Author Archives: Victoria O'Connor

Unpacking the Ethics of Sustainable Food Shopping – Ireland’s ’30 under 30′, Laura Brennan and Lara Páirceir discuss their business ‘EthiCart’

 “Green”, “eco-friendly,” “sustainable,”   “climate neutral”, “ethical” – sound familiar? These terms are just some examples of words that have inundated product packaging to appeal to eco-conscious consumers. Yet, the shift towards a more environmentally educated and knowledgeable consumer base does not always translate into the purchase of sustainable products. In reality, eco-labels can result in the provision of confusing, misleading and contradictory information to consumers. 

 EthiCart, an app developed by Trinity Computer Science and Business alumnus Laura Brennan and current Trinity Sociology and Social Policy Student, Lara Páircéir, bridges the gap between the sustainable and ethical food standards demanded by the majority of millennials and what brands are delivering. A desire to “help the everyday person who cares about climate change but does not know where to start” motivated the entrepreneurs to create EthiCart. With a simple scan of a product’s barcode, users can quickly avail of easy to understand information regarding a food product’s sustainability and ethical standards. The main goal of EthiCart is to remove confusion around the myriad of certifications and terminology used on packaging by explaining them clearly. This enables EthiCart users to not only become more sustainability-conscious but it also affords them with a large degree of purchasing power. 

The Product Development Process

The product development process is essential for an idea to transition into a viable product. What did the journey look like for the entrepreneurs? Laura and Lara describe Tangent, Trinity’s Ideas Workplace,  as a “crucial base” that allowed EthiCart to springboard into the market. After receiving € 10, 000 in funding to work on their idea the entrepreneurs could successfully begin their business endeavours. Lara describes how “Tangent is very well-connected within Ireland” to point student entrepreneurs in the direction of mentors and resources that match their needs. The entrepreneurs also took part in the “Women Who Wow” programme which connected them with female industry professionals. 

The first steps in the product development process involved a “tonne of market research to understand the problem” they were trying to solve and who they were trying to solve it for. Laura mentions how she and Lara “surveyed hundreds of people”, spending a considerable amount of time “researching sustainable food”. To better understand the challenges faced by their target market, Laura and Lara attended the same events as socially conscious consumers.

The entrepreneurs then built a minimum viable product with the Computer Science School in Trinity which ended in the launch of a pilot version of the App within Trinity College in 2020. This involved Laura and Lara collaborating with the Trinity Communications team to develop a go-to-market strategy and the launching of a college-wide campaign giving students the power to vote for sustainable products to be stocked on campus. Laura described the launch as a “key learning moment”, and the team will be launching the latest version of EthiCart in 2022, incorporating the feedback from the first version. 


Entrepreneurship for sustainability isn’t just a buzzword, Laura describes it as “a business that thinks beyond just profits and helps the planet. It involves innovating and creating new methods to battle climate change. Most importantly, at an intrinsic level, it is about building a positive impact on how a business makes money, not just having sustainability as an add-on”. Since first developing EthiCart, the entrepreneur’s priorities shifted with the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic. For Laura, change has been a natural part of the process since “graduating and moving country”. When her business partner moved to the USA, the challenge of being in different time zones and countries required the entrepreneurs to reassess how they could develop EthiCart. The entrepreneurs continue to develop their idea with the support of students from the Enactus Society which helps them to manage their workload alongside the rest of their responsibilities. 

Similarly to many entrepreneurs around the Globe, the entrepreneurs felt the disruptive effect of the pandemic on their business. Laura describes how the pandemic “impacted a funding opportunity” that her team was relying on to kick-start the app’s initial development. However, the entrepreneurs were determined not to let this setback from launching EthiCart on time for the return to college, and went on to secure funding from UPS, Trinity’s Sustainability partner, who were “massively supportive throughout the entire process”.


The entrepreneurs have enjoyed the challenge of starting their enterprise, For Laura, the most exciting part of owning a business was getting to “see something go from just an idea in your head to something that actually positively impacts people”. Laura and Lara enjoy the feeling of receiving positive feedback from consumers that credit EthiCart with helping them “take a step towards a more sustainable lifestyle”. Laura also mentions how EthiCart has provided her with the opportunity to meet “many passionate, driven and creative individuals”, which has given her a chance to support others “who are starting on the same journey” that the entrepreneurs went through. 


Laura and Lara agree that the biggest challenge of entrepreneurship is “getting comfortable with the fact that there will always be problems to fix”.  The nature of this challenge is constantly fluctuating, “whether one month it’s funding, or the next its product data”, Laura considers it essential to “adapt and accept the challenges because nobody else is going to fix the problems for you”. Lara also mentions that life as an entrepreneur for sustainability requires a balancing act. Sustainability is not always a clear cut idea, while “working with different stakeholders is a very rewarding aspect of the business” it is also challenging to make sure they have “the best solution for people on the market”.


After recently being recognised as two of “Ireland’s 30 under 30: The Best and Brightest of Ireland’s Rising Business Starts”, Laura and Lara share some advice for students seeking a career as entrepreneurs. Laura’s advice is to “throw yourself into it, what do you have to lose?” Organisation and time management are key to avoiding burnout. She also recommends reaching out to a mentor who does “something similar to what you want to do”. Pivotal to “making the experience a thousand times more enjoyable” is “choosing the right partner who complements your skillset and who you can work well with”. 

As a recent graduate, Laura can empathise with students who may feel “unsure” about their next career steps. She recommends embracing the “unknown, learn as much as you can and don’t put too much pressure on yourself to have it all figured out”.  For any student seeking to learn from a range of inspiring entrepreneurs, Laura recommends tuning into Gary Fox’s podcast ‘The Entrepreneur Experiment’ or picking up a copy of Phil Knight’s ‘Shoe Dog’‘The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck’ by Mark Manson, and ‘The Lean Startup’ by Eric Ries. Lara opines that “surrounding yourself with existing entrepreneurs whether student or not is a great way” to get your business started. She advises student entrepreneurs to “join the Trinity Entrepreneurial Society to learn more about what others are doing and how they have gone about it”.  

The Sweet Success Story of The Rolling Donut

The glaze of The Rolling Donut’s glory is attributable to the power of a strong brand narrative and the consistent delivery of a memorable donut experience to consumers. In 1978, Lisa Quinlan’s father, Michael, spotted a gap in the Irish donut market. He began his venture by travelling to “festivals, concerts and garden shows” selling hot-pressed ring donuts. The iconic ‘Rolling Donut’ kiosk on O’Connell Street soon followed. Over forty years later, Lisa has six additional stores across the country. Although business is booming, the CEO does not sugar-coat the path to success.

The entrepreneur describes the period between 2014 and 2017 as “Dublin’s donut wars”. The “highly photogenic qualities of donuts” combined with social media platforms such as Instagram & Twitter, contributed to Ireland’s donut trend leading to steep competition in the industry. The Rolling Donut’s competitive edge lies in Lisa’s drive to bring creative flavours and unique designs to the market. By investing in quality ingredients and innovative talent, Lisa has differentiated her brand in a crowded and competitive marketplace. When launching new ranges like vegan and sourdough donuts, The Rolling Donut showcases the family’s early roots in the donut industry. As it has since its origins, all donuts are made from scratch everyday using high quality ingredients. Fresh lemons are essential for The Rolling Donut lemon curd product while the chocolate ganache and caramel toppings and fillings are also made in-store. Although using fresh ingredients can “be challenging for the sheer quantity of donuts,” it is a unique selling point that resonates with the loyal customer base.

Lisa mentions how “the business is feeling the on-going effects of the Covid-19 pandemic” such as staffing shortages. However, the entrepreneur has managed to seek out opportunity by focusing on building an online presence as well as catering to delivery and collection options. This has been highly successful and the company has seen online orders “double since the pandemic”. Lisa has had to pivot and remain adaptable with the business model as the industry grows and the target market matures. This has encouraged The Rolling Donut to innovate and streamline new products, such as “DIY Donut Boxes”. Creating diverse themes varying from the DIY Unicorn Magic Box to the DIY Choco Caramel Box has strengthened the growth of a diversified range of target markets “from children to corporate clients”.

Describing the expansion of The Rolling Donut as the “hardest thing” she has ever done, Lisa advises young entrepreneurs “not to give up”. The most important lessons she has learned as an entrepreneur is to “always use a business plan and spend money where it counts in areas such as equipment”. Lisa advises young entrepreneurs to “not sweat the small stuff” as “things often have a natural way of working out”. Following the launch of Very Berry, a new business specialising in chocolate strawberries, Lisa remains motivated by her entrepreneurial passion to grow her enterprise, innovate products and, no doubt, the sweet taste of success.

Re-Envisioning The Beautiful Game

David Deneher, Omar Salem and Tim Farrelly co-founded ‘Field of Vision’, an innovative tech start-up with a powerful social impact agenda that is transforming the match experience for visually impaired and blind soccer fans. Computer Science and Business student at Trinity College and Chief Operations Officer at Field of Vision, David Deneher, discusses the technology behind the cutting-edge device as well as his philosophy for a successful start-up. 

Haptic Technology

As most football fans will agree, there is no better place to experience a game than at the stadium. From a goal scored in overtime to a nail-biting penalty shot, being right at the pulse of the action is incommensurate to following in-stadium commentary. With approximately 55,000 people in Ireland blind or visually impaired, Field of Vision spotted a niche need in the market for a device that could enable visually impaired football fans to be fully immersed into the match experience, leaving the technique of “tracing” a thing of the past.

How is Field of Vision leveraging artificial intelligence to redefine accessibility and inclusivity in sports? Cameras, computer vision technology and specialised algorithms connect to Field of Vision’s tablet-sized device to enable the user to feel the game in real time; from “the swerve of a kick to the power of a tackle”, Field of Vision is offering a more inclusive matchday experience than ever before.

Despite the challenges caused by the pandemic, the speed at which Field of Vision developed its product underscores the digital acceleration that is presently taking place. Advances in technology, many centred on AI, marks the beginning of a “new era of connectivity for assistive technologies and the businesses behind them”. The effect will be “highly impactful” for improving accessibility for persons with impairments. As a “pandemic tech start-up,” Field of Vision’s “entire journey as a company” has been unique.  For David and his co-founders the flexibility of online college offered opportunities to innovate and find their way to the forefront of their industry. Currently the business is planning to expand their technology into sports such as GAA and rugby.


According to David, critical to the success of a tech start-up is harnessing the power of mentorship programmes available to young entrepreneurs. Applying for “anything and everything” has had “positive surprises” for Field of Vision. David’s philosophy is that the “worst that can happen is a no”. Diving straight into the deep end took the team to Qatar Sports Tech, an accelerator program in Doha, UAE. Having recently partnered with Bohemians Football Club and winning first place at the Enterprise Ireland Student Entrepreneur Awards 2021, Field of Vision’s appetite to grow shows no signs of abating.

“Hungry for a Kinder World” – Interview with FoodCloud

FoodCloud’s Marketing and Brand Executive, Jessica Greene, discusses the Irish social enterprise that uses innovation to protect the planet and feed the hungry

Did you know that food waste is one of the largest contributors to global climate change?A recent Report by the Food Waste Index identified that approximately 931 million tonnes of food waste was generated globally in 2019 – 61% of which came from households, 26% from food service and 13% from retail. The ugly truth is that our habits as consumers are contributing to a heavy carbon foot print that is detrimental to the environment around us. When food starts to rot in landfills, it releases methane into the atmosphere – a greenhouse gas that is approximately 28 more times powerful than carbon dioxide at warming the earth. This is where the social enterprise ‘FoodCloud’ provides two innovative solutions to redistribute surplus food and reduce the environmental, social and economic impact of food waste. Firstly, FoodCloud’s technology driven solution connects retailers directly with local charities to donate food on a daily basis. Secondly, their warehouse hub solution rescues large volumes of surplus food from manufacturers producers, growers and redistributes it to community groups across Ireland. 

FoodCloud’s Story

FoodCloud was co-founded by Trinity College Dublin alumni Iseult Ward and Aoibheann O’Brien in 2012 as a solution to reduce food waste and increase social inclusion. With over “700 partner charities in Ireland,” FoodCloud provides their service to their network of community group partners ranging from “creches to cancer care facilities to after school youth programmes and addiction centres”. The nature of surplus food is that “the team does not know what products are coming in”. This required the business to be adaptable and agile from its early roots.

Global Vision

Driving social entrepreneurship requires innovation, collaboration and ambition – tactics FoodCloud operationalises regularly to tackle food waste on a global level. FoodCloud’s unique technology platform can complement and enhance the operation of food banks internationally and is used by nearly 3,000 donating supermarkets across Ireland, the UK, Australia and Central Europe. It is clear that FoodCloud’s drive to eradicate food waste is truly global from their commitment to supporting the global achievement of Sustainable Development Goal 12.3 which relates to measuring global food loss and waste and Sustainable Development Goal 2 , the “Zero Hunger” ambition.

Locally, FoodCloud are finding innovative ways to tackle the issue of food waste. For instance, FoodCloud’s gleaning initiative has re-invigorated the “ancient practice of collecting food left over from farmers’ fields and orchards to re-distribute to their network of charity and community group partners”. This practice led to FoodCloud’s first surplus product, FoodCloud Cloudy Apple Juice. Jessica points out that the team is constantly “motivated and excited about exploring possibilities to reduce the environmental impact of food waste”. This initiative demonstrates how social entrepreneurs can use creativity to create a sustainable commercial product.

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, “the demand for FoodCloud’s services has more than doubled compared to last year”. For Jessica’s team, the crisis “highlighted that food insecurity can happen to anyone”. To support the challenges faced by vulnerable households during the pandemic, FoodCloud increased their food redistribution from an average of 30 tonnes per week to 60 tonnes per week. Food Cloud continues to work closely with the Irish food industry and retailers to ensure surplus food gets to those who need it, working towards their vision of a world where no food goes to waste.


Interested in contributing to a world where no food goes to waste? FoodCloud offers volunteering opportunities across its three hubs as well as gleaning programmes. You can check them out here. Food for thought .

From Graduation to Innovation – Interview with Trinity Start-Up Covid Interns

Trinity Global Business graduates Rob Muldowney and Paddy Ryder experienced the all too familiar story of having their graduation plans unexpectedly dismantled by the COVID-19 pandemic last year. Except, their story stands out – Rob and Paddy adapted and identified an opportunity to use global chaos to launch a successful business  – Covid Interns. With support from Trinity Business school the entrepreneurs hit the ground running. Here Rob tells us how.

What does Covid Interns do? “It offers an array of opportunities for third-level students to work with SMEs.” Rob and Paddy are uniquely positioned to understand the flexible employment needs of students. Their business offers three types of placements – “projects, part time roles and full time roles”. Rob provides the example of a student working part time in the hospitality business. Covid Interns can connect their third-level skills and learning to the admin side of the industry, for instance to run a social media platform. This provides the foundations to gain practical experience in their chosen field and helps build the CV. Covid Interns is epitomising the redefinition of business purpose captured by leading Oxford University Professor Colin Mayer at the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting, in terms of businesses now producing profitable solutions to the problems of people rather than profiting from the problems they create. To date, Covid interns has supported in excess of 180 businesses and placed over 200 candidates with experience from New York to Singapore from more than 40 leading universities including the University of Cambridge, Science Po and Imperial College London to name but a few.

With “first-hand knowledge of the anxiety and stress students face when sourcing internship opportunities”, their idea hatched from “the beast of a strategic management module assignment.” Rob and Paddy agreed that the pandemic was ripe with opportunity for innovation as the “SME market was hugely overlooked and underserved”. The outcome would provide a win-win scenario for students and SMEs as an industry that was one of the hardest hit by the pandemic. While students bring fresh skills and talent to the table, SMEs provide practical experience and bespoke learning opportunities.

Envisioning the future of Covid Interns in a post pandemic world, Rob affirms that their business is here to say, albeit with the baptism of a new business name on the horizon. There “will always be a market for flexible opportunities” and gusto from students for seizing them.  Next, I asked Rob how can a student apply to Covid Interns.  It is as easy as going directly onto their website and completing the student friendly application form. You can also stay up to date with Covid Interns via their active social media domains – Instagram, LinkedIn and Facebook. With four strategic additions to the team Covid Interns is constantly growing, and with links to global platforms such as the Irish International Business Network it is only going to grow faster.

Entrepreneurship comes with a host of challenges, especially in a global pandemic. Rob identifies the biggest challenge facing students as “trying to start a business from the four walls of your  bedroom.” In absence of the possibility of “face to face interactions it can difficult to build relationships and collegiality with business teams.” Rob suggests three key strategic moves students pursuing an entrepreneurial position during the pandemic can make. Start with “identifying products and services that can stand the test of time”. The benefit of launching a start-up in a pandemic is that you can clearly spot gaps in the consumer market and successfully fill them. Next, Rob maintains that “ a feel good story” can act as a springboard to capture positive press and people’s imaginations, simultaneously helping to grow a loyal consumer base.  Lastly “although Covid can mess up plans” as the saying goes every cloud…

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