Over the past three years more than 700 students have participated in the Postgraduate Certificate in Innovation, Entrepreneurship and Enterprise at Innovation Academy UCD.

A significant number of these participants have gone on to establish their own business or social ventures. In a short space of time number of the participants are starting to become employers in their own right, taking on staff members and growing their businesses.

We spoke to three graduates from the course who have all gone on to successfully start their own companies and who are contributing to this ‘multiplier effect.’

We spoke to Jennifer Synnott, from the Dublin Cookie Company, Martin Phelan from Duct Cleaning Ireland and Sean Greif from Moontour.

All had positive and productive experiences on the course and are now employing other people in their business with plans to expand and take on more over the coming months.

Martin Phelan found the course helpful in terms of carefully assessing what his business would actually be.”It’s important to have loads and loads of research done. Use this time, to get out there and really ask lots of questions. People will answer and really help you out. Your research is really vital and will help you to discover whether it’s a runner or not.”

Similarly for Jennifer her time at the Innovation Academy helped her to evaluate which business idea would be the best one to pursue. “At the Innovation Academy, I went in with a different business idea, team building through sport. There were many iterations of the business plan. Finally food felt like something different. I did a lot of research. I looked at the UK, the US, my idea felt on trend, and it felt possible.”

Sean Greif found his time there helpful as he attempted to develop an idea that he had had. “ I enjoyed it. It was a good environment, to try things, make mistakes, know that it was ok to pivot. Whereas in the startup world it can be quite isolated, and you worry about being a failure. Here there is a great supportive atmosphere to try things out”.

The course at the Innovation Academy aims to be practical and experiential in its teaching methods, so that participants learn through experience rather than being told what to do. Martin Phelan describes how it helped him modify his way of doing things. “Overall I found it created a new way of thinking, the exercises we did were really useful”. Similarly for Sean “I had already conceived an idea, before the course, so the course was a really good way to provide a framework to test these ideas, and bounce them off the other participants and the tutors”.

Jenny also found many of the tools and methodologies helpful too. “The Lean startup approach, the Business Model Canvas were all really useful. The tutors were really good too. Someone came in to teach us to about how to get rid of ideas. To do this really quickly, to fail fast, and see it pretty quickly. I realised you must try not to get too emotionally attached to your ideas too!”

All of their companies are now progressing well with significant achievements to date, and clear goals for the future. After two years of trading and sales the Dublin Cookie Company opened their first shop recently with plans for a second one later this year. Moontour recently sold out their first summer workshop, whereas last year they didn’t make their first sale till May. Ductcleaning.ie recently secured two major contracts to service a large number of hotels in a national chain and a national retailer. All of three founders expressed happiness with their progress, at the same time as having a clear idea of where they hoped to be going over the coming year.

We asked them what tips they would have for other people considering doing the course.

Jennifer felt “it structured my approach to the business very much so, and really helped to make it what it is now. I can’t recommend it enough!”
Martin said he had already recommended it to several people who had subsequently enrolled on the Kilkenny branch of the course.
Sean concluded “if you’re thinking of doing the course go for it, even if you don’t go down entrepreneurship route, you’re still a more valuable employee. Creative thinking problem solving, is all good for an employer you may work for, and I value this far more when I come to recruit people now”.