A group of transition year students at Boherbue Comprehensive school in north Cork have seen a product they designed being taken on. Manager of the mini-company, Elisha Daly describes the product.
“Pole pal is designed to make your fencing duties easier. All you have to do is slip the pole into the u-shaped rod and walk along and it will follow you with no hassle. The pole drags along the ground, taking the weight off your shoulder. When you want to retrieve the poles all you have to do is take a step back and the pole will prop up against you so you can easily grab it.”
She came up with the idea while helping her mother when the cows were being strip grazed.
“I used to carry the poles while she would reel up the wire, because she couldn’t do both herself. I thought, ‘there must be some way to make it a one person job’. When we first used the Pole pal, we realised it sped up the process as well.”
There were 12 students involved in the group, but not everyone had farming backgrounds, so the idea and the usefulness of the product had to be explained.
“Those of us from farms understood the idea straight away with just an explanation. For the non-farmers, we brought a reel and pigtail poles into school and there was a before and after demonstration for them.”
Having come up with the idea, the process of designing the product and bringing it to life began and a few prototypes were made before the final design was settled on.
Elisha said: “We came up with the shape pretty quickly, so getting the measurements right was the tricky part. One made of a 6mm bar was too weak to hold a good few poles, so then we went onto an 8mm bar, but the poles would fall out, so we made it as small as possible with thicker steel. It took three attempts to get it right.”
Figuring out the design was a good lesson for the group. Elisha said.
“If something doesn’t go right the first try look at what you have and see how you can do it better,” she added.
Having settled on the design, marketing and sales was the next challenge.
This began by selling the Pole pal at Kanturk mart and the mini-company also had a presence at the machinery show in Millstreet.
Online sales through social media proved to be another outlet.
“The mini-companies in our school enter every year into the Student Enterprise Programme Competition. We thought we had a good product, so our teachers helped us loads to promote the product so we would have a good chance in it.
“We had to submit an eight page report about our company and a two to three minute video. We had to outline our finances, what we did to promote and sell it and market research. That demonstration video can be found on our social media.
I used to carry the poles while she would reel up the wire because she couldn’t do both herself. I thought, ‘there must be some way to make it a one-person job’
“We ended up winning Best Overall Senior Company in north Cork and went on to compete to get a place in the Helix in Dublin. Unfortunately, we didn’t make the top five, but we did get an award for Best Commercial Potential and Intellectual Property.
“We were presented with this award by the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Leo Varadkar,” Elisha said.
Despite the hard work involved, it was an enjoyable experience, according to Elisha.
“It was a very rewarding experience, but there were a few very long and challenging days out selling our product. It exceeded our expectations and we got better with our demonstrations.”
Winning the north Cork final in the Student Enterprise Competition was the highlight.
“It was very early on in time and we didn’t realise the potential our product had. We were expecting a small award for innovation, so when we won best overall company everyone was over the moon and jumping up and down.”
Having begun as a mini-company project, the Pole pal product is for sale in Boherbue Co-Op, Kerry Agri Store in Newmarket, Farm Relief Services and North Cork Co-Op in Kanturk, and Brownes in Castleisland. Irish International Trading Corporation has also bought products from us to sell.
With the school year over, Elisha is ambitious with her future plans.
“We finished up with the project a few weeks ago and I’m taking over the running of it now. My own next steps would be getting it selling right throughout Ireland.”