Great British & Northern Irish Entrepreneur of the Year crowned in Belfast

Dave Linton, the founder of social enterprise Madlug, has been crowned the first Great British & Northern Irish Entrepreneur of the Year for the Northern Ireland region.

Madlug is a brand of backpacks and luggage that uses the ‘buy one give one’ concept to help give dignity to children in care. Dave launched the company in 2015 after he learned that most of the UK’s 90,000 children in care carry their lives in bin bags.

The Great British & Northern Irish Entrepreneur Awards, which held a regional final in Northern Ireland for the first time in 2019, celebrates the hard work and inspiring stories of entrepreneurs, rather than the business’ balance sheet. 

Francesca James, founder of the Great British & Northern Irish Entrepreneur Awards, said: “Dave’s story is incredibly touching and inspiring. No child should have to carry their life’s belongings in a bin bag as they move around the care system. 

“We’re seeing more and more entrepreneurs start businesses because they want to make a real difference to people’s lives, rather than chasing profits for a lavish lifestyle. And Dave is a fantastic example of that ethos. He’s thoroughly deserving of the title of our first Great British & Northern Irish Entrepreneur of the Year in Northern Ireland.

“This is the first year we’ve come to Northern Ireland and the standard of applications has been really impressive. The journeys these entrepreneurs have taken to get where they are is incredibly inspiring. I want to congratulate all of our winners in Northern Ireland and wish them the very best of luck for the National Final in November. With over 3,000 entries this year across the UK, it really is a great achievement in itself to get to the regional final.”

Gordon Merrylees, managing director of entrepreneurship at Ulster Bank, said: “Ulster Bank is proud to support the Great British & Northern Irish Entrepreneur Awards celebrating another year of amazing achievements for entrepreneurs starting and growing businesses from every corner of the country. Supporting entrepreneurs is a key priority for Ulster Bank and our dedicated programme of fully funded accelerator hubs, mentoring, insight and bespoke coaching, is specifically designed to meet the needs of entrepreneurs who want to start, scale and succeed in business. Congratulations to all of the winners and to those who were shortlisted for one of these prestigious awards.”

The winners of each category will now go to the National Final, which takes place in London in November.

Full list of winners for the Northern Ireland region:

Creative Industries Entrepreneur of the Year
Lucy Wallace | in klöver

Disruptor of the Year
John Noone & John McColgan | Joule Group

Entrepreneur for Good Award
Dave Linton | Madlug

Entrepreneurial Spirit Award
Adam Ewart | Send My Bag

Food & Drink Entrepreneur of the Year
Noel Allen | Noisy Snacks

Health & Beauty Entrepreneur of the Year
Conleth McAlinden | Kaizen Strength Training Gym

Service Industries Entrepreneur of the Year
Daniel McGlade | Oroson

Small Business Entrepreneur of the Year
Niamh Taylor | Digital 24

Start-Up Entrepreneur of the Year
Daniel McGlade | Orson

Young Entrepreneur of the Year
Joshua Neilly | Fat Fish Marketing

Great British Entrepreneur of the Year (Northern Ireland)
Dave Linton | Madlug