The transition year students from Gort Community School in County Galway has been crowned the ‘GROW2CEO’ 2019 champions at GROW HQ Waterford.

The winning team beat off stiff competition from 363 other schools around the country to make it to the ‘Dragon’s Den’ style grand final today along with two other secondary schools where they all presented their soup recipes and business plans to a panel of judges which included Cullen Allen of Cully & Sully, Soup Buyer for The Co-op UK Kelly Moore, Karen O’Donohoe and Michael Kelly from GIY.

Earlier in the year each secondary school across Ireland were challenged by GIY and Cully & Sully to enter the ‘GROW2CEO’competition and combine their food growing and entrepreneurial skills by growing spinach, following a series of challenges, growing their own food and using it to devise a delicious soup recipe along with a complimentary branding and a marketing for their new enterprise. Over half of secondary schools in Ireland entered the competition and the judges say that the standard was ‘incredibly high’.

Commenting at the awards event today, Michael Kelly said, “This is the third year of GROW2CEO and each year participation has increased immensely. We are delighted that over half of the country’s secondary schools took part this year and judging this competition was not an easy task as the standard is incredibly high. This campaign is vital in today’s schools. GROW2CEO evokes food empathy within students, it shows them the effort and care that goes into growing food, where their food comes from, teaches them about the actual costs of importing food (food miles etc.), developing a recipe and it teaches them what goes into starting up a business and making that business successful. With a climate & biodiversity emergency looming, it has never been more important to make a change and where better to start than with our future generation.”

Speaking at the final, Cullen Allen of Cully and Sully said, “GROW2CEO is a fantastic vehicle for students to take learning out of the classroom and into the real business world. It’s really about self-development; besides the obvious… growing, cooking, branding and marketing, they learn how to conduct meaningful research, presentation skills, public speaking, idea development and technology. It also forces them to think about the food they eat and how its produced.

It is wonderful to see the spirit of business ignite amongst the student teams and know that they have gained real-life business skills, which will stand to them in their chosen careers.”

Three schools and teams were shortlisted for the grand final including Gort Community School in Galway, St Colmans School Midleton Cork and St Vincents Secondary School in Cork City. The students showcased their business idea to the judges. During the showcase, the judges carried out a series of taste tests and learned the business plans developed by the students.


At Gort Community School the students reached out to their community, meeting bank managers and local growing experts. They also branded a van to sell their soup and engaged ‘Brand ambassadors’. It is the second year that a team from Gort Secondary School has qualified for a place at the grand final.


At St. Colmans in Midleton the students calculated their ingredient’s food miles and reduced this figure to only 23 miles; they also styled a hugely creative soup pump logo. They convinced Shane Casey from Young Offenders to come to the school and sample their soup. It is also the second time that a team from St. Colmans has qualified for a place in the grand final.

At St. Vincents in Cork City, the students made a ‘pop up’ soup shack to sell their soup from and also organised a fundraiser with this.  They printed out labels to style their containers as an established soup brand and got all of their teachers on board integrating their work into as many subjects as possible. It is the first time that a team from St. Vincents have reached the grand final.

The winning team are students of Agricultural Science teacher Ms Gardiner who guided them through their project. Commenting on the occasion their teacher Ms Gardiner said, “From the very beginning these students really embraced this project and wanted to make a difference in the world through the development of a sustainable food product and social enterprise. They reached out to gain as much knowledge as possible from our local community gaining insights from the local bank manager, SuperValu, a local horticulturalist and local food producers; this really stood to them for their project and it proves how important it is for schools to be inclusive of their local community.

We don’t have a school garden at the moment; for this project we installed a raised bed, so we are absolutely delighted to now be able to install a school garden with this prize fund and we can’t wait to continue to learn about growing our own food and include our local community further.”

The winning students were awarded a prize pot of €5,000 which included a €3,000 school garden among other goodies and trips for the school and teacher. Each runner up team were awarded €500.

Through the initiative, growing kits were delivered to over 10,000 students across the country. The kits included everything the students required in order to grow spinach leaves including seeds, pots, soil and plenty of growing tips from GIY. The winning recipe can be found online at