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Don't put a ceiling on the mind and we can accomplish anything

By Margaret Canning

The majority of business people hide their light under a bushel. But the EY Entrepreneur of the Year programme, which is launched today, is all about turning the tendency towards self-abasement on its head.

It's a tendency which is particularly prevalent in Ireland, north and south.

Mark Roden of mobile phone top-up firm Ding, who won the all-Ireland title in 2014, explained that he initially didn't want to apply because it seemed too "self-congratulatory".

And Eleanor McEvoy of Derry-based electricity provider Budget Energy said she simply couldn't see the point in applying because there wasn't the time.

But both Ms McEvoy and fellow former Northern Ireland finalist Ian Wilson said they had both learned valuable lessons about business from the other entrepreneurs they met through the programme.

At an advance-launch event yesterday, both talked about the growth process for their business. Ms McEvoy had already demonstrated her business muscle with another mobile phone top-up business Phonecard Warehouse, which she exited in 2006 when it had turnover of £50m. She was left wondering what to do with the money and decided that, rather than entrust it to "bankers and investment people", she would trust her own nous.

She thought tentatively about entering the energy market, and had once asked Aidan Heavey, the founder and chief executive of Tullow Oil, how a Co Carlow man had found himself running an oil business.

He explained that there was no reason why a Carlow man couldn't - prompting a realisation for McEvoy that there should be "no ceiling" in her mind about what was possible.

The rest of us who are ploughing away in business at whatever level may find it impossible to envisage ourselves as serial entrepreneurs, or the owners of successful businesses on a par with Wilsons Auctions.

But the idea of not imposing a ceiling to the mind, and keeping our boundaries open, is an important one.

Some of the other former Northern Ireland EY Entrepreneur of the Year finalists, such as Martin Hamilton of Mash Direct, are examples of just how far something as prosaic as mashed potato can take you in the world.

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