IT’S been nearly a year since the first batch of budding entrepreneurs signed up to Thurles’ new business mentoring programme called ‘TESS’, located in the Thurles Chamber Entreprise Centre on the LIT campus.
On Friday, LIT President Dr.Maria Hinfelaar paid a flying visit to the centre, to celebrate a year of hard work, and to meet with some of the successful candidates for last year’s programme. Over the last 12 months, the centre has seen new businesses grow and prosper, from the germ of an idea into fully fledged businesses able to compete nationally and internationally.
The Tipperary Enterprise Start-Up Support (TESS) programme provides practical and in-depth advice to candidates who want to turn their innovative ideas into self-sustaining businesses. Anybody who wants to take the plunge into business, should apply to Centre Manager John Kennedy (0504 28042) by May 10th. The candidates are drawn from all walks of life: the most important quality in a candidate is the drive to succeed, says John. “The major thing is that people have the commitment to carry the idea through. We’ll be taking in about 10 to 12 people. We have about nine companies based here already, and some have already had to move into bigger offices.” The Progressive College, In cloud Logistics, Mr Sports Gift, and Biofinch, are just some of the companies which have emerged from the TESS programme. Ms Hinfelaar - who was instrumental in spearheading the project - told the Tipperary Star that the idea is to bring together academia, business, and finance, to help entrepreneurs to help themselves. “This year, we’ve developed scholarships for students to get places in the enterprise centre. It’s rent free, all the training is free, and they get a small stipend to keep them ticking over while they’re developing their business.” The courses are aimed at matching skills to the workplace. “Whenever we develop a new programme, we always bring in an industry panel to review our ideas,” says Ms Hinfelaar. “So that the graduates will have employability and the competencies that industry needs.”
Brian Moloney, from The Commons, Ballingarry, is one of those who applied last year. His company, called ‘Biofinch’, now has the rights to import and market a range of domestic composters in Ireland and the UK. The units dispose of household organic waste, producing compost for gardening and horticulture. “You can put your meat and fish in, for about six weeks. Each time you’d add food waste you add some wood pellets. You then close it off and when you come back, you’d have fully mature compost which you can use in your garden.”
The simple but effective idea will mean Brian will soon be his own boss, fully self-employed, and with the possibility of taking on more employees in the future. Brian says he couldn’t have done it without the one-to-one business mentoring offered by TESS. Along with intensive coaching, candidates have access to free office space, broadband, meeting facilities and much more. “The great thing about the programme is that you have like-minded people here in an open-plan office. We’re all learning from each other’s mistakes, and helping each other out,” says Brian. “We’re told how to build our own websites. I started with an idea, which changed: now I’m still in the same area but I’ve got to the stage where I have the rights for the UK and Irish markets.” This year’s TESS programme starts on May 27th. Interviews will take place in the first week in May. “There’s nothing like it in Tipperary,” says board member Cllr Seamus Hanafin. “It’s tried and tested. They’re all very positive about it.” Applications are being taken now. Closing date is 12 noon, Friday, May 10th.