Thirty new craft and food businesses have been established in the Causeway and Glens area thanks to the enterprising ‘Journey to Market Programme’.
The ground-breaking business development scheme was run by the Causeway Coast and Glens Borough Council, and part funded by Invest Northern Ireland and the European Regional Development Fund under the Sustainable Competitiveness Programme for Northern Ireland.
“Thirty businesses have successfully gone through the programme. They are now all up and running and we have got people trading in marketplaces such as St George’s Market and Victoria Square.”Business consultant Lara Gooodall
Now a special showcase event in the Diamond in Coleraine Town Centre on Saturday June 27 will give local people the chance to sample a range of beautiful products created by these budding entrepreneurs.
The programme manager, business consultant Lara Goodall said. “Thirty businesses have successfully gone through the programme. They are now all up and running and we have got people trading in marketplaces such as St George’s Market and Victoria Square, some distributing to retailers throughout Northern Ireland and others opening their own premises, This programme has helped give them the confidence and skills to create sustainable businesses.”
The craft products range from ceramics and bridal accessories to textiles and prints of Irish dancers. The food makers have come up with a delicious selection including organic speciality breads, handmade chocolate, baked goods from a bygone era and speciality cakes.
The Mayor of the Causeway Coast and Glens Borough Council, Michelle Knight-McQuillan said: “Journey to Market was a very successful programme and this exciting showcase event is a great opportunity to come along and see what local people are creating right here in our community. There are some very innovative companies that have established or are looking to expand, which is great for the future of our borough. I hope people will visit and support this free event and the wonderful food and crafts made in the heart of our community.”
Des Gartland, Invest NI’s North West Regional Manager said: “There is a wealth of talent in this area and this diverse range of new businesses shows that getting the right support at the right time can be hugely beneficial to entrepreneurs. We believe in delivering programmes that will have a real impact on local businesses and to help them to develop and grow.”
Among the participants are Dara and Ciara O’Hartghaile from Ursa Minor organic bakery, who are opening their first café in Ballycastle on June 6.
Dara, whose company supplies artisan bread and patisserie to cafes in Coleraine, Portrush and Ballycastle, said the Journey to Market programme was invaluable in improving their business skills.
He added: “I am more of a hands-on baker than a businessman so Journey to Market has helped me focus on what I need to do to run a viable business. We have had a very successful first year and now we have to look at expanding, taking on more staff without compromising our organic ingredients.”
Marion Croupe, who makes high quality gift items from locally sourced materials such as Irish Linen and Donegal Tweed, said the course had expanded her business horizons.
She added: “It has been very good. I went into it because I wanted to think differently about my products. It’s made me look at what I do and how I do it. I have been able to hone down my product range and pay more attention to marketing and the presentation side.”
The Journey to Market provided applicants with the support they needed to establish and develop their business idea. This support included four days of expert mentoring and a series of seminars covering Business Planning, Marketing, Visual Merchandising and Product Development. Participants also had the opportunity to complete the highly acclaimed accredited customer service training programme, World Host.
Ms Goodall added: “This showcase event is the culmination of all of their hard work. The aim was to support entrepreneurs to help them develop their idea and prepare them to bring their goods and services successfully to the local markets. I am very proud of all 30 participants and what they have achieved.”