Two Students Win Shannon Airport’s Young Entrepreneurs Competition

Two Students Win Shannon Airport’s Young Entrepreneurs Competition

Two teenagers have shown themselves to be potential business moguls of the future after being crowned joint winners of the Shannon Airport Young Entrepreneur competition.

Richie Lillis (13) from Mitchelstown, Co Cork, and Kate McMahon (16) from Lahinch, Co Clare, beat stiff competition in the inaugural year of the competition that is casting out a net to support young entrepreneurs and give them a platform to launch their businesses. The duo get to stock their product at the Shannon Duty Free store as part of Shannon Airport’s commitment to support young entrepreneurs.

The competition was launched earlier this year after 14-year-old Evan Quaid became the youngest producer to stock his product in the renowned duty-free shop at Shannon – the first duty free shop in the world.

Andrew Murphy, Managing Director, Shannon Airport, said: “We are always trying to support local businesses, where possible, at the Shannon Duty Free store but this competition has really excited us as we get to see and support fantastic young entrepreneurship. We are blown away by the ideas, the enthusiasm and the potential of these second level students. Entrepreneurship is alive and well based on what we have seen in our very first year of the competition.”

Richie, who is a student at Mitchelstown CBS, won the award for ’Mo Phinn’, meaning ‘my pens’. This sees the young woodturner design and produce handcrafted wooden pens from Irish hardwoods.

Kate’s ‘SeaSea Exfoliators’ is also locally inspired as she capitalises on the natural environment of West Clare by packaging and selling handpicked lavender and fresh seaweed from Lahinch beach.

Richie said: “I am really delighted. I am the fifth generation of woodturners from my family so this is something I am really proud of. I get to work with my father and grandfather so I have fantastic tutors and this is as much down to them as it is to anything I have done. My grandad supplied Shannon Duty Free over 30 years ago with some Irish made wooden souvenirs, so I am not the first Richie Lillis to become a supplier at Shannon Duty Free, but I am the youngest.”

“My grandfather made pens as gifts for friends and family and I now do the same. Most of the material is locally sourced from native Irish hardwoods here at the foot of the Ballyhoura Mountains on the Cork-Limerick border. I also work with bog oak sourced in the heart of Co Clare. This first started with a customer asking me to make a pen from a piece I found in a local bog, and now I love the idea that I can create unique pieces.”

Kate McMahon’s ‘SeaSea Exfoliators’ idea is also inspired by family. “My grandmother regularly picks seaweed from the shore and leaves it to dry for a few days and I get to help her. Seaweed is rich in amino acids, which smooths and plumps the skin. It also hydrates the skin by drawing in moisture and vitamins. Sourcing lavender was easy, as we have plenty of fresh lavender growing in our garden, which I began to dry and harvest for my exfoliators.”

The idea arose when she needed to create and develop a product for a mini business as part of her Transition Year project at school. “I wanted to create a beauty product that was natural and wouldn’t impact on the environment. After lots of research and with some encouragement from my art teacher, I began creating exfoliators. My aim was to create an environmentally friendly exfoliator without using plastic microbeads. I live beside the sea in Lahinch, Co Clare, and I know how dangerous microbeads are when they enter the waterways and into our food chain.

“My key ingredient, seaweed, is known to help in clearing acne. Combined with the therapeutic effects of locally sourced lavender, I knew this would catch the attention of my fellow students in school, especially exam students. Once my product became available on the market at school, I quickly started to receive positive feedback from my classmates. It gave me hope that there is a market among the younger generation for natural products, and that we don’t need to use plastic in cosmetics.”

Mary Considine, Chief Executive, Shannon Group, said: “At Shannon Group we recognise the importance of nurturing entrepreneurship. Great entrepreneurs are important to the future. Their innovations can create jobs and contribute to economic growth. That is why we are committed to nurturing the next generation of entrepreneurs, whether through our Propeller Shannon programme to encourage aviation and other start-up companies at Shannon Free Zone, or in this case to support aspiring young entrepreneurs by giving them a platform to showcase their products and talent.”

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NEIL STEEDMAN has been a trade journalist, editor and proofreader for 53 years, and ITTN's News & Features Editor for 43 years. His travel blog is at

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