her graduation Evelyn held an internship in the UK in R&D and QA at Industrial Hammer Paints. She also managed a food laboratory for an aquaculture group in Ireland for two and a half years.

In 1994, Evelyn set up CLS. She had a commitment for creating a company for her and other scientists who wanted to develop a career in science whilst living in the West of Ireland. CLS was developed and provides microbiological and analytical testing, and supplies trained analysts on contract to the pharmaceutical, medical device, food and environmental industries.

Evelyn took part in the Leadership4growth programme through the IMI and IMD in 2014 and 2015. She was awarded the ‘Outstanding Business Woman of the Year in Galway 2015’ and WMB ‘Business Woman of the Year 2016’.

Evelyn is an advocate for Cancer Care West.

In 2017 Evelyn become The EY Entrepreneur Of The Year Industry winner.

Mark Roden, Ding
EY Entrepreneur of the Year Ireland 2014

Mark Roden is the founder and Chairman of Ding. Established in 2006, Ding now delivers airtime in three seconds to four billion prepaid mobile phones in over 130 countries worldwide.

The inspiration for Ding came in 2005 when Mark was on vacation in Dubai. Through a brief conversation with an Indian waiter, he discovered a slow and expensive process for foreign workers to send mobile recharge home. The following year, Mark established ‘ezetop’ (now trading as Ding) to build a platform to connect workers abroad directly to mobile phones back home.

To date, Ding has delivered USD$0.6bn to over 58 million phones and is currently transferring almost $2m daily to mobile phones globally. Prior to Ding, Mark founded ‘easycash’ which deployed 500 in-store cash ATMs in SPAR stores and ESSO filling stations. ‘Easycash’ was sold to Royal Bank of Scotland in 2004.

In 1991, Mark joined Denis O’Brien to help establish a competitor to Telecom Eireann; – Esat Telecom where Mark led commercial operations until 1997.

Mark completed an MBA at IMD, Switzerland and has a B.Sc. Mgt degree from the College of Marketing.

Jenny Melia, Enterprise Ireland

Enterprise Ireland is the Irish government agency responsible for the development and growth of Irish companies. Enterprise Ireland work with entrepreneurs and businesses to help them start-up, develop innovative products and services, scale internationally and win export sales in global markets. In this way, they support sustainable economic growth and regional development, and help create and sustain employment in Ireland.

Enterprise Ireland supports include access to global markets through their extensive international office network; business strategy and management capability training; finance; investment and research expertise.

Jeremy Fitch, Invest Northern Ireland

Invest NI is Northern Ireland’s main economic development agency. Its strapline is ‘Building Locally, Competing Globally’ and has responsibility for driving exports, providing support for innovation, R&D and skills.  Invest NI leads Northern Ireland’s inward investment campaign and has a client base of both indigenous and internationally owned businesses.

Jeremy is Executive Director, Business & Sector Development Group. Business Solutions Group is responsible for providing a wide range of advisory and financial business support. The Group works in partnership with the Sector, Regional and International teams to ensure that businesses get the support they need to help them to start and grow. Support includes helping businesses to:

  • Drive innovation in products and services
  • Use technology to drive business growth
  • Get access to finance and property to support growth
  • Develop skills and operating efficiencies improvement
  • Develop commercialisation plans and sell into new markets

A first class Honours and International MBA graduate Jeremy previously worked for Marks & Spencer plc and KPMG Chartered Accountants. He is a Fellow of the Institute of Chartered Accountants in Ireland.

Jeremy is married and has two daughters and one son.

Joe Hogan, Openet
EY  Entrepreneur of the Year Ireland 2011

Joe Hogan is the founder of Openet and has lead Openet's technical strategy and vision from inception, from two people and a secretary in a basement office (1998) through to the 1000+ people in Openet today

Joe has served on the Openet board over the last 15 years, and is instigator of the two strategic technology acquisitions completed by Openet and runs Openet's CTO office which has been instrumental in plotting Openet's path through the telecom industry. In addition to this, Joe also runs Openet's IP office which creates and files all of Openets patent applications and Openet Labs, which develops Openet's innovative new products.

Winner - The European Entrepreneur of the Year Award 2013 (Joe Hogan & Niall Norton) (www.techtour.com)

Winner - Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year 2011 (Ireland). Represented Ireland along with Niall Norton (Openet CEO) in the World Entrepreneur awards in Monte Carlo (June 2012)


Aimee Connolly

Aimee Connolly, Sculpted By Aimee
EY Emerging Entrepreneur Of The Year Ireland 2021

Aimee Connolly is the Founder and Chief Executive of Sculpted By Aimee and was the winner of the 2021 EY Ireland Entrepreneur Of The Year Emerging Category. Aimee was also the youngest ever category winner of the EY Ireland Entrepreneur Of The Year. Sculpted by Aimee Cosmetics is an Irish makeup brand founded in late 2016. The range is stocked in over 400 pharmacies, in Boots Ireland, online selling globally through its own e commerce site as well as on other e-tailers such as Boots.com and with its own retail store in Dundrum, Dublin.


Richard Kennedy

Richard Kennedy, Devenish
EY Entrepreneur Of The Year Ireland 2019

Richard Kennedy is the Chief Executive of Devenish and was the winner of the 2019 EY Ireland Entrepreneur Of The Year. Devenish is a science-based solutions provider to the food and feed industries. Headquartered in Belfast, the company designs and manufactures high quality nutritional products that ensure the most effective and efficient use of nutrients in food production.


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