Cork Woman Named as Winner of JFC Innovation Awards 2011
Business Student Programme business scoops top rural business prize
A Cork entrepreneur who brings hundreds of foreign students to Ireland each year to learn English, generating up to €2 million for the economy, has won the overall 2011 JFC Innovation Award for rural business. Bernie Carroll from Charleville won the prize for her business, Student Programmes Ireland, which places young foreign students in secondary schools to help them perfect their English.
Bernie identified the demand for students to live with Irish families and go to local secondary schools in 2009 and placed over 100 students in secondary schools around Munster and Connacht in her first year of trading. In 2010 Bernie grew this to 160 students and is all set for further growth.
Bernie was named the overall winner of the JFC Innovation Awards for Rural Business, an all-island competition for farmers and rural entrepreneurs who have a business that has commenced trading in the last 5 years. The Awards, sponsored by JFC, are organised jointly by Teagasc, the Department of Agriculture in Northern Ireland, the Irish Farmers’ Journal and the Irish Local Development Network and were presented in Galway this week.
Bernie said she was over the moon to have won the award. “I believe I’m the first woman to win it outright and I hope I won’t be the last. To win this for my work in rural Ireland is extra special because I’ve been involved in rural development for years.
She said with the recession there is now a waiting list of families to take students as they see it as a way of bringing in additional money. The host family get paid for each week they have the students. The schools the students attend benefit from the capitalisation grant from the Government. Bernie has focused on Eastern European countries, Slovakia in particular. She sees potential in the US and Asia.
Now in their fifth year, the awards have been responsible for supporting and developing excellent business concepts from farmers and rural entrepreneurs.
Organised by Teagasc, the Irish Local Development Network (ILDN) DARD, (Northern Ireland Department of Agriculture and Rural Development), the Irish Farmers Journal and sponsored by JFC Manufacturing in Galway, the overall prize fund for the competition is valued in excess of €40,000. This includes cash prizes totalling €12,000, provided by JFC Manufacturing, advertising in the Irish Farmers’ Journal valued at €16,000, and mentoring and business support from Teagasc, ILDN and DARD worth €16,000.