As part of the ‘Role of the Individual Firm in Economic Resilience' webinar on 6-10-2020, Student Inc. a co-ordinated, accredited programme supporting student entrepreneurs to develop business ideas or grow their existing businesses in Ireland, was presented by Carole O’Leary, Regional Programme Manager, from Cork Institute of Technology. In her intervention, Carole focused on the transfer-ability of the Student Inc. programme and its impact regionally.

After a successful trial and development of the programme in Cork Institute of Technology, Carole O’Leary prepared an application for an expanded programme with increased institutional collaboration on a regional scale. This application to the Higher Education Authority of Ireland was successful and funding was secured for a three year roll out of the programme.  

In 2019 the Student Inc. Accelerator Programme ran collaboratively across Cork Institute of Technology, University College Cork and Institute of Technology Tralee. It ran from June to August (13 weeks) and enabled students to develop and grow their innovative ideas and start their own businesses.  

Student Inc. was developed to increase the number of start-ups coming from the undergraduate student population in the South West region of Ireland as well as to support the creation of more entrepreneurially minded graduates.  

Student Inc is the first student focused accelerator programme in Ireland, which draws students from academic partner’s population to develop their business ideas. It is the only programme in Ireland that provides a stipend for students to allow an opportunity to work on their business idea for a period of 3 months, whilst gaining 10 ECTS credits. During the 2020 programme there were 45 group training sessions, 150 1:1 mentoring sessions and 5 lunch and learn sessions with more seasoned entrepreneurs as part of the support for the 30 participants. These sessions were all delivered remotely in 2020, as a result of Covid-19. In addition to the training and mentoring provided throughout the programme the participants received seed funding, access to serviced office space and access to the large business networks in the partners incubation centres as well as the entrepreneurs based there.    

Carole O’Leary, who co-ordinates Student Inc. believes “the Student Inc. programme is very transferrable and applicable to other regions, as 1) it can be rolled out to any third level campus with an incubator, 2) the model showcases how collaboration can occur strategically across academia, as there are no limits on what year or course of study participants are undertaking, and 3) the programme incentivises student’s involvement as they can gain credit for their learning whilst testing their business ideas.” 

From an operations perspective, Ms O’Leary, works closely with business incubator staff and client firms who provide further support, guidance and workspace during the programme.  

Image: The Key Stakeholders and Sponsors of the Student Inc. programme HEA Ireland.

One of the reasons that the Student Inc. has performed so well is that each business receives personalised supports focused on their needs, but these are provided in a collaborative inclusive action learning environment. This enables students to test business ideas in a safe, supportive environment. 

Image: Business owners, Colla McMahon Tiny Homes Ireland; Neville O'Donoghue, Bench Warmers and Tracey Ryan, CODEX Beauty.

Alumni of the programme, Colla McMahon, founder of Tiny Homes Ireland notes that “Student Inc. gave me the opportunity to focus exclusively on growing my company. I benefited immensely through learning from these speakers, some of whom have founded, scaled, and sold multi-million-euro companies.” Neville O'Donoghue, founder of Bench Warmers, speaks highly of the programme “Student Inc. was a MUST for me, I count myself blessed and extremely lucky to have started my own business and for having Student Inc. as the backbone to that process.” Tracey Ryan, CODEX Beauty speaks about her learning journey “Winning a place on the Student Inc. program was the beginning of my journey as an entrepreneur. I started the program knowing absolutely nothing about setting up or running a business and by the end of it I had a business plan written and the wheels were set in motion for Bia Beauty which went on to be acquired by Codex Beauty.”

 Looking forward to the 2021 interaction and more success from Student Inc.

 For further information on Student Inc. contact [email protected], Regional Programme Manager website