EY Entrepreneur of the Year programme launched in Northern Ireland

Launching the EY Entrepreneur Of The Year 2016 programme in Belfast are (from left) Jeremy Fitch (Invest NI), Sean Duffy (programme director EOY), Jack Dobson (Dunbia) and Rob Heron (tax partner, EY in Northern Ireland). Photo: William Cherry (PressEye)
Gary McDonald Business Editor

THE search has begun for entrepreneurs to follow in the footsteps of the likes of Peter Fitzgerald of Randox and Brian Conlon from First Derivatives.

Both are past outright winners of the EY Entrepreneur Of The Year (EoY) crown, a programme which has operated in Ireland for two decades to recognise, promote and build a supportive community around the island's high-growth entrepreneurs and which runs in 60 other countries.

And today sees the launch of the 2016 programme, the theme of which is ‘creating your business legacy'.

The company is open to entrepreneurs across all sectors, with entries open until February 29. The 24 finalists will be announced in April, and they will join a group of 120 entrepreneurs, all previous finalists and winners, at a week-long retreat to Boston in the summer.

The EoY is recognised as the most prestigious business accolade for entrepreneurs. In Ireland alone it has evolved over the past 18 years into a ten-month development programme connecting the best entrepreneurs across the island.

Programme director Sean Duffy said: “I am delighted to launch the 2016 programme, which focuses this year on the theme of creating a business legacy.

"EY will be helping finalists develop their vision for the future of their business, looking at what resources (e.g. talent, funding), tools and knowledge they will need to grow successfully.”

The programme is open to entrepreneurs across all sectors and growth stages in Ireland and is divided into three categories - emerging, industry and international - with eight finalists per category.

Last year saw finalists from eight different sectors compete for the title, with online payments company Stripe emerging as overall winners. Dungannon meat production company Dunbia took top prize in the industry category.

Rob Heron, tax partner at EY Belfast, said: “Last year's programme saw a fantastic level of contribution from Northern Ireland, with five of the 24 finalists coming from the region. We are anticipating another strong year of nominations and would particularly like to encourage female entrepreneurs or those involved in family-run businesses to apply this year.”

Jeremy Fitch. executive director at Invest NI, said: “This is an exceptional programme that helps promote the vitally important role entrepreneurs play in our economy – it also has a proven track record of benefitting those that participate in the programme.

"Northern Ireland has been well represented in the recent past and we hope that businesses here will avail of this great opportunity and participate in the 2016 programme.”

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