Winner Emma says prize will take her business to a ‘whole new level’

Business Start-Up Challenge

Emma Kirwan, owner of Empire Clothing & Leotards, is celebrating today after being announced as the winner of this year’s £10k Business Start-Up Challenge.

Emma is a Wexford native and former gymnast who is based at the Inner City Trust’s Fashion & Textile Design Centre on Shipquay Street. Her successful business sells a range of leotards and fashionable sportswear with a 90’s streetwear edge – catering for gymnasts, dancers and performers often overlooked by other sports. 

Seven budding entrepreneurs from the Derry City & Strabane District Council area pitched their business ideas yesterday (Thursday 8th March) in the Foyle Theatre of North West Regional College’s Strand Road Campus in front of an audience and panel of judges made up of Martin Gallen (Banba Designs & Strabane Chamber of Commerce), Liam Nelis (Gravity Architecture), Deborah Lamberton (So27 skincare), Christine Graham (Senior Business Manager, Bank of Ireland) and Louise Breslin (Business Development Manager at Derry City & Strabane District Council).

This year’s ‘pitchathon’ was part of Enterprise Week 2019 – and the seven entrepreneurs who made it through to the ‘Dragon’s Den-style’ final all took home a prize ranging from £1,000 to £2,500.

Congratulating this year’s winner, Mayor of Derry City and Strabane District Council, Cllr John Boyle said:

“I would like to warmly congratulate Emma for making it through some very tough questioning from our local ‘dragons’ and coming out on top as the winner of this year’s £10k Business Start-Up Challenge!

“It is also really great to see that Emma’s business has gone from strength to strength following her involvement in Council’s ‘Designer Enterprise Programme’ and last year’s opportunity to showcase her collection at an exclusive exhibitor event in the lead up to London Fashion Week.

“I would also like to pay tribute to all seven finalists for their creative and innovative business ideas – and for clearly demonstrating the ability to create jobs and export their products into new markets to the benefit of our local economy.

“Now in its third year, the £10k Business Start-Up Challenge really is a fantastic competition which is continuing to inspire, encourage and develop a spirit of entrepreneurship and enterprise throughout the council area.”


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