18 farms across Northern Ireland that opened their gates to the public enjoyed a busy weekend with more than 16,000 people attending the recent Bank of Ireland Open Farm Weekend event.
With activities such as sheep shearing, pony rides, animal displays, games, local produce markets, entertainment, and cookery demonstrations from the Livestock and Meat Commission, this free event provided the perfect chance for members of the public to find out more about their local farm, reconnect with the countryside, meet the farmer and glean a better understanding of where their food comes from.
This was the inaugural year for many farms such as Ranelly Farm in Omagh, CAFRE Equine Centre in Enniskillen, D&D Holland in Articlave and The Orble in Dervock, with the latter welcoming 2,100 visitors who helped raise £18,000 through an auction for the Causeway Down’s Syndrome Support Group.
David Brown, Deputy President of the Ulster Farmers’ Union said, “We are delighted to learn that more than half of the visitors that attended this year had never attended Bank of Ireland Open Farm Weekend before, reinforcing our belief that members of the public still have an avid interest in learning more about the local agri-sector.
“The farms and sponsors put in a lot of effort to make sure the Open Farm Weekend runs smoothly and I want to take this opportunity to thank them and of course every person that attended one of the farms. Although the weekend only runs over three days, giving the public access to farms to learn more about where their food comes from will be beneficial for the sector in the long-term.”
Bank of Ireland Open Farm Weekend has been running since 2012 and has attracted in excess of 100,000 visitors. The event is also sponsored by Asda, Cranswick, the Livestock and Meat Commission, NFU Mutual and Irish Farmers Journal and supported by Food NI, CAFRE, DAERA and the YFCU.
Wendy Gallagher, FarmLiaisonfor Bank of Ireland Open Farm Weekend said, “The feedback from both farms and visitors was excellent. Children from non-rural areas loved feeding the animals that they would never usually get a chance to hold and see while their parents created some long-lasting family memories. We are already planning for the 2020 event and would encourage farms to get in touch if they are interested in participating next year.”
Catalyst, the not for profit organisation launches its highly successful Way to Scale programme to support 10 early stage tech companies wanting to scale their business operations.
With the support of Belfast City Council and Invest Northern Ireland, the programme will give a select group of CEOs the chance to participate in an intensive entrepreneur development boot camp that spans Northern Ireland and the USA in 2020.
Participants on the last programme have demonstrated extraordinary growth and are on course to double their cumulative revenue within 12 months and add over 50% to direct employees.
Kicking off at world leading technology and business university – Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Cambridge MA, the week-long intense, residential, Entrepreneurship Development Programme will also connect Northern Ireland CEOs with 100 other international CEOs. Continuing with five tailored strategy workshops at Catalyst Belfast and culminating in another week long, bespoke residential in Boston, which will focus on go-to-market strategies and tactics that will deliver a defendable, scalable business plan for each company.
John Knapton, Director of Growth and Scaling at Catalyst said, “This elite, global programme will give Northern Ireland CEOs the chance to tap into an international network, to learn from the most experienced and successful entrepreneurs on the planet. To be considered, the individual must be the company CEO, demonstrate real revenue of ~£500,000, or have investment in place to grow and, most importantly, have an ambition to scale their business to £100M+ in value. Every single participant will come away with the confidence, ambition, leadership and strategic skills to succeed, as well as creating a lifetime cohort of local and international peers who can give them ongoing support.”
The 10 companies participating in Way to Scale 2020 are: 3EN, Appbuilder, Automated Intelligence, Brainwavebank, Cadshare, Cattleeye, Core Systems, Datactics, Humain and Team Feepay.
A product set to make a massive impact on music quality won big at the highly anticipated Catalyst Invent Awards.
Signal Optimiser, designed to significantly improve the sound quality between a guitar and an amplifier was the clear winner thanks to its strong innovation and global commercial potential.
Creator, Lewis Loane from Newtownards, scooped a prize package of £13,000 (from the overall prize total £33,000) and is well on his way to having his product recognised as a must-have for serious music aficionados.
Sponsored by Bank of Ireland UK, the Invent Awards took place in Belfast ICC’s Waterfront and saw almost 700 distinguished guests gather in celebration of some of Northern Ireland’s most talented innovators.
Mr Loane, a QUB electronics and electrical engineering student set up his company TORANN earlier this year and through it has been able to turn his passion for music into a business. He developed the Signal Optimiser product after playing a guitar in a shop and realising there was a disconnect between how music sounds when using different types of amplifiers. Now after several prototypes the finished product allows for 100% of the sound quality to be transferred seamlessly from an amplifier to an instrument.
Invent sponsor, Gavin Kennedy, Bank of Ireland UK’s Head of Business Banking NI said, “The Invent competition continues to be an inspiration for all ambitious entrepreneurs in Northern Ireland. It is a unique programme, providing a platform for discovery, practical supports and membership to a positive, innovative entrepreneurial community that focuses on supporting outstanding talent in Northern Ireland.
“Lewis’s success with his Signal Optimiser product is a first, becoming Invent’s inaugural undergraduate winner of the overall competition and alongside many of this year’s entries highlights the strength and depth of Northern Ireland’s young tech innovation and entrepreneurial spirit. Congratulations to all the finalists and category winners this year, we need you to keep going and inspire others to help Northern Ireland’s business community to grow and thrive.”
The Invent competition offers an opportunity for innovators of Northern Ireland to come forward and be recognised as the next ‘big thing’ – and this year it attracted more than 100 entries across the six categories.
Invent Programme Manager, Karen Hall said, “Lewis is a worthy winner who epitomises the spirit of the Invent competition. His pitch was on-point, he was cool under pressure and he has picked up so many skills throughout the whole process which make him a force to be reckoned with in business. I’m sure he will inspire the next generation of inventors to follow their dreams and aim big!”
Also, at the event, Dennis Murphy was named as the 2019 Innovation Founder, a recognition given to a person who has achieved success in founding, leading or building a celebrated local innovative business. Mr Murphy who is co-founder and CEO of cloud service company Anaeko, has more than 20 years’ experience in IT and mobile telecoms, founding and managing a number of locally based tech companies including Apion and Mobile Cohesion. He joins an impressive esteemed list of previous recipients highlighting the strength and depth of successful industry founders in Northern Ireland.
The evening included the announcement of the very worthy Invent 2019 category winners, who each receive £3,000.
AGRI SCIENCE CropSafe – an AI and satellite-based farming solution
ELECTRONICS Signal Optimiser – a product designed to improve sound quality between an instrument and amplifier
LIFE & HEALTH SCIENCE Airbrio – a respiratory management system for asthma or COPD
ENGINEERING Concrete Jungle – a manufacturer of bio-receptive façade panels for the outside of buildings
CREATIVE MEDIA & CONSUMER INTERNET Personalcarer.co.uk – A platform for disabled persons or the elderly to find experienced carers in their area ENTERPRISE SOFTWARE Obbi Solutions – an app that digitises business processes in HR, operations and health and safety
Fifty of Northern Ireland’s most ambitious tech entrepreneurs got to participate in a unique business experience when they got up close and personal with global thought leader and serial entrepreneur, Bill Aulet.
Hosted by Catalyst and supported by Invest NI, Belfast City Council and Queen’s University, the event saw Bill, who is also Managing Director of the Martin Trust Centre for entrepreneurship at Boston’s prestigious MIT, deliver a one day intensive bootcamp to provide local businesses with the tools to significantly grow and scale their businesses.
Taking participants through the principles of his best-selling book, “Disciplined Entrepreneurship”, Bill focused on starting, growing and scaling an innovation driven business, tackling the key elements to de-risking the ‘go to market’ strategy by understanding customers, building a strong value proposition and fine tuning the all-important selling process.
John Knapton, Director of Growth & Scale for Catalyst said, “Back in January we took a group of local CEOs to MIT where we heard Bill deliver his Entrepreneurship Development programme to hundreds of entrepreneurs from across the world. We were instantly blown away by his knowledge, impact and no-nonsense approach. After that trip I knew we had to get him to Belfast so he could inspire even more local entrepreneurs to grow their business much faster and significantly larger and after hearing the feedback, he didn’t disappoint!”
Lord Mayor Belfast, Councillor John Finucane said: “We’re fast becoming globally recognised for tech development – and supporting the accelerated growth of this sector is a priority for us in Belfast City Council. It’s a real pleasure to welcome such an established and respected leader as Bill Aulet to Belfast – especially since he hails from our Sister City, Boston. We highly value our partnership with Catalyst, Invest NI and Queen’s University in supporting our innovative SMEs and feel sure that this collaborative approach will reap dividends for our economy.”
One of Northern Ireland’s best-known e-commerce specialists is set to double its 14 strong workforce over the next 18 months by recruiting a range of new roles within its Belfast office.
Built for Growth Digital, formerly known as Export Technologies is recruiting creative designers, e-commerce consultants, digital marketing specialists and experienced e-commerce traders, as it significantly expands its in-house e-commerce trading, growth and strategy division.
Export Technologies had grown to a £3 million+ turnover business and was at the forefront of the Irish e-commerce industry for almost 20 years. Built for Growth Digital will continue to build on this success by managing the consultancy services of the existing client base, continuing as an authorised reseller of the highly successful IRP international online trading platform and by targeting new retailers seeking to rapidly grow their online sales and margins regardless of their e-commerce platform provider.
The newly recruited staff will work alongside the current e-commerce consultants from Export Technologies who between them have helped transform the fortunes of many successful online retailers such as Argento, Christies Direct, Newbridge Silverware, Belleek, Camping World and Magee1866.
Leanne Blair, Sales and Marketing Manager for Built for Growth Digital said, “In many ways Built for Growth Digital will be business as usual for retailers we work with as they will still continue to receive the same excellent service and support they have always enjoyed under Export Technologies.”
“As we invest in our growth we now have the ability to target a new pool of retailers that are ready to grow in the e-commerce sphere regardless of their platform provider. We have over 20 years’ experience of digital marketing and sales growth expertise that our new business model, under Built for Growth Digital, will allow us to showcase.”
The new company structure not only means a new name in the form of Built for Growth Digital, but also represents the arrival of Northern Ireland’s only full-service e-commerce agency, thanks to the unique combination of both the international online trading platform (IRP) and the e-commerce growth expertise (trading consultancy, digital marketing and creative design).
A Belfast based event management consultancy has secured contracts with international companies to bring their teams and clients to NI, and alongside this is marking its 10th year in business with a new name and rebrand.
Bespoke Business Events began a decade ago as Bespoke Northern Ireland and buoyed on by the recent rise in global confidence in the tourism sector, thanks to the success of Game of Thrones and The Open, can now count global players HBO, Now TV and Boston Consulting Global among its clients.
These significant contracts have come on the back of Bespoke opening an office in Wales in 2018, where it beat off stiff competition to become the preferred partner of Visit Wales and Visit Britain to host international VIP buyers who visit the region.
Enjoying a growing reputation in the international market, Bespoke’s expansion plans are firmly in bringing its global experience to the local market and tapping into the business events that will come from 1 billion tourists predicted to visit NI by 2020.
Working across the island of Ireland and Wales, its team of four full time staff specialise in running conferences, meetings, team building incentives and business events in the digital, manufacturing and technology sectors to name a few, as well as creating unique business trips and sales missions for both local and international companies.
Bespoke Business Events Founder and Managing Director, Melita Williams said, “The international events industry has changed dramatically over the last 10 years and keeping up with trends such as cutting-edge event technology, sustainability, wellbeing, CSR and understanding our new Millennial buyer and attendee characteristics are issues we now address daily.
“Northern Ireland has also changed massively, with the development of so many new hotels, venues and attractions. It has been great to watch the province develop into such a cultural hotspot – international companies now want to come here and the country’s leading business events company means we are more than happy to facilitate them.”
The global interest in Northern Ireland as a business tourism destination has also rubbed off on Bespoke’s local clients with many highlighting their location as part of their global sales and export strategy.
Melita Williams commented, “There is an increased sense of pride with indigenous NI companies who see their location as an extra benefit to their offering. This ties in with our goal for the next 12 months of assisting more local companies in showcasing and celebrating their brilliant achievements. Actively marketing Northern Ireland globally at major international trade shows gives us the experience and confidence to apply this to the local market.”