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Irish Business Design Challenge 2021 winners announced

Posted 10.12.2021
Press Releases

Design & Crafts Council Ireland, Enterprise Ireland and Local Enterprise Offices come together to award Irish MSMEs for design in business for a second year with a prize fund of over €50,000.

Grá Chocolates wins the micro business category, Bo Steel and Aqueduct – The Well Water are joint winners of the small/medium category

10 December 2021: The winners of the Irish Business Design Challenge (IBDC) 2021 were announced yesterday. First launched in 2020, the Irish Business Design Challenge  supports companies applying clever design solutions to meet their customer’s needs. The competition was open to entries from micro, small and medium Irish enterprises (MSME’s). Grá Chocolates from Galway won the micro business category, while Bo Steel also from Galway and Aqueduct – The Well Water from Dublin are joint winners of the small/medium category.

Run by Design & Crafts Council Ireland in partnership with Enterprise Ireland, the Local Enterprise Offices and supported by the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment, the competition showcases the ‘business heroes’ in the MSME sector.

The strongest entries demonstrated how they have created meaningful and innovative solutions. The businesses that received the most public votes were then shortlisted, before being evaluated by the judges, Charlotte Barker, Daryl Regan, Tommy Murray and Breda Fox, who selected the overall winners.


Damien English, TD, Minister of State for Business, Employment and Retail said: “By bringing together three leading agencies in this space, Design & Crafts Council Ireland, Enterprise Ireland, and the Local Enterprise Offices we are driving much-needed awareness of design and the opportunity for innovating and progressing business development in our MSME sector. The results speak for themselves and will no doubt inspire other businesses to think outside the box.”

Chief Executive, Design & Crafts Council Ireland, Rosemary Steen said: “This is the second year of the Irish Business Design Challenge, and it once again highlights the resilience, ingenuity and creativity of Ireland’s MSMEs and it is a privilege to shine a light on these businesses who, despite overwhelming odds, continue to pursue their vision and come up with both problem-solving and joy-inducing design solutions.”

Winner: Grá Chocolates, Loughrea, Co Galway
Founded in lockdown, Grá Chocolates hit an early hurdle when the fragile stock was becoming damaged in transit. Founder Gráinne Mullins faced a packaging redesign challenge that would not only protect her hand-painted chocolates to be shipped all across Europe and retain their integrity, but one that would also showcase the unique offering of the product itself.

Gráinne Mullins was drawn to IBDC precisely because of its design focus, a discipline close to her heart. “It’s been very important to me from the very beginning to tell a story through a beautiful medium and that’s all done through the design. Sometimes you don’t even see the detail in design we’ve put in, it can be so subtle. Entering gave us a chance to reflect on what we have done to date – all the hard work that we’ve put in to make our product what it is, but winning this award gives us a great boost. It shows all that hard work is really paying off. We’re moving to a new location very soon, so we’re expanding and the prize money will help us build the most perfect little chocolate factory possible.”

Winner: Bo Steel Ltd, Athenry, Co Galway.
Bo Steel Ltd is an agricultural engineering company founded by Paul Lyons. The company specialises in cattle handling solutions, more specifically niche products that help enhance safety on Irish farms and improve both the lives of farmers and farm animals alike. Addressing the global shortage of farm labour and the concept of building a “one person operation”, Lyons and his team designed and created a suckler beef winter housing shed. Instead of outsourcing all the elements, Bo Steel integrated each of them into a customer-driven solution that makes it easier and more efficient for single handling, with a clear focus on safety – both for farmer and livestock.

Paul Lyons said: “It’s been a twelve-year slog to get the business off the ground. I started it in 2007, just as things started to go south and any of the products we have, they took every ounce of energy and money we had at the time to get them off the ground, so winning this competition is just incredible recognition that we have a top class product and methodology. I’ve already earmarked the prize money for more R&D as the one-person farm is a concept everyone was striving for, but what we’ve done has achieved it.”

Winner:  Aqueduct – The Well Water Ltd, Dublin 4
By leveraging a small change in packaging design, The Well created a transformational change in the water cooler industry. A marine microbiologist by training, Kieran McKenna designed a water dispensing system to replace the unhygienic bottled water cooler with two ecologically sound alternatives within the body of one ultra-hygienic machine, offering both a ‘plumbed in’ high efficiency water filtration system as well as a ‘boxed water’ system.

Kieran McKenna said: “Our move against small pack, single use plastic bottles led us to completely redesign the Home Office Delivered (HOD) water cooler,” says McKenna. “The Wells system eliminates single use plastic bottles, slashing truck movements by over 60%. One small change in packaging was a huge leap forward in hygiene, logistics and how you run a business. Winning is fantastic PR for us because this is really about educating people rather than selling to them.”

The full list of awards is below.


  • Joint Winner – Bo Steel Ltd (Galway) – agriculture sector
  • Joint Winner – Aqueduct – The Well Water Ltd (Dublin) – water cooler industry
  • Runner up – The Twelve Hotel (Galway) – hospitality
  • Runner up – TurboChillers (Kilkenny) – refrigeration 
  • Highly commended – NCBI Services (Dublin)- charity sector


  • Winner – Grá Chocolates Ltd (Galway) – artisan foods
  • Runner up – ResHub (Dublin)  – wellness
  • Runner up – Nicki Hoyne Collection (Kilkenny) – fashion
  • Highly commended – Dog Dry (Waterford) – pets and animals
  • Highly commended – huku designs ltd. (Donegal) – leisure and sporting

For further information on the Irish Business Design Challenge please visit


For further information, please contact [email protected]