Belfast Telegraph

Five pitch finalists revealed today ahead of prestigious competition

From a safety device embedded in jewellery to health drinks with mushroom extracts, there's no shortage of variety among those shortlisted by Ulster Bank

Staff from Stand
Staff from Stand
Harry Eves
Stephen Beck
Paudie Fearon
Tricia McNeilly

Belfast Telegraph Business Awards in partnership with Ulster Bank today announces the finalists who'll take part in an exciting pitching session at the awards on May 2.

And the quality of entries means that five instead of four entrepreneurs will present live on stage for one minute only on why they should win a £4,000 cash prize and a full place on Ulster Bank's renowned Accelerator programme.

Over 30 businesses applied via video, with John Ferris, the bank's entrepreneur development manager, leading a panel to select the finalists. The lucky five will attend the Business Awards gala evening at the Crowne Plaza, Belfast, with guests voting for the ultimate winner during the high-profile black-tie event.

Mr Ferris said: "We had an impressive number of submissions and it was a challenging task for the Accelerator Hub team to pare down the entries. We had originally envisaged four finalists, but the quality was so good that we upped it to five entrepreneurs who will each vie for the top prize on May 2."

The five entrepreneurs and their businesses are:

1: Harry Eves and RotaPal.

2: Stephen Beck from Zero Waste Biotech.

3: Wibble's Paudie Fearon.

4: Tricia McNeilly of Ötzibrew.

5: Jessica Wilson from Stand.

  • Health food company Ötzibrew produces hot drink alternatives to coffee which help lift the 'brain fog', sustain energy and protect from the stress of everyday life.

Ötzibrew founder Tricia McNeilly had previously built up and sold CocoMojo, an international coconut drinks firm. With a life-long interest and passion for food and nutrition, she was looking for a new entrepreneurial challenge and set off on a mission to find a healthy alternative to coffee.

Tricia founded Ötzibrew in 2017. It makes mushroom-based health products which are said to work with the body's own systems to help consumers improve, maximise and optimise their health.

Key products are Ötzibrew Chaga, hand-harvested from wild forests in Siberia; Ötzibrew Pure Chaga Coffee Blend, which can be used in a cafetière, and newest product Ötzibrew Lion's Mane. The latter is produced from the fruiting body of the Lion's Mane mushroom. The product can be added to hot or cold drinks, used in cooking or sprinkled over food.

  • Business Management Masters graduate Harry Eves heads up RotaPal, the cloud-based rota management company for healthcare clinicians and professionals. RotaPal was designed and built with two doctors to enable medical personnel to manage rotas in real-time.

The tech start-up aims to revolutionise how doctors manage rotas and displaces the use of excel sheets, word documents and email threads. The platform meets and solves fundamental frontline issues experienced by clinicians and hospitals by reducing processing time, increasing flexibility and facilitating better communications.

  • Stand was formed in October 2018 by three Queen's University mechanical engineering graduates and a product design expert. It's currently in the process of developing its debut product Bold, a safety alert system discreetly integrated into women's jewellery.

The assault alert system is built into custom designed jewellery that can be worn on a person's wrist or around their neck. Bold provides connectivity to women who may find themselves in vulnerable situations.

Aimed at the rapidly growing wearable technology industry dominated by Fitbit and Apple, Bold by Stand aims to blend fashion and function seamlessly to compete successfully in the emerging smart jewellery industry. It was co-founded by Ben Lindsay, Emma McQuiggan, George Morris and Jessica Wilson.

  • 'Wibblers' is how Paudie Fearon refers to himself and his colleagues.

Paudie started Wibble back in 2013 after he returned home to get married and put down roots after several years living and working in Australia, New Zealand and the USA.

Following a first-class honours degree in Multimedia Design at Ulster University, Paudie worked as a web developer for several international companies including General Electric, Kelman Global and the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

Wibble started off as Paudie's freelance pseudonym. In 2013 he made the brave decision to strike out on his own, though with no investment or financial loan and working from a box room in his rented home and using a borrowed laptop.

The business began as a one -stop shop with Paudie being a jack-of all trades and providing clients with printing, logo design, branding, signage and websites.

Three years ago Paudie decided to specialise on the company's strongest offering and now Wibble bills itself as a web design company which specialises in high end WordPress design, build and support.

Over the past 18 months the business has developed the 'Wibble Rescue Package' a suite of fully managed WordPress services. Wibble looks after their client's websites so that the businesses can focus on their own needs and development.

Paudie attributes the mentoring and support he received from Ulster Bank's Accelerator programme as key to helping Wibble grow and develop.

Wibble has grown from a one man band to a team of four with plans to expand the team further and enter new markets abroad.

  • Business developer and entrepreneur Stephen Beck set up Zero Waste Biotech with Anna Hopwood and Clive Taylor after in-depth research for a new business idea.

Stephen has an interest in climate change and wanted to do something about it.

Methane gas is 10 times more damaging as a pollutant than carbon dioxide and an increasing amount of countries are implementing legislation to reduce the amount of food being sent to landfill in a bid to reduce methane emissions.

Stephen and his team have developed technology that converts food waste into clean renewable biomass fuel within 24 hours. The Aero-D machine is a small compact piece of equipment that can sit in a restaurant's kitchen and staff can open it up and tip the food in.

Using the machine is more cost effective than storing food waste and having it taken away.

The Zero Waste Biotech team have been working for a number of years to develop the concept and are now at the stage where they are putting in place trials to prove the functionality of the units.

Zero Waste Biotech aims to target the export market and long-term Stephen would like to see the technology sitting in people's kitchens next to utilities such as washing machines and dishwashers.

To find out about the work of Ulster Bank's Accelerator Programme or to apply for future intakes check out www.ulsterbank.co.uk/accelerator.

  • The Belfast Telegraph Business Awards in partnership with Ulster Bank takes place on May 2 at the Crowne Plaza Hotel