Down District Business Awards Celebrates Success

Popular TV presenter Lynda Bryans entertained and compered the presentation and finally Councillor Eamonn O’Neill delivered the announcement of the winners.

“> Down News Receives Best Use Of Social Media Award Down News was the winner of the Best Use of Social Media category. The  businesss was described by Councillor O’Neill as “innovative”, an online newspaper, the first in Co Down. Beginning  in October 2009, Down News has increased its visitors to the site to a respectable figure of 3000 and this is organically increasing each week. Covering rural Down, it provides news stories and some sport. It has endeavoured to provide up-to-speed quality daily news to your computer (or mobile phone). Many people actually access Down News on a regular basis using their mobiles, and some even send in press reports typed on their high tech Blackberry phones. The Flickr photo viewer has been a feature  of the website since it started, and has in its archive  around well over 2600 photos of some of the events attanded in the past 14 months. They are all accessible in sets to view. But since being involved in a Facebook seminar run by the Beyond NI programme last autumn, Down News have become a strong advocate of the social networking medium and is a fan of Facebook and Twitter, ’embracing the pair’. Each day there are 2-300 people using Facebook and the Down News community is growing. There are approaching 1000 Friends at the moment and if that was multuplied by an average 0f 300 (representing the number of Friends that the Down News Friends have, probably more) then at first level this viral span is around 30,000 but in reality is much wider and deeper. It is truly a new, radical way of communicating and advertising. O’Neill Congratulates Entrants to the Down District Business Awards The guests came to celebrate business excellence, innovation and entrepreneurship at its very best and they were not disappointed. In opening the event, Councillor O’Neill paid tribute to the efforts of local businesses saying, “I have had the pleasure of working with some of our local businesses during my term as Chairman, and I am greatly impressed with the indigenous vision, commitment and competitiveness of those businesses in stimulating the relationships between economic development and cultural resources. “Indeed, this event has provided a great platform for showcasing the achievements of businesses across the district, injecting pride in the area and promoting it as a successful business location.” “Our local businesses are crucial to creating a successful future for our district through the creation of new jobs, providing the latest training, developing the skills of employees, and using technology and innovation to compete in today’s global market place. These businesses make a valuable contribution to boosting our district’s economy, and it is a real honour for me to be able to shine the light of recognition and applaud their achievements.” Presenting the Dermot Curran Young Achiever Award, sponsored by Ulster Bank to Boat Covers Ireland and the Down Business Centre Graduate Award to Saintfield’s Tara Russell of 31 Interactive, Councillor Dermot Curran said, “I have long held a passion for supporting young people to become the capable leaders and business people we will all depend on for our future. We need young entrepreneurs to take forward new businesses in the area, to address new challenges in an ever-changing world and to secure a positive future for the district.” The Best Small Business Award was picked up by Saintfield company Fresh Interiors, and speaking for the category sponsor, Janet Doyle, Manager of the Northern Bank, Downpatrick, added, “Northern Bank knows and supports many progressive and dynamic businesses in our local area and Down district has some very talented and innovative entrepreneurs, each making a vital contribution to the local economy. Northern Bank is proud to play its part in supporting local enterprise and to acknowledge the achievements of success and growth amongst local businesses. The short listed companies in the Small Business Category ably demonstrated a high level of innovation and excellence in their respective industries including computer software solutions, interior design and web design. These companies are great examples of enterprise in the local economy and we congratulate them all on their achievements.” Downpatrick company Magnakata scooped the Best Export Business Award, sponsored by Invest NI. Mark Bleakney, Manager of Invest NI’s Southern Regional Office, said, “Many businesses across the Down district have demonstrated drive and commitment to boosting their performance. By focusing on commercial creativity, operational efficiency and export development these companies are contributing to the growth of our economy, and it is fitting their achievements are recognised by the local community.” David Cowan, Area Manager for Business Banking at Ulster Bank said, “Ulster Bank is delighted to be involved with these business awards which help to celebrate all that is good about local businesses and we congratulate Boat Covers Ireland on their well deserved win. At Ulster Bank we believe in investing in our relationships with customers and our regional network allows us to operate at the heart of the local business community. We recognise that we have an important role to play in economic recovery and we are committed to supporting viable SME businesses. We are very pleased to recognise achievement by those businesses.” The store manager at Asda Downpatrick, Robert Ryans, said, “We’d like to congratulate all of tonight’s winners, especially Churchtown Farm, the winner of the Best Sustainable Local Food Producer category. Over the last five years, Asda has worked hard to develop and encourage relationships with local producers and suppliers, big and small, so we know the hard work that goes into operating in this sector. Our congratulations also go to Down District Council for hosting such a great community event which we’re delighted to have been a part of.” A ‘Special Recognition’ award was presented by the Council Chairman to Franck and Tina Brétéché of Mange Tout deli located at Down Business Centre for their contribution to the development of Ryan Bogues, a young student from Blackwater Integrated College. Councillor O’Neill said, “An application was made on behalf of Mange Tout by a very special young boy, highlighting how the owners had gone the extra mile to help his development, and it is thanks to this young man that we are making this special presentation this evening.” Other winners of these highly contested awards include Tory Bush Cottages who were crowned Best Green Business, whilst Blue-Fin Software Solutions topped the poll in the category of Best Knowledge-Based Company. The title of Best Community/Social Enterprise was won by Down Community Transport, with the award for the Best New Tourism Business going to NI Bootcamp. Down News emerged triumphant in the Best Use of Social Media category, whilst JJ Donnelly came out on top in the category of Best Marketing Initiative. Down Business Centre Delighted At The Results There  was a great effort from Down Business Centre clients past and present with a high propostion of the winners of the Down District Business Awards having at some stage been supported in their early and intermediate stages of development by the Centre. Janice Symington, Centre Manager said, “The Down District Business Awards will give local enterprise a great boost. The winners and those shortlisted will act as examples of good and innovative businsess models for others to emulate in our area. There are some really terrific small businesses out there. We help small businesses as best we can and these awards are just tremendous news. “In the Dermot Curran awards, all three shortlisted were involved with the Down Business Centre at some stage. And those involved in the Down Business Graduate category were all working through our system as well as the Best Export category winners and the Best Knowledge Based business. Overall, there were six out of the 11 categories who had worked with the Down Business Centre. Three are actually tenants. “There is not a great deal of help for small business at the moment out there and it is a credit that the winners and those shortlisted have managed to rise to the top through their determination, diligence and vision.” The Winners… Their Business Profiles *  Dermot Curran Young Achiever Award WINNER – Boat Covers Ireland, Killyleagh, specialises in the design, manufacture and fitting of bespoke ‘Made to Measure’ covers for motor boats and yachts. Since its establishment the company has secured contracts with leading Marine and Fresh Water Boat manufacturers in Ireland for the supply of canopies. *  Down Business Centre Graduate Award WINNER – Tara Russell, from Saintfield is a recent graduate of the Down Business Centre and partner in a new interactive web development agency, 31 Interactive. *  Best Small Business WINNER – Fresh Interiors, Saintfield, was one of the first companies to secure a contract within the prime location of Cathedral Quarter for some of their restaurant interiors, and has been approached to design ‘The World’s Best Cocktail Bar’ in New York which will undoubtedly give the company an international footing. Fresh Interiors believe in sourcing local talent and re-sourcing local materials which could be used within their schemes and design projects. * Best Green Business WINNER – Tory Bush Cottages, Bryansford, Newcastle. The original Tory Bush Cottages were built 15 years ago with green aspirations, designed to benefit from Passive Solar Gain, built using timber frame and using a system that only produces hot-water on demand, which reduces the waste of stored hot water between short breaks. The nine cottages were extended in 2005 with the addition of the ‘Eco-Loft’ and conference centre, again with timber frames but using recovered gypsum and compressed newspaper boards, instead of plaster board, these cottages are insulated with sheep’s wool, heated by wood pellet and solar panel and use rain water harvesting. *  Best Export Business WINNER – Magnakata, Downpatrick, is a marquee hire business with a difference, offering tepee-style tents for a variety of outdoor functions. Started in 2009, owner Ed Lindsay operates the business throughout Ireland, with approximately 50% of sales coming from the south of Ireland. The company is progressively exporting its very unique product and has achieved significant results in a short space of time. *  Best Knowledge-based Company WINNER – Blue Fin Software Solutions, Castlewellan, provides cost effective, performance enhancing custom software to a wide range of businesses including financial services, food wholesalers, construction companies and freight distributors. They have recently developed an innovative marketing product, iSender which allows companies to capture customer details, categorise customers, target by geographical location and market to customers by SMS and email. *  Best Community/Social Enterprise WINNER – Down Community Transport, provides a not-for-profit, safe, affordable, flexible and accessible community based transport service which is responsive to the needs of individuals and community groups living in isolated rural parts of Down district. Transport is provided using specially adapted mini buses which are fitted with extra side steps, grab handles and passenger lifts which are specifically designed to aid those with reduced mobility, including wheelchairs. Down Community Transport carried out 143,290 passenger trips covering 545,923 miles during 2009/2010. *  Best Sustainable Local Food Producer WINNER – Churchtown Farm, Strangford was one of the first large commercial farms to convert to organic production in 1998 and has developed extremely efficient methods for producing organic beef, lamb and cereal which it shares with the local agricultural community and general public through farm walks, open days, farm newsletters and website. Due to the development of its website in 2007, Churchtown now sells a range of organic meats throughout the UK and Ireland. *  Best Marketing Initiative WINNER – JJ Donnelly, Downpatrick. Combining a mix of market research with industry knowledge of changing customer perceptions and buying habits, JJ Donnelly employed a number of tactics to attract new customers to the shop. By devising a new marketing strategy to include the use of Facebook linked to their website, uploading product images to Facebook and interacting with customers through regular new product updates, JJ Donnelly has successfully grown its customer base, both in terms of online purchasing and attracting new customers to the shop in Downpatrick. *  Best New Tourism WINNER – NI Bootcamp, Kilcoo, is Northern Ireland’s first ever fitness and weight loss bootcamp. The bootcamp has been successful in attracting local and regional tourists to indulge in their many services and to make the most of the surrounding mountains, forests, beaches and lakes, thus promoting the area so much so that visitors want to return. *  Best Use of Social Media WINNER – Down News, Downpatrick, is the first internet-only newspaper in Co Down, and is one of the best examples of innovation in the use of social media in the area. Jim Masson has developed this online newspaper, incorporating all social media avenues. The business has performed strongly over the last 14 months providing daily news, sports and advertising.]]>