We talk to former winners of the Ulster Bank Business Achievers Awards to learn more about how winning the award has impacted on their businesses.
In this post we speak to Social Enterprise Award winner The Food Hub
An initiative of Drumshanbo Community Council, The Food Hub is a voluntary community group that converted an old food factory into an enterprise centre for food and drink companies. Designed to address the needs of food group manufacturers and to attract enterprise to their community, the food production facility tailors to entrepreneurs who may not have the initial seed capital to invest in a start-up production facility, and to existing businesses wishing to expand who demand greater cost-effective production capacity as their sales volume increase.
Established in 2007, the Food Hub also offers sectoral training programmes for the food sector; from start your own food business programmes to hospitality operations. The Food Hub employs over 40 people across eight tenant companies.
What was your start-up day?
We had our official opening on October 12th 2007. Not the best timing given the economic climate at the time but we survived a few lean years to see things come together in the last 18 months or so.
What motivates you?
As this is a community initiative it’s all about creating jobs and encouraging enterprise in the local area with the ultimate aim to enable people to earn a living in their own area.
What keeps you up at night?
Thankfully we’ve gotten over that stage!
What’s been the most surprising part of running the business?
Because of the nature of running an enterprise centre with several different businesses, one of the big surprises was how supportive and co-operative companies have been with each other.
What’s been the most challenging for you?
Undoubtedly the first 3 years when we really struggled with low occupancy and had a couple of business failures here that had a big impact. We had to borrow money to complete the project and meeting that obligation without the revenue to support the business was very difficult.
And the most rewarding?
Definitely seeing over 50 people come to work every morning in a building that was derelict 10 years ago and contributing nothing to the local economy.
What is one mistake you’ve made, and what did you learn from it?
Trying to do everything ourselves for financial reasons – there are times when you have to accept you don’t have the expertise for certain jobs and must pay those that do.
What are some of the characteristics of people that have been successful at your company?
Single mindedness is a common trait among those businesses that tend to succeed. Those that refuse to be side-tracked by the bureaucracy of setting up a new company usually emerge as winners. It’s like Henry Ford said:” Whether you think you can or think you can’t, you’re right”.
What are you most excited about for the future?
We’re now looking at a new phase of the project whereby we hope to become a food tourism destination by developing visitor attractions and hopefully creating more jobs and in the process pulling in visitors to this region.
Any amazing families, partners, friends behind the scenes you’d like to thank – how did they support you in the early days?
Like all voluntary projects it was only possible because of the support of families and friends but they are too numerous to mention.
What doors has winning the Ulster Bank Business Achievers Awards opened for you?
Certainly has raised our profile and provided a level of recognition that wasn’t there previously.
What was the biggest benefit for you winning this award?
I think the acknowledgment of the work carried out to date on a national stage has led to an increase in confidence in the group that will hopefully lead to further ambitious developments in the years ahead.