The inaugural Clon'trepeneur winners receive their award.

THE entrepreneurial spirit of Ireland’s youth shone bright at the inaugural Clon’trepreneur of the year awards at Fernhill House Hotel in Clonakilty on Thursday last as three fifth year students from Clonakilty Community College picked up the prestigious award for their innovative Oceanaboost product, which is a tasty and nutritional drink extracted from seaweed.

Eugene Scally, George Hook, Colette Twomey, Diarmuid O'Sullivan and Bill Liao at the inaugural Clon'trepeneur awards.

The event, which was hosted by George Hook, was organised by Clonakilty Chamber of Commerce in association with West Cork’s top businesses to boost entrepreneurial spirit in the region.

Students Barry Holland, Declan Moore and David Ryan, creators of Oceanaboost, were overwhelmed by the positive feedback from West Cork business warhorses, Colette Twomey of Clonakilty Black Pudding, Diarmuid O’Sullivan of Irish Yogurts, Eugene Scally of Scally’s SuperValu and social media guru and philanthropist Bill Liao, who said their product had the best potential to create and sustain employment in the West Cork area.

Commenting on behalf of the three, Barry Holland said, “We are so proud to win such a prominent award and to have the opportunity to develop a concept with the support of West Cork’s leading entrepreneurs.

“Our generation in particular needs to pave our own path to build a sustainable future and these initiatives give us the support and confidence to do so.”

Oceanaboost competed against three other competitors, Irish Atlantic Sea Salt, Clonakilty Cocoa Company and Richy Virahsawmy at a Dragon’s Den style public event for a €20,000 cash and support package.

Each of the contestants made a seven-minute pitch to the ‘warhorse’ judges before being questioned in-depth on their products, marketing strategies, logistics and finances.

George Hook kindly offered each of the finalists 12 minutes on his Kickstart Your Business slot on Newstalk where they can showcase their products on the national airwaves.

“This is a very special night for Clonakilty Chamber of Commerce,” said Flor McCarthy the Chamber’s chairman.

“We have seen industry names from the region come together to drive entrepreneurial spirit, innovative business ideas from locals and those further a field that will drive our economy, and creativity merged with a drive for business from our youth.”

Mairead O’Gorman of AIB, the project manager of the event, said, “This is the start of bigger things to come” as she closed the proceedings on a balmy West Cork evening.