Monday, May 20, 2024


14-year-old Ben O’Connor, who set up his first business at the age of nine, said he is honoured to be shortlisted for accolades…

A LOCAL teenager, who has founded his own business, has been shortlisted for two awards. Ben O’Connor, a 14-year-old student at St Patrick’s Grammar School in Downpatrick, is a finalist for the Northern Ireland region of the UK StartUp Awards 2024 in two categories.

These are Retail and E-Commerce StartUp of the Year and Young Entrepreneur of the Year. “The UK StartUp Awards champion and celebrate the best and brightest start-ups from across the United Kingdom,” the UK StartUp Awards website,, said. “The awards recognise the achievements of those amazing individuals who have had a great idea, spotted the opportunity and taken the risk to launch a new product or service.” “Start-up businesses are the lifeblood of any economy, being responsible for new jobs, innovation and wealth creation across the UK. All the finalists this year represent the best of those entrepreneurs who have spotted an opportunity and through their sheer hard work, talent and perseverance, have created amazing new businesses that are creating real impact in their sectors,” Professor Dylan Jones-Evans OBE, the creator of the UK StartUp Awards, said.

The winners of the 10 regional finals will go on to compete at the national final at IdeasFest, a festival for business leaders and entrepreneurs being held in September in Hertfordshire, England. Ben, who lives in the Drumnaquoile area, was delighted to receive this recognition. “I’m honoured to be shortlisted in two categories for the UK StartUp Awards, especially with Giftery being such a new business. It will help Giftery get recognition for all the key aspects of our business such as me, a 14-yearold, as the owner and founder, but also our commitment to quality and sustainability.”

Giftery sells gift boxes full of items based around a theme, such as a season or holiday. The company’s slogan is ‘Where every box unveils a slice of happiness’. “Giftery was founded by me back in January of this year, when I came up with the idea to sell premade self-care/gift boxes,” Ben said. “Our first ever product is our spring-themed boxes that we are calling Blossom Bundles.” They will be available for purchase from 19 April onwards at the Giftery website, Ben said they have all a person needs to relax. “And to tie into the spring theme, they have a surprise pack of seeds that will grow in the brand’s colour. It is called the Giftery Garden movement, and the slogan is ‘Nurture yourself, cultivate joy’.

Ben’s classmates and teachers were pleased to learn that Ben is a finalist for the awards. “We are delighted to hear of Ben’s success and applaud his innovative and creative mindset that has led to his progress. We are proud of the entrepreneurial skills demonstrated and wish him every success in the remainder of the process,” Joe McCann, principal of St Patrick’s Grammar School in Downpatrick, said. Although Ben is still young, Giftery is not the first business he has set up. “I have always loved to start businesses, I set my first one up when I was nine. As I got older, I shut my other two down to focus on Giftery,” he said. “I came up with the idea when I saw the growing trend of occasion themed boxes all over social media. I realised that there was no one else making premade versions of these boxes, so I set up Giftery to fill the gap.” Ben said he would encourage other teenagers to also get involved with starting their own businesses. “The advice that I have for other young people who are thinking about starting a business is just go for it. “You will make mistakes and some things might not go your way, but you will learn over time and gain experience of what works and what doesn’t. “It is a fun once in a lifetime opportunity so don’t be scared and you will find success,” he said.

For more information, you can follow @Giftery2024 on TikTok and other social media

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