A number of students at university and college in Belfast are setting up their own enterprises while studying, thanks to a popular business support programme, funded by the council.
The students who attend Ulster University, Belfast Metropolitan College and Queen’s University took part in the Belfast Enterprise Academy (BEA) which offers support on setting up enterprises and developing business ideas.
As well as participating in workshops and receiving one-to-one mentoring to explore and develop a business idea or product, the students had the chance to meet with a number of current successful business owners and learn from their experiences.
A celebration ceremony took place in City Hall recently for the 24 young people who were also presented with certificates for completion of the programme by Councillor Deirdre Hargey, Chair of Belfast City Council’s City Growth and Regeneration Committee.
Among those were Andrew Boyd, Vicky Potts, Adam Whiteside and Alex Caskey – students from Queen’s University – who have set up Ivea Labs, a tech start-up company.
Developing a tech product to change the way tourists interact with exhibitions, their ‘Visit’ product idea also won the Ireland Funds Business Plan Competition this month securing a prize fund of €10,000.
“What a year it has been for us – we have learned so much from the BEA,” Andrew said.
“From the excellent mentoring element of the programme to being put in contact with the right people – visiting T13, the Northern Ireland Science Park and the Game of Thrones exhibition and building an app for the tourism industry, it’s been a wonderful experience.
“The Belfast Enterprise Academy was definitely the best thing ever – it made our business idea real and gave us so many opportunities to make the business feasible.”
Niall Cox, a first-year studying civil engineering at Ulster University, is also on his way to getting his business Viridi – a fresh food sustainable growing environment, up and running.
“I really needed help with marketing my business and achieved this through the BEA,” he said.
“The mentoring and specialist support I received through the programme was very beneficial and helped me along the way.”
Aidan O’Gorman, a fourth year at Queen’s University studying electronic engineering, added: “My enterprise is called onTime – a rota management tool for the retail and hospitality industry. The contacts I met through the Belfast Enterprise Academy not only helped me with the development of my product but gave me the confidence to now get it on to the market and start selling.”
Wishing all of the BEA participants’ success with their products and new enterprises, Councillor Deirdre Hargey, said: “This is the sixth intake of students on the Belfast Enterprise Academy and this innovative pre-enterprise programme continues to go from strength to strength.
“Since the BEA began, 24 full-time businesses have been set up and 12 part-time with 47 jobs created.
“The programme encourages students to consider self-employment and develop business ideas and also emphasises the importance of entrepreneurship as a driver for our local economy.
“We believe that by developing our talented young people, we will form a strong base for our future entrepreneurs and economy. I now wish them every success for a bright business future.”