Posted on Wednesday 6 February 2013 by Ulster Business

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The 2013 Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year programme for the island of Ireland has been launched at the Ulster Hall in Belfast.

The programme aims to support entrepreneurs from across the island of Ireland to grow their businesses by becoming part of a unique and unrivalled community.

Ernst & Young said that despite the continued fragile economic outlook, our best entrepreneurs continue to build scale, compete globally and create significant jobs in Ireland – north and south.

Frank O'Keeffe, Partner-in-charge of the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur Of The Year Programme said: "We want our Irish entrepreneurs to truly test their horizons. Even in these most challenging times, entrepreneurs from Northern Ireland and beyond are constantly looking for opportunities to grow through innovation and technology. Their vision and flexibility to adapt to the changing environment will help drive the recovery, create jobs and boost confidence."

He continued: "Participation in the EOY Programme not only ensures national and international recognition but helps entrepreneurs to unlock business opportunities and enhance their business ambition.

Speaking at the launch, Robert Herron, Partner at Ernst & Young, Northern Ireland said: "One of the best-recognised attributes of the EOY Programme is how we foster and continue to develop the entrepreneurial network, connecting like-minded individuals and helping them to build their businesses, in Ireland and globally. Since joining our EOY Programme, 45 percent of the entrepreneurs in the EOY Community have successfully done business with each other".

To date, 310 of Ireland's best entrepreneurs have taken part in this global recognition programme - one of whom was a finalist in 2011 Entrepreneur Of The Year accolade, Patrick Hurst, Munster Simms Engineering, based in Co, Down

"Being part of the EOY Alumni Community offers a unique opportunity to meet many of Ireland's leading entrepreneurs. Running a business can be lonely so having built long lasting friendships with other CEO's and being able to at any time tap into their knowledge and experience is invaluable. It has, and continues to be, one of the most enjoyable aspects of my business career to date".

Following the announcement of 24 finalists from across the island in early May 2013, those short-listed will travel with a significant number of the alumni community, on a CEO retreat to Chicago and New York for a week of world-class executive education, networking with globally renowned experts and CEOs from some of the world's largest multi-nationals.

In October 2013, the finalists will gather at the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur Of The Year awards that will be broadcast to a worldwide audience via RTE Television and online. The overall winner will represent Ireland at the World Entrepreneur Of The Year Awards which will be held in Monte Carlo next June.

Speaking at the launch, Simon Hamilton MLA, said: "I am confident that this year's Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year programme will include more than its fair share of entrepreneurs from Northern Ireland if the evidence that I see even in firms in my own constituency is anything to go by. The Northern Ireland Executive is clearly committed to growing the size of the economy in Northern Ireland and at the core of that strategy is establishing an environment in which entrepreneurs are encouraged and can flourish".

The closing date for nominations is 31 March 2012.

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