Belfast’s future entrepreneurs pitch their ideas to panel of business experts

By July 1, 2013Corporate, Newsroom

A artists’ café, a rock band management agency, a bespoke IT company that provides personalised training for the over 40’s – just some of the bright ideas presented by young  entrepreneurs of the future at a special event in Belfast.

A group of 21 graduates, who have just completed the Belfast Enterprise Academy programme, presented their business plans to four panels of enterprise and education experts at the Holiday Inn in Ormeau Avenue.

Over the past three years this unique pre-enterprise programme has helped to create 18 new businesses employing 31 people and this year’s BEA graduates look set to follow in this success.

The programme is funded by Invest NI and Belfast City Council and supported by Queen’s University, the University of Ulster and Belfast Metropolitan College. It is the first year that the course has received accreditation from the Open College Network NI (OCN NI) for a Level 3 Award in Business Development Skills.

Sri Lankan-born Dinuka Wijesinghe, who has just graduated with first class honours in software engineering at UUJ, has already started an IT systems support and teaching company.

He has also developed a mobile device that is able to store and monitor computer networks and has contacted Invest NI to help develop the idea which he hopes to sell to medium to large businesses.

“For the past two years I have been fixing computers around Belfast. I found that people over 40 or 50 wanted to learn how to use computers but didn’t want to go on Government training courses. I do a personalised training plan for them,” he said.

Gary Todd from Omagh, who is studying Event Management at Belfast Metropolitan College, has set up a tour management company, bringing top bands from Belfast, Dublin and Cork to his home town.

He is already employing two other people in the company which books bands, organises accommodation and negotiates backstage riders and performance fees.

“The idea is give people in Omagh the chance to see bands at the higher end of the food chain of the music scene, without having to travel to venues in cities like Belfast or Dublin. My plan is to expand the tour management side of things into Europe, take on more bands and employ more drivers so I can handle multiple tours,” said Gary.

Fine Art student, Brónach McGuinness is planning to set up a coffee shop that caters for artists and art students in the Cathedral Quarter area of Belfast. She was inspired by a visit to a café frequented by artists while on holiday in Europe.

“I really felt there is a need for students to get out of their studio spaces at the Art College. I want to create a hub for students, artists and people with an interest in art to meet and discuss what is happening on an international scale,” she said.

The programme is designed for degree students living in the Belfast area who want to become entrepreneurs. The celebration event was hosted by Belfast City Council and the certificates were handed over by Councillor Pat Convery from the Development Committee.

Cllr Convery praised the young people for the quality of their ideas and dedication to carve out a career in business.

He said: “There were 140 applications for just 21 places on this course, which demonstrates how much students are interested in taking responsibility for their own futures. We have worked with OCNNI to develop a national qualification that recognises all of their hard work.”

Brendan Clarke, Chief Executive of OCN NI, said the organisation was delighted to be involved in the design and delivery of this prestigious and ground-breaking qualification.

He added: “The Belfast Enterprise Academy, along with Belfast City Council, Invest NI, Queen’s University, the University of Ulster, Belfast Metropolitan College, OCN NI and our young entrepreneurs, has together achieved a brilliant result. Committed, determined and innovative entrepreneurs will lead Northern Ireland towards a bright, sustainable and rewarding future.”

For more information please contact Brendan Clarke at or 07500081878.

The Belfast Enterprise Academy programme is funded by Belfast City Council, Invest NI and the European Regional Development Fund under the European Sustainable Competitiveness Programme for Northern Ireland.

The Belfast Enterprise Academy is a programme for degree students living in the Belfast area that would like to become entrepreneurs. In the academy students meet other entrepreneurs, visit successful businesses and learn how to be innovative business people.

The programme has recently received OCN NI accreditation and was awarded a NILGA award at this year’s Local Government Awards.