Business

Will it be three and easy for Northern Ireland entrepreneurs in EY final?

FINALISTS TOGETHER: Northern Ireland EY finalists are (from left) Brendan Mooney (Kainos Group), Mr Ashok Songra and Dr Suresh Tharma (3fivetwo Group), Kevin McLoughlin (EY Entrepreneur of the Year lead partner), Leona McAllister (Plotbox), Pamela Flood (UTV presenter) Rob Heron (EY partner), Sean Duffy (EY Entrepreneur of the Year programme director), Jim Wright (JMW Farms), Eamon Donnelly (Uform), Gareth Loye (M&M Contractors) and Jeremy Fitch (Invest NI executive director). Missing from the picture is James Leckey. Photo: Maxwellphotography.ie

NORTHERN Ireland entrepreneurs will vie this week to clinch a coveted island-wide business title for the region for just the third time.

A record seven of the 24 finalists in this year's EY Entrepreneur Of The Year (EOY) programme come from the north.

And on Thursday night, in a televised event from Dublin, they'll bid to follow in the footsteps of two other Northern Ireland entrepreneurs who each walked off with the overall crown in the EY initiative - Dr Peter Fitzgerald, managing director of Randox Laboratories in Crumlin (2004) and Brian Conlon, founder of First Derivatives in Newry (2010).

The 24 finalists have a combined workforce of almost 3,000 people and turnover of €500 million, and the overall winner is chosen based on a number of criteria including innovation, value creation, strategic direction, financial performance, national and global impact, and the entrepreneur's contribution to society and industry.

Rob Heron, tax partner at EY, said: "This year's short-list is of a remarkable standard, and it is particularly encouraging to see a strong spread of finalists from Northern Ireland, representing a diverse range of sectors including digital technology, healthcare, distribution, utilities and farming."

The awards will be broadcast on UTV Ireland and UTV in Northern Ireland this Thursday at 10.40pm, hosted by TV presenter and entrepreneur Pamela Flood along with Dermot Murnaghan, one of Sky's main news anchors.

Thursday's overall winner will go forward to represent Ireland at the EY World Entrepreneur of the Year Awards in Monaco next June.

MEET THE NORTHERN IRELAND FINALISTS

:: EMERGING CATEGORY: Sean and Leona McAllister from PlotBox in Antrim (www.plotbox.io) - The company brings technology to the death industry through an easy to use software solution for cemetery managers, which gives them control over their operations, using location driven data. It was founded in 2011 and started by mapping over 200 burial grounds in Ireland before expanding to the UK and the USA. Members of the public can also search and find deceased records, headstone pictures and grave locations via the company's genealogy website www.discovereverafter.com. PlotBox employs 13 staff based throughout Ireland, India and the USA.

:: INDUSTRY CATEGORY: Eamon Donnelly from Uform (www.uform.co.uk) - This company offers a diverse portfolio of kitchen doors and components to independent kitchen retailers. The business currently offers 73 ranges, some of which offer a special paint to order option which is achieved using state of the art automated paint technology. Uform has continued to expand premises to meet the needs of 700 active independent retail customers throughout UK and Ireland. The company has recently announced a £3million investment plan to support growth with a new 31,000 sq ft. extension to accommodate new product introductions and enhance existing ranges through more colour offerings.

:: INDUSTRY CATEGORY: James Leckey of James Leckey Design Ltd (leckey.com), FireFly (fireflyfriends.com) and VIDA (vidaglobal.co.uk) - Since 1983, Leckey has designed and manufactured equipment to improve the quality of life and social inclusion of children with special needs and their families worldwide. The company has grown internationally with strong market positions in the USA, Italy and Australia and by 2010 was one of three significant companies competing in this sector globally. Recognising the need for greater parent input and with a focus on social inclusion, Leckey created FireFly, an on-line direct to parent ecommerce platform and community forum. This year, Leckey opened its new Design and Innovation Centre with a dedicated team of 18 clinicians, designers and engineers.

:: INDUSTRY CATEGORY: Jim Wright of JMW Farms Ltd (NI)/JMW Farms IRL Ltd (RoI)/Crockway Farms Ltd UK (www.jmwfarms.com) - Based in Armagh, JMW Farms is a group of companies concentrating on pig and feed production within Northern Ireland, the Republic and Britain, with an annual turnover of around £40 million. The company has eight breeding farms throughout the island of Ireland and UK, with 8,500 pigs born per week. The group mills and produces its own feed and provides its own haulage for the breeding farms and the outside fattening units. JMW Farms is one of the top five pig producers in the UK.

:: INDUSTRY CATEGORY: Gareth Loye of M&M Contractors (www.mm-contractors.com) - From its headquarters in Belfast, M&M Contractors is a 30-year-old business providing turnkey telecommunication and electrical infrastructures, encompassing civil engineering, construction, and cabling installation/testing solutions. It designs and installs all of the underground telecoms and electrical cabling networks required for its global blue-chip client base, along with providing all of the in-house capabilities to run the networks around the clock. Customers include major blue-chip telecommunications firms such as Tibus, Green Frog Connect, Northern Powergrid, SSE, Hibernia, Vodafone, Virgin Media, EU Networks, CityFibre and Colt Telecom, with global projects spanning locations including Ireland, the UK, Netherlands, USA and Canada. M&M Contractors is the only UK and Irish SME to successful export all three key services (utilities infrastructures, maintenance, and construction of associated buildings) beyond the UK and Ireland.

:: INDUSTRY CATEGORY: Dr Suresh Tharma and Mr Ashok Songra of the 3fivetwo Group (www.3fivetwo.com) - The healthcare group comprises two hospitals, located in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, and associated healthcare related companies in diagnostics, training, fertility, medical aesthetic and injectable treatments, telemedicine, optometry and hearing and medical insurance; serving the private and public sectors. The Group delivers a turnover in excess of £30 million, employs 300 people and utilises the services of over 700 consultants and 400 nursing and allied health professionals. 3fivetwo Group was the first in Northern Ireland to introduce 4D ultrasound in antenatal care, 64 slice CT scanning and private medical insurance. The company is involved in a telemedicine joint venture with American partners in Philadelphia and this year will launch of a telemedicine service in the UK and Ireland.

International

:: INTERNATIONAL CATEGORY: Brendan Mooney of the Kainos Group (www.kainos.com) - Kainos is a digital services company, offering information technology products and services to clients in markets and industries across the world. It has delivered around 33 per cent compound growth in the past four years and is recognised as a continuing disruptive force in its core markets of government, healthcare and commercial industries. Kainos was founded in Belfast in 1987, where it is still headquartered and is the largest indigenous IT services company in Northern Ireland. The company employs approximately 860 people across eight offices in the UK, Ireland, Netherlands, Poland and the USA.

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