Minister Mitchell O’Connor urges young entrepreneurs to apply for Ireland’s Best Young Entrepreneur (IBYE) award


Ireland’s Best Young Entrepreneur (IBYE) is an initiative of the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation and Enterprise Ireland, and is run by the 31 LEOs across the country. Each LEO has an investment fund of up to €50,000 to award to young entrepreneurs across three categories locally – Best Business Idea, Best Start-Up Business and Best Established Business.

Meeting Minister Mitchell O’Connor were four previous IBYE award winners with dynamic businesses from the worlds of technology, food, waste management and retail: James Keogh (Wicklow) from Rathwood Home & Garden World Ltd.; Isolde Johnson (Dublin City) from The Cool Bean Company; Niall Mimnagh (Longford) from Mimergy; and Rhona Togher (Sligo) from Restored Hearing Ltd. They have all won IBYE awards over the last two years to include investment funding, business bootcamp places and one-to-one mentoring sessions. As well as the financial elements of IBYE, they stressed the importance of learning from each other at the IBYE bootcamps, and the invaluable advice and assistance at the one-to-one mentoring sessions.

They were also joined by representatives of Enterprise Ireland and the Local Enterprise Offices (LEOs). Their message to aspiring young entrepreneurs between the ages of 18 and 35 is to grasp the opportunity and get their applications into by the 14th October deadline

Speaking with the previous winners, Minister Mitchell O’Connor said: “It is so refreshing to hear the success stories from these inspiring and ambitious young entrepreneurs. I fully support Ireland’s Best Young Entrepreneur initiative, the aim of which, is to support a culture of entrepreneurship among young people at both national and local levels. I want to promote entrepreneurship as a career choice, and to encourage young people to set up new businesses which will ultimately create and sustain more jobs right across the country. It is great to hear the success stories from the previous winners and witness the spirit and desire to achieve success. I have no doubt that their message will encourage more young people to enter the competition to find Ireland’s Best Young Entrepreneur for the third year in a row. This competition offers funding investment and mentoring to young businesses and I would encourage young people with a business or business idea to apply by checking out before 14th October.”

Sheelagh Daly of the Local Enterprise Offices said: “The €50,000 per county investment fund on offer from each of the 31 Local Enterprise Offices is a major part of the competition, with up to six local businesses winning significant investment prizes in every local authority area. In addition, up to 450 young entrepreneurs from around the country will also win places at regional Business Bootcamps, with access to expert guidance and mentoring for their business ideas and new ventures.”

Further information and details about the IBYE competition are available from the 31 Local Enterprise Offices nationwide, through and from the IBYE website at

Profiles of former IBYE County and National Winners

James Keogh, age 30, of Rathwood in Wicklow (Winner of 2015 IBYE Best Established Business National Category)
James took over the running of Rathwood from his parents in 2009. Employing 77 people full-time with 160 part-time and seasonal staff, Rathwood has become a ‘destination’ store, restaurant and activity provider located on the Wicklow/Carlow border. Famous for its themed events, such as the Santa Train, Rathwood welcomes 300,000 visitors every year.

Rhona Togher, age 25, of Restored Hearing in Sligo (2014 IBYE National Finalist and ‘Best Established Business’ winner at the 2014 North West Regional Final.)
Rhona is the CEO of Restored Hearing, a business that has created two products to address the global health issue of noise-damaged hearing. ‘Sound Relief’ is an online sound therapy for those suffering from tinnitus and ‘Sound Bounce’ is a responsive acoustic material, which acts as a hearing protection product.

Niall Mimnagh, age 28, of Mimery in Longford (2015 IBYE National Finalist and ‘Best Start-Up Business’ winner at the 2015 North West Regional Final)
Niall set up Mimergy, a waste management company, in late 2014 with eight years of experience in the oil and gas industry. Its mission is to tackle the global problem of waste tyres and its technology converts old tyres and other rubber products into valuable commodities, such as fuels and chemicals.
Isolde Johnson, age 29, of The Cool Bean Company in Dublin City (2015 IBYE National Finalist and ‘Best Start-Up Business’ winner at the 2015 Dublin Regional Final)

Isolde co-founded The Cool Bean Company, a new consumer food brand, in 2013. The range of healthy bean meal solutions is on sale in supermarkets throughout Ireland and was launched in over 100 stores in the UK in 2015. Isolde’s next venture is Cool Foods, focusing on new healthy and convenient foods for national and international markets.

About IBYE
Ireland’s Best Young Entrepreneur is a programme that is open to people between the ages of 18 (at date of application) and 35 (at 31st December 2016) with an innovative business idea, including:

• individuals
• venture teams
• partnerships
• existing businesses with a new idea
• people overseas (including Irish emigrants) who will headquarter in Ireland

Each Local Enterprise Office (LEO) is running a competition in each county (Friday October 14th closing date) aimed at finding winners in each of the three categories as well as an overall county winner. Each LEO will have a total fund of up to €50,000 to invest in six businesses (three category winners and three runners-up) according to criteria including businesses’ investment needs. The three categories are as follows:

• Best Business Idea (pre-trading) – up to €10,000 investment fund through every LEO (€7,000 for category winner and €3,000 for runner-up, through every LEO)

• Best Start-Up Business (up to 36 months), with up to €20,000 investment fund through every LEO (€15,000 for category winner and €5,000 for runner-up, through every LEO)

• Best Established Business (over 36 months) with up to €20,000 investment fund through every LEO (€15,000 for category winner and €5,000 for runner-up, through every LEO)

The county winners will then proceed to eight regional finals from which 24 contenders (three from each region – one in each category) will be selected to compete for the national title of Ireland’s Best Young Entrepreneur. A further €100,000 investment fund will be available to invest in the winners of the three categories at the national final, one of which will also be named with the prestigious title of Ireland’s Best Young Entrepreneur.

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