After a voyage of self-discovery and adventure, Cormac Noonan created the Wolf Academy with his brother Daryl to help young people develop ways to be resilient and combat negative thoughts.
In a new series, we talk to past participants on Back for Business, an Irish Government-supported programme for returned emigrants – or those planning to return in the near future – who are starting or developing businesses in Ireland.
Up to 50 people will be offered places on this year’s initiative, which is funded from the Government’s Emigrant Support Programme and was established to foster and support entrepreneurial activity among emigrants returning to live in Ireland.
“I imagined I could help young people to develop tools to manage negative thoughts and get to know their purpose”
This is the fifth year of Back for Business and the free programme, which will run from February to June 2022, is currently looking for applications – with the closing deadline Tuesday 15 February. For more information on Back for Business or to register your interest in receiving an application form, please see www.backforbusiness.com
Cormac Noonan and his brother Daryl went down two completely different paths after school but their journeys have now converged to create a truly inspiring business – Wolf Academy.
The Navan brothers want to transform the Irish education system. Wolf Academy helps young people prepare for life, not just exams, through online and in-school courses.
While Daryl went down a path of addiction after school, Cormac was a high achiever.
He studied Management Science and Information Systems at Trinity College Dublin and worked for a start-up before getting a job as a Technology Consultant at Accenture in Dublin in February 2015.
But his real passion was the Pizza Sunday Club which he set up with some friends.
“We gave out pizzas to homeless people in Dublin every Sunday night. We had lots of sponsors and volunteers and our aim was to break down social barriers,” says Cormac.
But Cormac was getting frustrated with homelessness and his own position in life. At the end of 2017, he quit his job and left the country.
“I knew I had to do my own self-discovery and went travelling around Canada in a van. I spent two years working different jobs – in bars and construction – before heading to America and Central America.
“It gave me time to get to know who I was. I did a 30-day cycle on my own, with just a tent on my back. I was alone with my thoughts and saw how far I had come in life.
“When I was younger, I struggled with confidence. I used academic achievement to hide those insecurities. I imagined I could help young people to develop tools to manage negative thoughts and get to know their purpose.”
Cormac rang Daryl, who was out of treatment, and they discovered a shared passion to tell their stories to help others. Cormac returned to Navan and, at the start of 2020, the brothers set up Wolf Academy.
When Covid hit, they pivoted to develop eight online courses for second level. Each course has 12 lessons with downloadable workbooks and can be done at home, in classrooms or through a hybrid of both.
Two new members joined the team and, when schools reopened, they returned to the classrooms.
“It is a self-reflection style of learning that young people really engage with. We came up with the concept of the ‘Living Cert’ where young people are prepared for life rather than just exams.”
Returning to Ireland, Cormac’s connections had gone stale and Back for Business helped him make new ones.
“But the best part of Back for Business was the feedback. I had people to bounce ideas off and gained different perspectives on our approach. Sometimes it can be hard to see your own strengths until they are pointed out to you,” says Cormac who also found Meath LEO particularly helpful.
“Setting up a business is like pushing up a hill until you get the ball rolling. It helps that we are so passionate about what we are doing. I have put down my flag to say that education is my thing. I want to transform education in Ireland.”