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Innovation in Action in UCC: Annie Madden, FenuHealth

24 Jan 2024

As part of our Innovation in Action in UCC series, we have been speaking to the Quercus Innovation and Entrepreneurship scholars about their experience of entrepreneurship as a third level student and the supports available for budding entrepreneurs in UCC. The Quercus Talented Students’ Programme supports and promotes excellence in academia, sport, creative and performing arts, active citizenship, and innovation/entrepreneurship. Quercus awards up to three scholarships each year to students registered on an undergraduate/level 8 programme, who demonstrate an exceptional level of excellence in the innovation and/or entrepreneurial space.

Hailing from County Meath, Annie Madden is a final year Law & Business student, and a Quercus Innovation/Entrepreneurship scholar. Annie’s entrepreneurial journey began when she was only 13 years of age, when she and her older sister Kate entered the BT Young Scientist competition. Coming from a family of equine enthusiasts, Annie and Kate decided to centre their project around horses. After talking to a number of industry professionals, they identified that horses refusing their feed was a wide-spread problem in the industry, and came up with a solution to solve it.

“We thought of an idea to add flavours to the horses’ feed to encourage them to eat it. Think of what you might put into your iced coffee – caramel, vanilla – we researched and trialled a number of different flavours. The horses were most receptive to our use of fenugreek and so we began producing fenugreek-flavoured horse feed for our project.”

The following year, Annie and Kate entered the BT Young Scientist competition once more, building on the research they had done on horse feed the previous year. Their project focused more this time on equine stomach ulcers and resulting issues, and a natural remedy to treat these problems. Using a mix of herbs and spices (including fenugreek from the previous year’s project research), the sibling duo established FenuHealth – a horse food supplement – and were prizewinners in the Biological and Ecological category of the BT Young Scientist competition.

Following their win, FenuHealth received support from Meath County Council, Horse Racing Ireland, Enterprise Ireland, Local Enterprise Offices of Dublin & Meath and BT which allowed FenuHealth attend Equitana, the world’s biggest equestrian trade fair, in Germany. It was here that the team secured their first order.

“Talking to professionals and equine enthusiasts at Equitana, they said that our product was a good idea. We got our first order, and made a decision to properly run with FenuHealth as a company. Since then, we have grown the company to having nine products on the market, and a team of eleven supporting this growth. It’s been great!”

As well as seeing her company go from strength to strength, Annie enjoys many facets of the entrepreneurial lifestyle including meeting a variety of people from different backgrounds and having the opportunity to see the world through her business. She also enjoys partnering up with her sister on the endeavour, explaining “if you can be honest with anyone, it’s your sister.”

Being a Quercus Innovation/Entrepreneurship scholar has given Annie access to academic mentors, as well as the flexibility to balance her studies and business. As part of a partnership established between Quercus and IGNITE, Annie has also been able to access the support of IGNITE workshops, seminars, guest speakers and mentors – an opportunity which she says enables her to soundboard ideas and obtain honest and genuine feedback on her business ideas.

When asked what advice she would give to aspiring entrepreneurs, Annie highlighted the importance of asking for advice and help and how it got FenuHealth to where the company is today.

“99% of the time people want to help you when you’re starting out. We would be nowhere near where we are now without mentorship and advice we got. Listen to people who have entrepreneurial experience – they are the experts.”

“It’s also so important to choose an idea that you are genuinely interested in. For us, that was horses. It has to be something that you want to put your time and effort into. Try and enjoy the process.”

The closing date for the Quercus Scholarship is Wednesday, 7 February 2024 at 4.30pm. This undergraduate scholarship can be worth up to €11,000 per year. Strands open for application are: Active Citizenship, Creative & Performing Arts, Innovation/Entrepreneurship and Sports. Further information on the Quercus Scholarship and access to the online application portal can be found here.

Annie and the other Quercus Innovation and Entrepreneurship scholars are one of many examples of innovative activity taking place throughout the UCC Campus. If you are engaging in innovative activity in UCC, or know of a colleague/student who is adding to the entrepreneurial and innovation space on campus, we would love to hear from you! Please email to get in touch and to be featured in our Innovation in Action series.

UCC Innovation

Aistriú Nualaíocht

Room 2.44, Western Gateway Building, Western Road, Cork, Ireland, T12 XF62