Lismore in Young Enterprise UK final

A group of innovative pupils from Lismore Comprehensive is representing Northern Ireland in London this week as they pitch a novel product in the UK final of the Young Enterprise Company of the Year competition.

The group from Year 13 who make up the team called Never Lace will be representing Northern Ireland. They have been supported in their preparation for the final by Senior Executive members from Almac Group and Danske Bank who have shared their expertise in areas including innovation, marketing, teamwork and presentation skills.

They will be competing against 13 other schools from across the UK. Each group will present their business ideas at the British Film Institute.

Never Lace will be pitching a novel product which secures laces within a light magnetic buckle so that users need never tie their laces again.

The Lismore Comprehensive team is Conall Brady, Dean Conway, Jamie Leighton, Jordan Greene, Michael Judge, and Se Kelly and will be accompanied to London by their business studies teacher and mentor, Francis McVeigh who has directed the group through the entire process. Lismore’s Principal, Fiona Kane and Mrs K Adams, Chair of the Board of Governors, will also provide support during the trip.

Conall Brady, Managing Director of Never Lace, explained how the idea had come about, “One of our teachers told us about how their four year old son had his laces untied and they got caught when he was going up a moving escalator.

“It was a traumatic experience for him and his family and we knew there was an opportunity to try to find a solution to this problem.

“We carried out market research and knew we had discovered a gap in the market that we had to act upon. We researched the product from a safety perspective as we knew it could be beneficial to children, the elderly and to sportspeople.

“Through working with Almac we have learnt so much about the range of skills needed to run a successful business as well as gaining confidence to go to London and pitch alongside some of the most innovative young teams in the UK.”

Never Lace is soon going to be stocked in Debenhams at Rushmere Shopping Centre in Craigavon after a successful pitch made by the team. Northern Pharmacies, which has outlets across Northern Ireland is already selling the Never Lace product.

Local schools including special schools and care homes have also bought the product and Linfield footballer Roy Carroll, who has also played for Manchester United, is now using the product on the pitch, attracting much interest from his team mates who are also keen to use it.

Mr McVeigh commented, “This has been a fantastic inspirational journey, not only for students and their families, but for the entire school community. Students have gained entrepreneurial knowledge and developed many skills and qualities from their experiences. These young entrepreneurs are a strong, talented group of friends who have turned into business partners and have started something special.”

Kevin Reid, VP of Corporate Marketing at Almac, said, “I have personal experience with the fantastic work undertaken by Young Enterprise and am aware how great an opportunity it is for these pupils to go to London and pitch their novel product.

“They are promoting an exciting product and are running a financially successful company which is worthy of high praise. But they also have overcome challenges along the way, finding solutions to problems that many businesses face and they have learned that continuous improvement, application of skills and innovation are all essential to business success.

“We congratulate them for reaching this stage of the competition and wish them the very best as they head to London. As one of Northern Ireland’s leading companies in the field of innovation we are delighted to be able to share our expertise with local schools and start-up businesses and help support the next generation of entrepreneurs.”

Oonagh Murtagh, Head of South Business Centre at Danske Bank, said: “I really enjoyed working with this brilliant group of students as they prepared for the chance to pitch their exciting product at the Young Enterprise UK final. It is a fantastic achievement to have reached this level and hopefully the feedback and advice we as mentors gave them during our sessions will stand the team in good stead for their presentation. Danske Bank is always keen to support entrepreneurship and to encourage innovation, particularly amongst the many talented young people we have at schools right across Northern Ireland. The bank congratulates Lismore Comprehensive and the Never Lace team on reaching this stage of the competition and I wish them all the very best as they compete against the schools from other parts of the UK.”