Three female-led enterprises have won top prizes at an investor pitching session in DCU’s Ryan Academy. The event marked the culmination of Female Propeller, a 13-week long programme to support female-led business with growth and export potential.
Maker company, FabAllThings, won the overall title of Female Propeller for High Fliers Company 2014 and €50 000 investment for their innovative business which marries great design with new manufacturing technologies such as 3D printing and digital manufacturing. The start-up, founded last year by sisters Emer, Kate and Aoibheann O’Daly, crowdsources new product ideas, such as jewellery, wall art and smartphone covers, through its online marketplace, enabling customers to personalise products and participate in the product creation process.
Shay Garvey, of Frontline Ventures, a member of the judging panel, explained why FabAllThings stood out from the crowd,
“The judges believed this 3-person founder team has great growth ambition, is highly qualified and can now build an international network with investment and support from Frontline and other contributors. Aside from targeting a large market opportunity, the FAbAllThings team places a huge emphasis on design which is something that Frontline sees as critical in the next wave of innovative companies.”
Shay emphasised the importance of programmes targeting female founders,
“Initiatives such as Female Propeller are vital in creating an ecosystem specifically geared towards the needs of female entrepreneurs. Of serious concern is the gap between Ireland and the USA and Europe in the percentage of entrepreneurs who are women - 18% in Ireland compared to 40% in the US and 30% in the EU. Frontline recognised the Female Propeller programme as the first of its kind in Ireland to tackle this issue head-on and a timely initiative in addressing structural problems facing women in business. It is reported that the two major barriers to females starting their own companies is fear of failure and lack of access to capital. This programme addresses both challenges and delivers a huge amount of mentoring on the skills needed to run a business as well as access to a range of sources of investment. ”
Twelve start-ups, in areas as diverse as children’s equipment hire, gluten-free baking products, business intelligence, nutritious ready-meals and equine feeding solutions, took part in the programme. Sheena Bailey, founder of TestReach, claimed the audience prize of a trip to Silicon Valley to meet with mentors and potential investors. Her application allows candidates to take formal exams over the web, observed remotely by TestReach-trained supervisors, presenting a cost-effective solution for accrediting bodies. The final prize of a year’s free legal services from Peppe Santoro’s Venture Legal Services was awarded to Gaelic Escargot, Ireland’s only farm to breed free-range, edible snails to cater for excess international demand, particularly in the French and Italian markets.
Ann Horan, CEO of DCU Ryan Academy reflected on the success of the first year of Female Propeller,
“We were overwhelmed by the level of demand for places on Female Propeller, a strong indicator of the untapped female entrepreneurial potential in this country and the appetite for female-specific supports. Our objective in launching this programme was to fast-track female entrepreneurs, their leadership skills and their businesses. Through their access to the Academy’s extensive network of investors and mentors, all 12 companies have been equipped with the tools to unlock their potential and prepare their ventures for take-off. The synergies created within this unique programme have led each company to exceed all expectations to date and we wish them every success in the next stage of their journey.
Female Propeller for High Fliers is aimed at female founders of Irish or international start-ups less than 5 years old. All companies must be led by women and are selected on the basis of their growth and export potential as well as team strength. For more information, visit http://www.ryanacademy.ie/accelerators/female-propeller.