The Daily Telegraph - Telegraph Magazine - - Just Williams -

WHEN SIS­TERS KATE and An­nie Mad­den were 14 and 13, they en­tered BT’S Young Sci­en­tist com­pe­ti­tion. They thought it would be fun, and knew ex­actly what they wanted to fo­cus on: horses. ‘We pretty much grew up with horses,’ says Kate, from their home in County Meath. ‘We learnt to ride at the same time we were learn­ing to walk, and we’ve al­ways been on horses. Our grand­dad has been breed­ing race­horses for over 60 years, and our par­ents used to com­pete.’

The girls de­cided to de­velop a sup­ple­ment to help horses who have gone off their feed to start eat­ing again. That meant test­ing over 100 flavours on 100 horses, and not­ing ev­ery de­tail, from whether they smelled it to whether they kicked over a bucket. Af­ter weeks of in­tense study, they worked out that horses re­ally liked fenu­greek. Their re­sult­ing prod­uct, Fenuhealth, won sec­ond place at the com­pe­ti­tion. But the real prize was a call from an Ir­ish in­vestor who flew them out days later to Ger­many to meet dis­trib­u­tors. They went (‘ob­vi­ously our dad came with us’) and sold their first 1,000 units to a race­horse breeder in Qatar.

‘That was where it all started,’ says An­nie. ‘We came back home with huge amounts of con­tacts for dis­trib­u­tors. That was vi­tal to our busi­ness, and from then on, it just de­vel­oped.’ They bor­rowed some money from their par­ents, and three years later, they have nine em­ploy­ees and clients in 15 coun­tries, in­clud­ing five royal fam­i­lies (which they are not al­lowed to name). ‘By the end of our ed­u­ca­tion, we’re plan­ning on hav­ing 90 peo­ple work­ing with us in 150 coun­tries,’ says Kate, who is now study­ing food mar­ket­ing at the Uni­ver­sity Col­lege Cork.

She is in charge of the mar­ket­ing side of the busi­ness, while An­nie – who wants to study a science-re­lated sub­ject at uni­ver­sity – fo­cuses on the re­search. ‘As sis­ters, ob­vi­ously we fight oc­ca­sion­ally,’ says An­nie. ‘But at the end of the day we work well to­gether. Our par­ents [their fa­ther is a teacher, their mother a phys­io­ther­a­pist] aren’t re­ally in­volved at all. They sup­port us and drive us to things, but it’s mainly us.’

They can’t dis­close their net worth, but tell me they’ve just ded­i­cated €100,000 of com­pany funds to­wards more re­search. ‘It’s nice to be able to go to uni­ver­sity with­out ask­ing our par­ents to pay for it,’ says Kate. ‘It gives us some in­de­pen­dence. But at the same time we put most of the money into de­vel­op­ing the busi­ness and in­vest­ing it.’

Their only real splurge has been buy­ing new phones and a shared horse, Sum­mer. The big­gest ex­cite­ment the sis­ters have had so far was meet­ing the Duke and Duchess of Sus­sex at a re­cent gar­den party. ‘They were re­ally en­cour­ag­ing,’ says Kate. ‘We never thought any of this was go­ing to hap­pen. But it’s grow­ing ev­ery day, and it keeps us busy, which we love, so we’re go­ing to carry on.’



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