Mayo-based family company Portwest wins national and international gongs, Galway woman Evelyn O’Toole turns disaster into victory and Dubliner Jack Teeling revives an industry lost to the city 125 years ago.
Westport-based Portwest CEO Harry Hughes has been named the EY Entrepreneur of the Year for 2017 at the 20th annual awards in Dublin.
The company, which he runs with his brothers Cathal and Owen, is a global safety provider that designs and manufactures specialist workwear.
‘Each year, the standard and diversity of entrepreneurs gets higher’
– ANNE HERATY
The company was founded in 1904. Between 1979 and 2016, Harry and his brothers grew revenues from €200,000 to €140m.
In addition to being selected the overall winner for EY Entrepreneur of the Year 2017, Hughes was also named EY International Entrepreneur of the Year.
How the west was won
The west of Ireland received another notable boost when Clifden native Evelyn O’Toole, founder of Complete Lab Solutions (CLS) – a leading contract laboratories provider of sampling and analysis for the food, environmental and life sciences industries – was named EY Industry Entrepreneur of the Year.
O’Toole founded the company in 1994 after being made redundant when a lab she worked in had burned down. CLS is growing at a rate of 10pc a year and turnover is expected to reach more than €10m in 2017.
Jack Teeling picked up the award for Emerging EY Entrepreneur of the Year.
The Teeling Whiskey Company was the first new distillery to open in Dublin for more than 125 years and marked the revival of an industry long associated with his family and hometown.
The winners are selected by an independent panel of judges chaired by Anne Heraty of Cpl Resources. The panel includes previous EY Entrepreneur of the Year (overall and category) winners Michael Carey, Mark Roden, Terry Clune, Dr Edmond Harty, Joe Hogan, Jerry Kennelly, Brian Long, Pat McDonagh and Denis O’Brien as well as Joe Healy from Enterprise Ireland and Jeremy Fitch from Invest NI.
“Each year, the standard and diversity of entrepreneurs gets higher and we saw a number of outstanding businesses across all three categories,” Heraty said.
“As the finalists progress through the programme, I along with my colleagues on the judging panel put them through a rigorous judging process. This year, Harry Hughes stood out. He is a visionary leader who has built a world-class business from his roots in Westport, Co Mayo. Harry personifies the entrepreneurial spirit and is a role model for any aspiring entrepreneur. The judges were impressed with Harry’s clear thinking, his perseverance, commitment to his team, community and his humility. In selecting him as the EY Entrepreneur of the Year 2017, we are recognising the excellence and innovation he has brought to the business to help drive it to these heights.”
20 years of recognising entrepreneurial prowess
For more than 20 years now, EY has been running the Entrepreneur of the Year awards in Ireland.
“During that time, we have seen some truly incredible entrepreneurs take part,” said Kevin McLoughlin, partner lead for the awards programme.
“The diversity of participants in terms of industry, gender and location continues to grow and that is something we are delighted to be able to facilitate.
“Harry Hughes, his brothers and the team at Portwest have cultivated a world-beating company from the west of Ireland. We are looking forward to seeing how far Portwest can go as Harry’s plans for the future unfold.
“All our finalists can be proud of their achievements. The standard this year, as in previous years, has been extremely high. On behalf of EY, I would like to congratulate all of our 24 finalists and, in particular, Portwest, CLS and Teeling Whiskey.”