Swim, learn, code: three start-ups focused on next generation

Based in Holywood, Alicia was inspired to set up her own business when she became a mother

THREE female entrepreneurs from Northern Ireland, Lee-Anne Daly, Alicia Peyrano and Fiona McLaughlin, have launched unique businesses focused on furthering the development of children and young people.

The businesses are part of a group of 35 to have been recognised by Invest Northern Ireland for their innovation and high growth export potential and are currently participating on the intensive Propel programme to prepare for the international market.

Through her business Orby, Lee-Anne Daly from Belfast has developed an innovative swimsuit for children aimed at alleviating the concerns of parents when teaching their child to swim.

Based in north Down, Alicia Peyrano set up Little Citizens Boutique to help parents prepare their kids for the 21st century with toys that develop the imagination, creativity and problem solving.

Fiona McLaughlin, an animation student at Ulster University, created Pingster, an online platform which allows children to collaborate on projects and share digital ideas.

Former teacher Lee-Anne, who set up popular children's swimming class business Aquababes NI in 2008, recognised that parents often find the stage between infant swimming classes and their child being able to swim independently very concerning. Lee-Anne is also regularly asked questions about the safest and most appropriate choice of swimwear for young children.

Seeing a business opportunity, Lee-Anne set about developing Orby, a solution which is not only a safe and adaptable swimwear option for 2-7 year-olds, but also includes a guide to help parents become more comfortable and confident in teaching their child to swim.

“Orby is a neoprene inflatable swimsuit which incorporates an air pump and release valve and is adjustable to suit individual buoyancy and child's ability,” said Lee-Anne.

“It is supported by a free downloadable app to offer parents' tips and techniques on how to measure milestones and achievements of their child's swimming ability."

Lee-Anne is getting ready to ‘take the plunge' and launch her product in late 2015, using her experience on the Propel programme to fine tune her product and marketing strategy.

Little Citizens Boutique

Based in Holywood, Alicia was inspired to set up her own business when she became a mother and felt there was a lack of options when it came to finding high quality, unique children's toys and gifts:

“So many toys and clothes today for children feel and look mass produced and are almost disposable in nature as opposed to unique and special," she said.

US born Alicia Peyrano comes from a journalism and media background and as a mother found herself looking wider and further for unique toys and gifts for her children.

“I set up Little Citizens Boutique to create an online store that was entirely dedicated to unusual, beautiful brands of toys and clothing. All our toys and gifts are centred on encouraging creativity, inspiring imagination and stimulating play - and we source them from some of the most interesting designers and brands across the world.

"Our website tells the stories behind our design partners in order to give consumers a real insight into where their purchase is coming from. Our customers also have the benefit of shopping the online selection in person at our store in Holywood.”

The workshops and training provided through Propel is helping Alicia to scale her business and develop an international customer base. Visit for further information.


“Pingster is a place for children to explore ideas, build skills and share creativity in a secure and friendly environment,” said Fiona McLaughlin.

Through her animation degree and involvement with events throughout the digital sector, Fiona has witnessed first-hand the creativity and energy young children have when it comes to software coding and design.

“We're creating a platform which harnesses that imagination and inspires confidence among young people in relation to using technology in a collaborative way,” Fiona continues.

“The future generation of coders and designers needs encouragement, support and help in nurturing their skills and creativity. Pingster has the potential to inspire young people across the world to unleash their creative potential,” she said.

Fiona believes the Propel programme will help her reach her goal of taking Pingster global:

“Starting a business at any time is daunting but being a student start-up is to step into a whole new world. Working with my Propel mentor is really helping me on that journey,” said Fiona.

Niall Casey, Director of Skills and Strategy with Invest Northern Ireland said: “Lee-Anne, Alicia and Fiona are dynamic entrepreneurs who have recognised a gap in their specific market and used their skills and insights to create unique businesses with international potential.

“Propel is filled with a mix of exciting, passionate businesspeople and year on year we see a great level of talent coming through in the applications.

“Since its inception in 2011, 24 per cent of the participants in our Propel Programme have been female. There is a huge wealth of entrepreneurial talent in Northern Ireland and in order to fully maximise the potential of our talent pool, we would love to see a broader representation of female CEOs in the start-up scene."

For information on Invest Northern Ireland's Propel programme, visit


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