Entrepreneurs honoured for experience and potential

Jack Dobson with his EY Entrepreneur of the Year trophy
Gary McDonald Business Editor

ENTREPRENEURS at both ends of the age spectrum - one starting out, the other long-established - have been honoured at separate ceremonies in Dublin and Belfast.

Jack Dobson, who founded meat processing firm Dunbia with his brother Jim in 1976 and has been at the helm as its turnover soared to £830 million, won a coveted Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award.

Meanwhile in Belfast, Dromore doctor Jason McKeown, who has just started up a medical devices company called Neurovalens, won the main Propel Award, which is aimed at developing export focused business ideas with high growth potential.

Under Dobson's strategic leadership, Dunbia has blossomed from a small family business in Dungannon to a multinational organisation contributing hugely to the Northern Ireland economy.

The company processes beef, pork and lamb for some of Europe’s largest retailers, food service, commercial and manufacturing companies and is now trading in over 36 countries.

Jack Dobson has been at the forefront of driving the company forward, linking suppliers and customers to create an integrated supply chain and a long-term sustainable industry.

Anne Heraty, chairperson of the EY judging panel, said: “It was Jack's vision that turned a small, family butcher shop, established in 1976, into now the largest meat processing company across the UK and Ireland.

"With a supplier base of almost 25,000 farmers, he is committed to working alongside them to develop a value chain which is sustainable and profitable for all – truly a deserving winner of the Industry EY Entrepreneur of the Year category.”

Mr Dobson said: “This award has put a positive spotlight on the agri-food industry and in particular on meat processing sector.

"The career opportunities in this industry are immense with excellent potential to develop and progress. I never thought I would be holding an EY Enterpreneur of the Year Award, but here I am."

The EY Entrepreneur of the Year awards is a global programme covering 50 countries in six continents. The Ireland awards include three categories: emerging; industry and international.

Other Northern Ireland finalists this year were Alan Clarke, STATSports; Catherine O’Neill, Amelio Group; Terry Knox, CD Group; and Alyson Hogg, Vita Liberata.

Overall EY winners were John & Patrick Collison, founders of Stripe, a technology platform that developers use to build internet businesses.

Elsewhere Neurovalens, which has developed ‘Stimu Slim’, a pioneering electronic headset used to tackle the growing obesity problem worldwide, has was named ‘Company of the Year’ at Invest NI's Propel Programme awards.

Its small headset like device targets an area of the brain known to suppress appetite and induces a metabolic shift within the nervous system. This change reconfigures the internal functions of the body allowing for a leaner and more athletic body appearance.

Dr McKeown said: “I’m thrilled at Neurovalens's success. Coming from a medical background, the Propel experience allowed me to develop the skillset that I needed to take my innovations from a concept into a viable business with global potential. We’re now looking towards the future with real confidence.”

Propel is an intensive 12-month programme which helps participants fast track their business ideas, develop ambitious growth plans and explore global markets.


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