KATE AND ANNIE MADDEN, EQUINE ENTREPRENEURS
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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