News and Events
Law and Business student wins prestigious Enterprise Ireland Award
We speak to entrepreneur and First Year Law and Business student Nick Cotter about the innovative ‘Cotter Crate’ lamb handling system, and how he balances his studies with running his own business!
Earlier this summer, everyone at the UCC School of Law was delighted to hear the news that First Year Law and Business student and Quercus Scholar Nick Cotter and his brother Jack had won the Local Enterprise Office ICT Award at Enterprise Ireland’s prestigious Student Entrepreneurship Awards.
The entrepreneurial brothers’ product, The Cotter Crate, is a patent-pending, lamb handling system that makes dosing and weighing lambs easier and faster, and prevents back injury.
We interviewed Nick to find out more about his win, how he balances his studies at UCC with running his own business, and what’s next for Cotter Crate…
What does winning the Local Enterprise Office ICT Award at the Student Entrepreneur Awards mean to you and your brother?
We’re absolutely thrilled to win the award. There were some phenomenal entrepreneurs in the final, the standard was exceptionally high. To be among them in the Top 10 was a privilege for us, but to go on and win the Overall ICT award is a huge bonus! The prize has brought €5,000 of funding which is going to be used to accelerate the achievement of our ambitions, and we hope to use the win to build momentum towards launching The Cotter Crate in the near future.
Can you tell us a little more about your win?
I was pointed toward the competition by Peter Finnegan who heads up the Blackstone Launchpad on campus and who mentors myself and my brother Jack. This was sparked by our project receiving an award at the 2020 UCC Student Entrepreneur of The Year awards earlier this year and Peter thought we might be in with a shout of going far in this competition.
The initial application stage began in February, and involved submitting a 2-minute video showcasing our product and its commercial potential. In April, we got an email informing us that we had been shortlisted in the Top 50 which was fantastic news. The next stage required us to submit a 10-page business plan, and this was a hugely beneficial process as it has helped us come up with a clear vision for our business, which we’ve now broken down into short- and medium-term goals in order to deliver this vision.
"Managing your time is really the most important thing to succeed in anything as time is your most valuable resource."
How do you balance your studies at UCC with running your own business? What would you say are the main challenges?
My brother Jack and I started our first business cutting and selling firewood when we were 13 (Jack) and 11 (me), so we had to get the balance right from a young age through the likes of the Junior and Leaving Cert to keep the parents happy! I always liked school so I didn’t find it terribly difficult to sit down and do my homework before going out to deliver firewood in the evenings after school.
Equally now, I really enjoy the Law and Business course and find it really interesting, so sitting down reading and researching for a few hours isn’t too taxing. It really grabbed my attention before putting it as no. 1 on my CAO and indeed a year in, it is incredibly interesting and I’m really looking forward to beginning Year 2 in September.
I think the biggest challenge is prioritising the most pressing and urgent work first. Managing your time is really the most important thing to succeed in anything as time is your most valuable resource. A tool I like to use to ensure I use my time effectively and efficiently is the Urgent/Important grid. I break my weekly tasks into four categories with top of the list being tasks that are both urgent and important, and bottom of the list being tasks that are not urgent and not important. I don’t like spending an enormous amount of time planning so I find this tool brilliant as it’s very quick and easy to use and really helps me not to miss deadlines, whether it be for an assignment, or something to do with one of our enterprises.
"A big skill taught on the law side is the ability to clearly communicate your arguments and this is a great skill to have"
How has your Law and Business course at UCC benefited your work with Cotter Crate?
The Law and Business course has been hugely beneficial for me. The business side includes modules in economics, management and accounting, and everything I’m learning in those classes has a direct application to the project as we take this from an idea to a proper business.
The law side complements this really well on two levels – one being gaining legal knowledge of the commercial world in the likes of contract and corporate law, and two being the communication skills learned. A big skill taught on the law side is the ability to clearly communicate your arguments and this is a great skill to have as we go about trying to raise money from investors or trying to convey the value the product delivers to farmers.
What’s next for Cotter Crate?
Our next steps are manufacturing 10 prototypes and some software development prior to external testing of the system in spring 2021 on sheep farms that have expressed an interest in buying the crate. On the same day of the awards ceremony we got news that we had been awarded Enterprise Ireland Competitive Start Funding, which is going to provide €50,000 of equity investment for us which is fantastic news. This is going to go toward funding these next steps and toward patenting costs ahead of launching the crate in Ireland and the UK in 2022, fingers crossed.
Development certainly has been affected by COVID-19 as travel restrictions have made it more difficult to communicate with the team and to visit farmers to do testing, but nonetheless we’re pressing on and doing what we can remotely via Zoom.
We do have some new ideas that we plan on exploring soon, but we’re keeping these close to our chest for now! In the meantime, it’s all hands on deck to complete the next steps in getting the product onto the market in 2022.
For more information on The Cotter Crate, visit: https://www.thecottercrate.com/
If you are a budding entrepeneur with an interest in the Law, our BCL Law and Business degree may be for you! Visit https://www.ucc.ie/en/ck307/ to find out more.
Similarly, if you have a legal degree/background, but would like a specialist education in Business Law to hone your entreprenuerial skills, why not consider our LLM in Business Law? Find out more: https://www.ucc.ie/en/ckl38/