Six NI finalists are shortlisted for the EY Entrepreneur of the Year Awards, which take place in Dublin on Thursday, October 26. Margaret Canning looks at the final three hoping to follow in the footsteps of 2016 winner, NI man Brendan Mooney of Kainos.
The founder and managing director of Simplyfruit (Ire) Ltd says he was "driven towards entrepreneurship from an early age". Patrick McCann left education at 17 but returned to Queen's University, Belfast at 26 where he won a prize for most noteworthy student, after overcoming life-threatening injuries in a car accident in his final year.
Simplyfruit can trace its origins back to a small rented shed, processing apples from neighbourhood orchards in Co Armagh. The company says its growth has been fuelled by competitive market conditions and developing new products to meet the challenges of rising obesity.
It's now the largest manufacturer of fresh cut fruit products in Ireland, with sales of over £10m and employing over 100 people.
Patrick is heavily involved in sport, most notably horse racing, and has developed a successful equine business, training and breeding racehorses.
As founder and chief executive of IT firm Novosco, Patrick McAliskey has led the Belfast firm's expansion over 20 years.
He has delivered significant organic growth, in addition to strategic acquisitions. He plays an active role in the commercial, leadership, PR and talent management areas of the business in the UK and Ireland. He is also a shareholder and non-executive director of fast-growing companies Around Noon and Ampliphae.
An electronics technician by background, he spent a period working for the RAF before returning to Northern Ireland to found Novosco. The company is now a managed cloud provider with clients across the UK and Ireland, including two Premier League football teams, some of the largest health trusts in the UK, major universities on the island of Ireland, and some of the most important private sector businesses in the UK and Ireland. It employs around 150 people and has annual sales of around £23m.
As founder and chairman of The Mount Charles Group, Trevor Annon has led its growth into Ireland's largest homegrown food service and outsourcing firm.
Trevor founded the business in 1988 after working for two major multi-national catering companies. He recognised a gap in the market for a competitor in the home market. While starting out as a catering company, it's now a multi-service provider, offering catering, cleaning, security, facilities management, events and beverage services and vending to clients from a range of industry sectors.
After 25 years in the business, Trevor became chairman of the company four years ago.
In 2012, the company decided to branch out into the Republic of Ireland, and now says it has "multiple contracts in north Co Dublin and Co Donegal".
The group currently employs 2,100 people and has annual sales of over £32m.