Recently at an awards ceremony held in the Kilmore Hotel Cavan, twenty one new business start-up companies with a difference anxiously awaited to hear John Perry, then Junior Minister for Small Business, announce the winners of the first ever Back to Work Enterprise Allowance (BTWEA) Regional Enterprise Awards. The function was co-ordinated by the seven border company members of the Irish Local Development Network (ILDN). The twenty one companies are different from other start-ups in that the business owners were unemployed and accessed their self-employment supports from local development companies to help them set up their own business. Over 200 people attended the awards from counties Sligo, Leitrim, Donegal, Cavan, Monaghan and Louth. John Paul & Kevin Boyle of uPilot from the Donegal Gaeltacht manufacture and install flight simulators were announced as the overall winners.
This was an inaugural awards scheme under the ILDN and was sponsored by Microfinance Ireland. The winners received their awards from Norma Smurfit, a Board Member of Microfinance Ireland.
The twenty one nominee companies progressed to the regional awards having been successful in the local awards co-ordinated by Donegal Local Development Company Ltd (DLDC), Inishowen Development Partnership, Sligo Leader Partnership Company, Leitrim Integrated Development Company, Monaghan Integrated Development Company, Breffni Integrated Development and Louth Leader Partnership.
John Paul and Kevin established their business with the assistance of Donegal Local Development Company Ltd. They began their work under the BTWEA Scheme in February 2013 and have developed a unique innovative business using cutting edge technology. They design, manufacture and operate Flight Simulators. They have recently been awarded a six month contract to operate a flight simulator in Dublin airport. If the trial is a success they will secure a three year contract.
DLDC also contributed €45,759.90 capital funding to the project by way of a grant under the Leader Rural Development Programme towards the overall development of the project. uPilot was supported under the Business Creation and Development Measure of the LEADER Programme which helps new business start-ups as well as established enterprises develop and create innovative and sustainable projects. This element of the project involved the purchase of components and equipment necessary for the assembly of a Flight Simulator equivalent to the Boeing 747 Cockpit. The promoters then built and assembled a full and entirely functioning cockpit on site. The Flight Simulator can be used for many purposes such as pilot training, educational demonstrations for schools, air shows and the corporate market. Frank Kelly DLDC’s LEADER Programme Co-ordinator said that “uPilot Teo has demonstrated that innovation is the key to successful and sustainable business ideas which can be turned into job creation opportunities. The rural areas in Donegal, and the Gealtacht in particular, need more projects like this one and he added that innovation can be the driving force for job creation in rural areas.” To-date, DLDC has provided in excess of €23M to some 725 projects in Donegal under successive Leader Programmes which in turn has enabled a total of investment of over €55M. The spin offs which can be achieved from this investment is very much evident in this type of innovative project.
Dr. Caoimhin Mac Aoidh, CEO of DLDC stated that ‘the integrated nature of the development programmes as delivered by DLDC is critical for efficient supports for small business start-ups. In this case, a highly innovative small business with tremendous growth potential was supported by both the BTWEA and LEADER Programmes. As such, the maximum level of assistance was afforded to the project developers with a minimum amount of administrative requirements.
Speaking on their success at the ILDN Awards, John Paul and Kevin Boyle noted “it was a privilege for uPilot Teo. to represent Donegal at the first ever ILDN Regional Enterprise Award ceremony and to win outright was an enormous honour for our company. We would like to extend our gratitude to the Donegal Local Development Company for all their help and continued support that has enabled us to both start and bring our business forward”.