Heading in the right direction.

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Olivia Hayes from Oh! Hairdressing in Portstewart approached Venture Causeway with an innovative business idea last year which won her some much-needed mentoring and financial support.

With plans to open a specialised trichology clinic and bring a much-needed and unique service to the North Coast, Olivia was delighted to attract two Venture Causeway champions. Norman Lynas, of Lynas Food Service, and Jack Cassidy from JKC BMW both agreed to mentor her in the run-up to opening the clinic.

“They were very excited about it,” she says. “They wanted to be a big part of it and want it to employ people.

“Clinical trichology is the scientific study of the hair and scalp and treats everything from head lice to alopecia, psoriasis and infections. We’ll also provide a wig service and work with the NHS. It’s definitely something that’s very much needed. Our clients can’t wait for it to open!”

Olivia’s dream of opening her clinic became a reality when, in addition to offering business mentoring, her Venture Causeway champions also invested £7,000 to help develop her idea. Through Venture Causeway, she also secured a grant from the Department of Education and Learning to cover 75% of her training costs at the London Institute of Trichologists.

Once she completes the course, Olivia aims to open her Portstewart trichology clinic in 2016, creating jobs for at least two to three people. Having launched Oh! Hairdressing in 2009, Olivia says the clinic would have remained a pipe-dream if not for Venture Causeway.

“If Venture Causeway hadn’t been able to help me, I wouldn’t have been able to do this for three to five years,” she says. “It was a long-term goal. This helped me take my vision forward.”


Fishing for the Future!

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Established in 1998 by William and Stephanie Holmes, Moorbrook Lodge Trout Fishery in Castlerock has gone from strength to strength over the last 16 years. And, with a Venture Causeway investment of £10,000 awarded to the fishery in 2013, they’ve now expanded with a new coffee shop and increased their fishing stock supply.

When Stephanie pitched to the Venture Causeway champions, she hoped to receive some business mentoring support, as well as important financial investment. She subsequently gained four champions through the initiative, as well as the means to expand the business.

Her champions included Dr Mark McKinney of ATG Group Coleraine, Norman Lynas of Lynas Food Service, John Armstrong of Armstrong Medical Ltd and Karen Yates of Zing Design and Print.

 “I pitched to Venture Causeway for a coffee shop and to extend the fishery,” she says.

With the backing and support of Venture Causeway secured, Moorbrook Lodge Trout Fishery was then able to create a new café, as well as six part-time jobs for the area. As well as boosting employment locally, the investment also added a new dimension to the business and offered something new for customers to enjoy.

“We had no shop before this, so the funding helped me get the café up and running,” says Stephanie. “We now have five girls working part-time there in the summer and one now at the weekends.”

“Mark McKinney in particular was very good,” she adds. “He came out and gave me some great business advice and support, and brought out groups of people to fish.

“We do fly-fishing, so the investment was also used to add to a course location that we have, and to get bigger fish for this – which we did!”



Perfecting her Pesto

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After carving out a career in the food industry, Portrush-based Clare Rainey turned her hand to making fresh pesto when she launched Kookycook back in 2012. Free from additives, Clare’s pesto, including Sweet Green Basil, Sun-dried Tomato, Rocket & Lemon, Green Chilli & Coriander, Mint, and Feta & Black Olive, was well received on the North Coast.

Working from her home kitchen however, Clare’s Kookycook business needed more space and professional equipment if it was to grow and become more profitable. Thanks to Causeway Enterprise Agency, Clare discovered Venture Causeway and subsequently pitched Kookycook to the team of local champions.

I wasn’t producing enough pesto to make the money I needed to buy essential equipment,” she says. “I wanted to convert my garage into a kitchen, so financial support was essential. I needed a fridge and my own workshop.”

Securing three champions for business mentoring support, Clare was backed by Norman Lynas, Darren Gardiner and Kenny Bradley, who each offered her £1,500. With the overall financial investment totalling £4,500, Clare was able to purchase everything she needed to help make Kookycook a success.

“My garage was converted and I was able to buy the best industrial mixer,” she says. “Norman Lynas helped me fine-tune everything and helped me identify what I needed to make life easier – for example a bigger fridge, a better mixer, a bigger sink, better labels.

“He also put me in touch with a graphic designer, who told me what I needed in terms of labelling and flyers.

“I probably wouldn’t have been able to move this fast without Venture Causeway. They allowed me to buy better equipment and make the business more profitable more quickly. It’s nice to hear from successful businessmen in the food business that Kookycook has potential. It’s given me the confidence to keep going.”



The Epitome of success

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When Emma Gunes of Epitome Recruitment in Coleraine approached Venture Causeway last year with her business idea, her main goal was to expand her team and create employment. With a £5,000 investment subsequently secured from Emma’s Venture Causeway champion, Dr Mark McKinney of ATG Group Coleraine, her ambition was soon realised.

“We’ve employed two full-time consultants as a direct result, supported by the Venture Causeway investment and Invest NI jobs fund,” she says. “I sought funding to expand the team and therefore expand the business. This was the primary reason, and the added benefit of mentoring from a local successful business person was an added bonus.”

Thanks to having two new staff members to focus on driving business growth, Emma has seen Epitome Recruitment increase its turnover by 35%, with profit also rising by 15%.

“It’s early days, but the pace of business development has increased and we’re now able to run more recruitment campaigns, as we have the resources to handle applicant response,” she says.

“With additional resources, I personally have been able to get involved in more strategic projects, such as developing a bespoke recruitment software that will offer clients exceptional new services, such as video interviews and interactive applicant tracking.”

Aside from the investment however, Emma also benefited from the business expertise of Dr Mark McKinney, who encouraged her to think more creatively about Epitome Recruitment and consider its inherent value.

“Mark has been in the background, on-hand to provide coaching and guidance, and has also been an invaluable ambassador for the business,” she says.

With business better than ever, for Epitome Recruitment, Venture Causeway has been an unprecedented success and, says Emma, gave her the chance to stop and re-evaluate her overall business structure.

“The pitching gave me the opportunity to really think about my business in a non ‘sales’ term and evaluate what we did and what I want the business to do in the future,” she says.


Easing into Market

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Over the past year, Venture Causeway champion, John Armstrong of Armstrong Medical Ltd, has been mentoring an exciting project from an Aghadowey-based researcher and academic.

Digit-Ease, led by Joan Condell, is a research team currently developing a wearable glove which records joint movements and improves the diagnosis and treatment of rheumatoid arthritis. The team’s intelligent computing system should subsequently reduce the need for expensive drugs, by detecting and treating arthritis more quickly.

“I went to Venture Causeway for mentorship, as we can access funding through the university,” says Joan, a senior lecturer in maths and computing at the University of Ulster’s Magee campus.

“I work a lot in the commercialisation of research – how we take research and make it useful to society – but I’m really an academic, so I was keen to have local mentoring support for this. John Armstrong has a lot of experience in the clinical device area and he’s very aware of all the European stamps and approvals you have to get for products.”

As a spin-out company, Digit-Ease hasn’t yet launched, as the glove prototype is still undergoing clinical trials at the Western Trust at Altnagelvin, but these should be completed by Christmas. Currently employing a full-time researcher to carry out the trials and develop the technology, Digit-Ease hopes to create further jobs in the future. This could mean up to five more posts initially, with the potential for more.

“Once we get out the other side, we’ll think about whether we’re going to licence this or develop it ourselves,” says Joan. “I’m trying to take the system through the process of commercialisation, but it will be a high-end company when it’s set up.”

With Venture Causeway’s support in helping to refine the business model and develop their route to market, Digit-Ease, says Joan, is now one step closer to completing their work.



A bright future for the Arcadia 

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Once the place to be for dancing the night away, The Arcadia in Portrush has enjoyed a new lease of life over the past five years, thanks to Tanya Gillen. Having already launched a café, fitness classes and workshops, as well as hosting wedding parties, Tanya has now extended the business further, after receiving a £10,000 investment from Venture Causeway.

Thanks to insightful business mentoring from her Venture Causeway champions, Jack Cassidy (JKC BMW) and Norman Lynas (Lynas Food Service), Tanya has renovated The Arcadia to create more business and employment opportunities.

“I pitched to Venture Causeway for investment for a Supper Club and to improve the space available for weddings,” she says. “I also hoped I’d get a bit of business support.”

With her champions on board, Tanya was given free rein to complete the renovations, all of which were done by local contractors. She subsequently replaced the tiled floor and large cumbersome counter downstairs, and invested in new tables and chairs.

As a result, Tanya doubled her seating space and now has three weddings booked in to The Arcadia for next year, creating around six new jobs per wedding.

“We now also have Supper Club once a month,” she adds. “The Arcadia is going to be a facility for chefs to come in and serve a large group in one sitting. Whoosh is doing the first one – a Thai Tasting night – which is already sold-out. We hope to have it once a month, then every three weeks, then every Saturday night.

“The investment was very important, but the mentoring from Norman and Jack has been invaluable. Jack was very supportive and Norman Lynas was a big influence – his business acumen and support has steered me through.

“One of the most pertinent questions he asked me was – is this a hobby or a business? It really sharpened my focus and has made me re-think things. The advice was very insightful and I’m very positive about the future!”

Surfing Success 

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When you already run a successful business, it can sometimes be difficult to know how to expand and grow into the future. Not so for Ricky Martin of Alive Surf School in Portrush, who’s driving his business forward thanks to an innovative surfboard prototype – and the backing of his Venture Causeway champions.

As a separate entity to Alive Surf School, Ricky’s latest venture is so new it hasn’t yet been named, but is currently operating under ‘Martin, Windish and Ridley’, after its founders. What hooked the attention of Venture Causeway was Ricky’s unique surfboard design for people with physical disabilities, resulting in some much-need financial investment and local mentoring support.

“We entered Venture Causeway because we had a product that we felt was completely innovative – a world-first,” says Ricky.

“We had an Innovation Voucher from Invest NI and we’d worked with Queen’s University’s engineering department and got a 3D model of our surfboard, but we didn’t have any financial reserves to go beyond that.”

Venture Causeway was the ideal solution and Ricky subsequently secured three business mentors – John Armstrong of Armstrong Medical Ltd, Norman Lynas of Lynas Food Service, and Kenny Bradley of Kenny’s Spar and Kenny’s Home Delivery Wine. Crucially, he also received a £10,000 financial investment, meaning his business idea could finally move to the next stage.

“Our main mentor, John, has helped us assess where we are with the business,” he says. “He’s been brilliant.”

With the surfboard prototype due for completion by the end of October, the team will now consider whether they need to invest further to get it ready for market, or start looking at materials.

“I think Venture Causeway’s been really great,” says Ricky. “It allowed us to move forward when we wouldn’t have otherwise. Without this, there’s no question the business would have stalled.”



Something to sing about!

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Passionate about inspiring creativity in children through music and drama, Coleraine-based Denise Rosborough fulfilled a dream when she released The Barazina Choirs’ debut album earlier this year.

Thanks to an investment of almost £8,000 from Venture Causeway, Barazina Music & Drama’s debut CD launched at the Millennium Forum in April. Denise initially pitched for investment to secure premises for her music tutoring business, Barazina, but soon discovered fate had other ideas…

Having launched Barazina in 2009, Denise created Barazina Youth Choir in 2011, followed by Barazina Mini Choir in 2013, after discovering an “amazing amount of talent” on the North Coast.

“To help me focus more on the choirs, I wanted to employ people to do the tutoring side of things,” she says. “I wanted to have a building, as my business is home-based, so I pitched to Venture Causeway for this.”

With champions, Jack Cassidy, Norman Lynas and Dr Norry McBride all willing to invest in Denise’s idea, she then received an offer she couldn’t refuse.

“Two weeks after my pitch, the CEO of the world-famous African Children’s Choir asked me to work for them two days a week,” she says. “I’d also started writing songs for the choir and I wanted to record a CD and make a resource for schools and churches.

“So, instead of investing in premises, Norman Lynas became my lead mentor and said he would fund our CD.”

Receiving £7,949 from Venture Causeway, Barazina Music: Drama subsequently recorded their album, creating contracts with four local individuals within the areas of music production, music arrangements and graphic design. The rest of the money went towards their website costs.

“It was a dream,” says Denise. “Since then, we’ve also secured premises and I’ve employed two people to do the tutoring for Barazina and one person for administration. I’m also launching a new choir for 14-18 year-olds – Singzina – in November, which will involve taking on my fourth employee.

“Venture Causeway allowed me to continue the creative abundance of what Barazina is. It gave me the next step forward.”



8 Start-Up Businesses awarded ”Kickstrater” Grants and 1-to-1 mentoring with the Venture Causeway Champions

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In December of 2013 8 Coleraine Businesses received a “Kickstarter” Grant from the Venture Causeway Champions coupled with 1-to-1 mentoring to help them to launch their new business idea.The businesses who benefitted were in their early stages of starting up and had to yet test the market. The mentoring and “Kickstarter” investment will help them to get their business off the ground and make their dream of starting their own business into a reality.

The 8 businesses who received Kickstarter Funds and Mentoring are:

  1. National Minitrac – Alastair Bell
  2. The Attic – Angela Kelly
  3. KiddieCal – Anna McAuley
  4. The Irish Jewellery Studio – Emer Dixon
  5. Kiso Arts – Janet Millar
  6. Scratch Labels – Michael Sweeny
  7. Daily Market Summary – Michael Glover
  8. Victoria King Hairdressing – Vicky King



Venture Causeway Champions invested £78,300  in 13 Coleraine Businesses

Applicants are invited to pitch to the Champions for the opportunity to win a slice of the £100,000 investment pot.

At the end of a highly competitive month of pitching where 26 businesses competed for a share of the £100,00 investment pot, 13 businesses came out on top. That’s an amazing 50% of finalists who were made an offer by the Champions.Investment and Mentoring is on-going and throughout November 2013 to November 2014.

The Champions have been working with the successful applicants and we are seeing great results including leverage of further funding, access to other mentoring programmes, business expansion and job creation.

During November 2014 we will be catching up with the successful applications and their stories will be featured here, so watch this space.

The 13 successful Venture Causeway applicant are:

Casey’s Creatures, Portrush
Kwong’s Sauces, Coleraine
Kooky Kook, Portrush
Barazina, Coleraine
Epitome Recruitment, Portstewart
Plain & Simple, Portstewart
DIGITEASE, Coleraine
OH Hairdressing, Portstewart
Alive Surf School, Portrush
Moorbrook Lodge, Castlerock
Crossfit, Coleraine
North Coast Customs, Garvagh
The Arcadia, Portrush

Venture Causeway is open for business

Venture Causeway Champions invest £100.000 in an investment pot to help Coleraine Businesses to start up and grow.

Venture Causeway is aimed specifically at Coleraine businesses both new and established and does not restrict applicants with any other criteria other than that the business must be located in the borough of Coleraine.

Our Champions are looking for feasible business propositions with growth potential and with a financial need where funding and mentoring can make all the difference to the success of the idea.

Application for the competition is simple. Vist the Apply Now section and follow the details to download your application pack.

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