Employment and Learning Minister Dr Stephen Farry MLA yesterday presented the ‘Future Student of Business Awards’ to students from across each of the six Further Education Colleges in Northern Ireland.
Belfast Met student Cathryn Bartolovic, of Celtic Diva Dance Creations, walked away with the overall award and £1,350 in prize money. Attracting new clients through social media, Cathryn plans to use her award to expand her online presence, with a view to opening her own business premises in the future. Her Irish Dancing dresses have already been worn by both Festival and Feis dancers and, as a result of the extensive market research she has undertaken, Cathryn has honed her products to suit local customers’ needs.
Left to right: John Friel, FSB Northern Ireland Regional Chair; Dr Stephen Farry MLA, Minister for Employment and Learning; Cathryn Bartolovic, Overall Winner of FSB NI Awards 2015; and Gerry Campbell, Chief Executive of Colleges NI.
Presenting the prize to the overall winner Minister Farry said: “These awards are an excellent opportunity for further education students to gain recognition for their business skills and their future potential for business success. Entrepreneurship is of vital importance to the economy and it is only right that it is recognised and rewarded.
“Our local Colleges are pivotal to the development of a strong and vibrant economy through the provision of professional and technical skills which are increasingly required at higher levels. My Department is shortly due to publish a new strategy for further education – ‘Further Education Means Success’ – which will set out the future direction of further education in Northern Ireland, and this will provide a significant opportunity to drive positive economic change and promote social inclusion.”
Gerry Campbell, Colleges NI Chief Executive, said: “I was delighted with the standard of applications this year which is testament to the dedication, hard work and professionalism of the lecturers across our six regional FE colleges. The awards are testament to the excellent work in the sector in terms of fostering the spirit of enterprise and giving learners the skills they need to become the successful entrepreneurs of tomorrow. We had a strong judging panel with representatives from Colleges NI, FSB and the Northern Ireland Local Government Association. The judges described the winning business idea as ‘in its infancy and ready to grow’, showing ‘great business understanding’, having undertaken ‘substantial market research’ and ‘identified a real gap in the market locally’.”
Federation of Small Businesses, Northern Ireland Regional Chairman, John Friel said: “I was delighted that the standard of entrants this year was once again so high, demonstrating the real quality of entrepreneurial talent being cultivated within our FE Colleges. I would like to congratulate Cathryn once again on winning the overall prize, in recognition of the fact that her business was not only scalable but also had export potential. I would also like to commend Ciara Connolly on winning the inaugural FSB Connect award, recognising the entrepreneurial flair she displayed in her submission. If the calibre of the entrants is anything to go by the Northern Ireland economy will reap the rewards in the long term.”