Ploughing Their Way To Success!
4th September 2019
When chef Martina Woods started baking home-made treats for her beloved cocker spaniel Harry in 2013, she could never have envisaged that within just three years she’d be running a successful dog bakery!
Words: Áilín Quinlan
Or indeed, that she would be among an elite few from around Ireland selected to showcase their wares at the Local Enterprise Village at this year’s National Ploughing Championships* in Carlow, a group described as “the cream of the crop of Ireland’s small businesses,” according to Heather Humphreys T.D., Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation.
The Local Enterprise Village features more than 30 small businesses, each one a client of their Local Enterprise Office (LEO) across the country. There are 31 Local Enterprise Offices located in Local Authorities nationwide funded by the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation through Enterprise Ireland. Monaghan native Martina, who went to college to study dog nutrition and worked with a vet to combine ingredients to make her homemade dog treats with natural ingredients, says her LEO in Monaghan has been enormously supportive – even though, she admits, staff were initially a bit taken-aback when she arrived in with samples of Harry’s favourite Peanut-butter bones, Honey and Oat Bits and Carrot and Brown Rice Crunchies: “I’d say I was the first person to come in with something that wasn’t human food!
“They were initially a bit bemused, but the pet-food sector is huge and there’s great potential there, and when I explained that I’d already trialled the treats successfully at local markets, they were very interested,” says Martina, who worked as a chef for some 30 years before launching Harry’s Dog Bakery. The LEO she says, was extremely supportive from Day One: “I did a Start Your Own Business course and it was through Monaghan LEP that I made my application for the LEO Village at the Championships. “I wouldn’t have the business only for Monaghan Local Enterprise Office!”
The LEO Villages offers a significant opportunity for small businesses says Kieran Comerford of the Local Enterprise Offices network: “You are looking at a potential footfall for these businesses of over 250,000 people across the 3 days of the Ploughing Championships,” he points out. “That is simply incredible for them, to be given that size of a captive audience to sell to, does not happen to small businesses like this. “The Local Enterprise Village is always a hub of wonderful products and innovative services and will no doubt be a big hit again with the visitors to Ballintrane.” Enthuses Martina: “To get that opportunity to be in an area where there is such a huge footfall is incredible! It will be the biggest footfall we’ve ever had and, since we’re trying to get the brand known around the country, the chance to be where so many people from every county are in one spot, is huge.”
Caitriona McGinley of Orwell & Browne, an award-winning Irish heritage brand that creates luxurious tweed products from Donegal which she founded in 2014, is equally excited by the prospect of showcasing her products at the village: “It’s an honour to be in the Local Enterprise Village – there are only a small number of us and this is my first time exhibiting at the National Ploughing Championships so it will be great to display my products to a new audience,” says the Killybegs native whose firm is based in the Gaeltacht area of Kilcar. “I take locally-sourced Donegal tweed to create a range of hand-made products,” she explains, adding that her company boasts a strong international presence in Canada, Japan, the US, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and the UK, as well as supplying shops in prestigious Irish outlets such as shops in the National Gallery of Ireland and the National Museum as well as in a range of men’s clothing stores and craft shops.
Craft and weaving tweed fabric has been a tradition in Catriona’s family for the past three generations and so, she says, she grew up with a love for textiles and design. Her products, which use traditional materials but with a contemporary twist include a range of bow-ties, pocket squares, cufflinks, notebooks, scarves, t-shirts, bags and more. Caitríona credits her grandparents with providing her with the inspiration for her successful company:
“My grandfather was a hand-weaver of tweed and my grandmother was a seamstress in a local tweed mill. One day in 2014, when I was visiting my grandparents, they gave me a bag of tweed off-cuts – I decided to launch a business at the end of that year!
*The 88th National Ploughing Championships take place from the 17th to 19th of September in Ballintrane, Fenagh, County Carlow. For more information on the Local Enterprise Village and the supports that the Local Enterprise Offices give to small businesses visit here>>