The rural community is being encouraged to sign up to a successful Coleraine Borough Council scheme which develops local craft and food businesses.
The ‘Journey to Market’ programme, which is part funded by Invest Northern Ireland and the European Regional Development Fund under the Sustainable Competitiveness Programme for Northern Ireland, is looking for a new batch of participants for its second programme in 2015.
The aim of the programme is to support entrepreneurs to help them develop their ideas and prepare them to bring their goods and services successfully to the local markets. The first intake on the programme started in September culminating in a series of winter craft fairs.
Now the council is looking for 15 more local entrepreneurs to sign up for the second ‘Journey to Market’ programme to help them develop their businesses. The programme is due to commence in February 2015.
One of the participants in the first programme, Sharon Millen has turned an old outhouse used to keep chickens into a studio to make her beautiful textile flowers. Her idea for a new business Rosie’s Studio began when she was asked to make textile flowers to help decorate the Garden Coffee Shop in the refurbished Antrim Castle Gardens.
Sharon, who lives in a rural area between Coleraine and Garvagh, says the Journey to Market Programme is ideal for farmers and rural dwellers who want to diversify into craft and speciality foods.
“My main occupation is as a florist so I have been dovetailing the two businesses together. The beauty of this programme is that it helps marry your existing business together with a new venture. This would be very useful for members of the farming community who are looking to add new business ideas to traditional farming.”
The programme provides successful applicants with the support they need to establish and develop their business idea. This support includes four days of expert mentoring and a series of seminars covering Business Planning, Marketing, Visual Merchandising and Product Development. Participants will also have the opportunity to complete the highly acclaimed accredited customer service training programme, World Host.
For anyone wanting to learn more about the programme there are two information sessions at Flowerfield Arts Centre in Portstewart on Wednesday, January 14 at 10.30am and 5.30pm.
The Mayor of Coleraine, Councillor George Duddy said: “The Journey to Market Programme has been one of Coleraine Borough Council’s success stories. The programme has provided opportunities for 15 businesses to take on new markets, new methods of working and diversifying their business. I would encourage other talented local food producers and crafters to seize the opportunity to take part in this specialised mentoring programme.”
Des Gartland, Invest NI’s North West regional manager said: “The Journey to Market programme has given new and existing businesses access to invaluable practical support to help grow their business. Programmes such as this are bringing wide ranging benefits to a large number of our small and medium sized local businesses and ensuring that the right support is provided when and where it is most needed.”
Anyone interested in taking part in the second phase of the Journey to Market programme should contact Lara Goodall on 07793388343, firstname.lastname@example.org to discuss the programme or complete an application.
The deadline for applications is at 5pm, Friday, January 23.