Berlin, Germany, 31 July 2015 Guide-A-Key, a team of student entrepreneurs from Desmond College, Limerick won the MetLife LifeChanger Award, sponsored by the MetLife Foundation, at the Junior Achievement Europe 26th annual Company of the Year Competition (COYC).
The Guide-A-Key team, comprising Emma Herbert, Seamus Hurley, Eoin Considine, Eamonn Browne & Diarmuid Curtin impressed the MetLife LifeChanger Award jury. Their combination of a passionate focus on social issues and determined commitment to sustaining a viable business through strong financial performance proved to be a winning formula. Guide-A-Key designed and manufactured a device, which helps people with limited dexterity to insert a key into a lock. The device is affixed to the area around the keyhole, allowing the user to simply slide their key into the top part of the device, which then guides the key into the lock.
Presenting the award, April Hawkins, Assistant Vice President, MetLife Foundation, said: “The MetLife LifeChanger Award recognises the student company that best embraces social impact, financial performance and innovation. Guide-A-Key delivered a viable business plan for today’s challenging markets, while demonstrating benefit to their local community, ability to be profitable and competitive, as well as innovation in their field. We are proud to play a role in supporting young people to get ahead in life. Through the MetLife LifeChanger initiative, MetLife Foundation and MetLife volunteers are helping thousands of students in building critical financial, work readiness and entrepreneurship skills.”
“It is great to have received the MetLife Life Changer Award, but the most important part is having been able to develop a simple device that can make a positive change in people’s lives. The JA Company Programme has been an amazing experience from start to finish, and we’ve been able to learn so many new skills along the way” reflected Diarmuid Curtin Guide-A-Key team member after receiving their award.
Over 350 COYC participants gathered in Berlin, Germany, between 28-31 July to compete with the best student entrepreneurs from across Europe. 37 teams representing 36 countries participated.
The JA Company Programme is complementary to the senior cycle curriculum and enables students to learn how to run a company from scratch - creating and marketing real products and services while being mentored by volunteers from the business community. Partnerships between education and business are essential to closing the gap between classroom theory and real-world challenges. Last year (2014/15), more than 275,000 students across Europe participated in JACompany Programme.
“It is critical that business and education come together to help young people learn about entrepreneurship and the skills required for success,” said Helen Raftery, CEO JA Ireland. She continued: “It is through the support of partners like MetLife Foundation that we are able to connect our students with business mentors who in turn share their insights and expertise, linking the classroom and ‘real-world’. The team were a credit to themselves, their school and their families. We’re delighted for them and everyone involved in the mid-west region. That's three European awards in four years for student entrepreneurs from Limerick - a remarkable achievement.”
The company’s Managing Director, Emma Herbert was quick to pay tribute to their teacher Donal Enright “He’s been brilliant – every time we ran into a challenge he encouraged us to come up with alternative solutions – we are as thrilled for him as we are for ourselves!”
Having won the national title in May, team members broke off their summer holidays to work with mentors in DELL Limerick to update their company documents, refresh their marketing collateral and to prepare a new presentation for the European audience. Eamonn, Seamus & Eoin joined Emma & Diarmuid in thanking everyone at home, Mark & his colleagues from DELL and the staff in JA Ireland, especially Joanne McGuiness & Teresa Leahy for all their help in getting to the European Final. “We’re so grateful to everyone who helped us – it’s been a fantastic ‘life-changing’ experience” they agreed.
As part of their regional LifeChanger initiative, MetLife and MetLife Foundation partnered with JA in 20 countries, engaging 650 MetLife volunteers who equipped more than 12,000 school students in underserved communities with important entrepreneurship and financial skills.
Michel Khalaf, President, Europe, Middle East & Africa at MetLife and a director of MetLife Foundation, said: “MetLife has a global focus on building financial inclusion. Encouraging and supporting entrepreneurship from an early age helps young people develop critical skills that will assist them in launching businesses or building careers. The MetLife LifeChanger Award recognises the most innovative and creative business ideas that aim to be both profitable and have a positive social impact on communities.”
The JA Europe Company Programme has worked to equip over 3.5 million students across Europe with the right skills to launch a business or become gainfully employed. Research has shown that alumni of the Company Programme are more likely to start their own business and have a higher average income than their counterparts.
Together, JA and MetLife Foundation aim to empower the next generation of change-makers, innovators and business leaders through the development of key competences in entrepreneurship.