The Digital School of Food

27th April 2020

Posted In: Women Mean Business

An innovative new online food programme, from the Local Enterprise Offices, is set to boost the number of Irish food start-ups.  The Digital School of Food is the first of its kind in Europe and gives food entrepreneurs expert advice and guidance, from their home, office or kitchen.

The new Digital School of Food was piloted in the Dublin region in conjunction with Enterprise Ireland and Bord Bia.  Following the successful pilot, it is now available nationwide to qualifying applicants, run by the Local Enterprise Offices.  The online programme is an e-learning initiative that brings producers from idea right through to start-up and grow stages.

The programme will give food entrepreneurs an education in planning a product journey and route to market, through thinking about finance and how to grow sales, right up to expanding the business. It includes support from experts in the field as each course has a real producer who contributes tips and advice throughout.  The programme includes contributions from trade buyers in Supervalu, Musgraves and Spar along with the likes of Domini Kemp of ITSA Food Group and food producers who have been through the system.

Entrepreneurs who complete the Digital School of Food are then primed to move on to take part in Food Starter programme offered by the Local Enterprise Offices and subsequently Food Academy, which gives producers the opportunity to get their product on retail shelves.

Heather Humphreys, T.D., Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation, commenting on the new programme, said: “We have a proud heritage of producing world-class food in Ireland.  Now, more than ever, it is vital that we support our food firms and particularly budding entrepreneurs with ambitions to start a new business.  As needs have evolved, these programmes have evolved and the online Digital School of Food is a testament to that.  Aspiring food producers can now begin their journey from their own home.

The Local Enterprise Offices continue to innovate in the way that they are delivering programmes and this is extremely significant now.  They are playing a key role in helping our small businesses in this challenging economic climate and they will be to the fore as small companies rise up in the coming weeks and months.”

Announcing the new platform, chair of the network of Local Enterprise Offices, Oisin Geoghegan, highlighted the importance of cultivating the food sector.  “Irish food is renowned the world over and we enjoy an enviable reputation for high quality food production.  It is important that we continue to cultivate new food entrepreneurs and start-ups, particularly during these challenging times. The Digital School of Food is an excellent first step for anyone with an idea to establish a food production business. It will help them mould that idea to bring it to the next stage. This is particularly significant now, with many potential entrepreneurs at home, they can access this programme from anywhere.

“Starting a food business can be straightforward but growing it can be challenging. The Local Enterprise Offices are there to support those who take the programme. Following completion, participants can move on to more advanced programmes such as Food Starter and Food Academy, as well as further supports such as management development and assistance in raising funding for their small business. The Digital School of Food is a game changer for food entrepreneurs and will enable aspiring entrepreneurs to learn best practice in setting up a food business.”

The Digital School of Food is the latest support established for food entrepreneurs in Ireland by the Local Enterprise Offices, following on from Food Academy and Food Starter.  For more information on the Digital School of Food you can visit here>>

Local Enterprise Offices & Covid-19 Response

The network of Local Enterprise Offices have a suite of supports to help small businesses during the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.  These include the Business Continuity Voucher, which gives businesses sector specific consultancy for their company to plan to deal with and recover from the current market issues.  The Trading Online Voucher helps companies to get their business online and establish a way of selling their products to a wider network.  The scheme has also been expanded to allow companies apply for a second Trading Online Voucher if they have previously received one.  Local Enterprise Offices are also providing free business planning and mentoring to all small businesses affected by the Covid-19 pandemic.  More information on all the supports can be found here>>

(Pictured:  Maria Betts, Maria Lucia Bakes).