24 September 2020 - Page 52

MAY 31 2018
‘Learn, grow and excel’: NI Chamber
WO of Northern Ireland’s
leading exporters have
revealed how a strategy
of learning, growing and
excelling has helped their
companies achieve international
Nick Coburn, Managing Director
of Ulster Carpets, and Seamus
of Fastank, were speaking at NI
Chamber’s Learn Grow Excel
conference at Belfast’s Hilton Hotel
last week.
attended the annual event aimed
at any business who aspires to
grow at home or internationally,
focussing on key themes including
innovation, talent, technology and
Sharing the export growth
story of Portadown-based Ulster
Carpets, the manufacturer of
carpets for overseas markets which
account for 80 per cent of the
company’s business, Mr Coburn
said: “Businesses with great ideas
and ambition sometimes lack
confidence or know-how when it
comes to growing their business
and particularly in reaching new
“The aspiration is there but
turning that ambition into reality
CONFERENCE: Alan Egner, Power
NI, Sandra Scannell, NI Chamber,
Nick Coburn, Ulster Carpets,
and Seamus Connelly, Fast
is much harder to master. Ulster
Carpets began exporting in the
early 1990s initially to the US.
“It was tough but we learnt a
lot. By the late 90s we started to
grow and we are now perceived by
the market to be the number one
manufacturer of Axminster carpet
so we have excelled. We are still
growing and will excel further.”
Meanwhile, Seamus Connolly
told guests about the phenomenal
international success of Antrimbased Fastank, which he founded
in 1980.
The company produces a patented
liquid storage container that is
currently exported to over 80
countries throughout the world and
used in a wide range of emergency
including oil and chemical spill
clean-ups, firefighting and animal
“The product is simple to use,
compact, portable and the design
ethos has stayed the same for 38
years but at the same time it has
moved on dramatically over the
years in terms of its application
across a range of industries” said
Mr Connolly.
“Once you gain the confidence
to export through learning and
growing, a world of opportunities
open up and we have grasped
Commenting on the Learn Grow
Excel initiative, Sandra Scannell,
Head of Business Services at NI
Chamber, said: “During 2017 the
Learn Grow Excel programme
supported 18 events. Just under
1,300 participants took part in the
initiative representing almost 700
local businesses.
“Indeed over 320 new qualified
identified and we are encouraged
to learn that an estimated £780,000
of new business tenders across
a range of opportunities, from
construction and fit out contracts
to IT systems, security and printing
were submitted.”
Alan Egner, Power NI Business
Sales and Marketing Manager, said
the Learn Grow Excel initiative
was a perfect fit for the electricity
supplier: “It is all about helping new
businesses open up opportunities
and navigate through export and
trade opportunities.”
At the event Graham Nolan,
Business Design Director at
Fjord Dublin, a multi-disciplinary
research and incubation hub at
Dublin’s Dock, also provided a
thought provoking address looking
at how businesses need to adapt to
evolving customer expectations.
In addition a series of lively
panel discussions and inspiring
talks took place involving a range
of entrepreneurs and a number
of GB and international markets
experts were on hand to meet with
attendees, along with Invest NI’s
global in-market team.
In an interactive online poll, 24
per cent of guests said they were
targeting GB for exports, the same
figure for the RoI while 22 per cent
said they were looking at Europe.
The conference was supported by headline sponsor Ulster
Carpets and NI Chamber’s SME Partner Power NI, with
supporting sponsors Beyond Business Travel, EY and Invest NI.
First quarter food and
drink exports growth
WELCOME: Stephen Agnew, Sales Director,
with David Garrett, Managing Director at
Fane Valley Feeds.
Stephen Agnew
joins with Fane
Valley Feeds
TEPHEN Agnew has recently been
appointed sales director with the
challenging task of continuing the steady
growth of the Fane Valley Feeds business into
the future.
Widely known in farming circles, coming
from a family run dairy farm near Caledon
where his father and uncle milk a large herd
of Holstein-Friesian cows, he has worked in
the feed industry since graduating with a first
class honours degree in Agriculture, initially
with a large compounder and more recently
with a leading supplement and nutritional
solutions supplier.
THE latest export statistics from the Food and Drink
Federation (FDF) reveal that Q1 2018 exports of food and
drink have grown by 5.5 per cent to £5.2bn, from £5.0bn
in Q1 2017. Total exports to EU markets (+8.2 per cent)
grew faster than those to non-EU markets (+1.2 per cent).
Each of the top 10 product categories saw growth apart
from salmon and beer, which were down £40.7m, and
£16.1m respectively when compared to Q1 of 2017. Of
the top 10 product categories, breakfast cereals saw the
fastest growth, up 30.3 per cent to £111.2m.
FDF is currently working with Government to secure
an ambitious sector deal for the food and drink industry.
Amongst the proposals are detailed plans outlining how
the industry might fulfil its export potential, building on
research undertaken by Grant Thornton which identified
markets manufacturers would like to target.
One of these markets is Japan, where UK exports of
food and drink have grown over the past 10 years, but
at a rate below the average growth rate of exports from
EU27 nations. In Q1 2018, exports to Japan rose by five
per cent on the previous year to £56.7m.
The Japanese market recorded significant growth in
categories including sweet biscuits (119 per cent), pork
(88 per cent), soft drinks (90 per cent) and cheese (507
per cent).
It is hoped the Rugby World Cup in 2019 and the 2020
Olympics in Japan will present further opportunities to
build on this growth and strengthen trading ties between
the UK and Japan.
Ian Wright, CBE, Chief Executive, FDF, said: “Food and
drink exports showed continued growth in JanuaryMarch 2018. This growth was based on robust demand
for the UK’s high-quality products.
“Much of the demand comes from nearby markets, as
demonstrated by strong growth to EU27 countries. There
are also significant opportunities further afield.
“However, these require more specialist in-market
support. For example, a recent trip to Japan highlighted
the strength of demand that exists for quality UK
products and the desire to build trading relationships.”
Elsa Fairbanks, Director, Food & Drink Exports
Association (FDEA), said: “We are greatly encouraged
that 2018 has got off to such a strong start across a wide
range of countries, both established markets within the
EU and emerging markets in Asia. Growth in our largest
market, Ireland, highlights the need for a frictionless
border between North and South.
“It is a testament to the investment and effort that UK
food and drink exporting companies are putting into
international sales. Hopefully this will encourage more
businesses to research new opportunities outside the
WELCOME: Betsy the St Bernard, Daft Eddy’s owners Tamara MacLeod
and Aaron Stronge, along with Maggie Jardine, Little Eddy’s Manager
and, front, Ellis MacLeod.
Daft Eddy’s welcomes
‘Little’ new arrival
the heart of County Down
is following a new business
‘lead’. Daft Eddy’s on Sketrick
Island, Killinchy, has expanded its
enterprise with the opening of Little
Eddy’s – a dog-friendly zone and
bespoke cycle halt that makes the
most of its scenic surroundings.
The new 45-seater venture
includes the creation of 11 new jobs
following a significant investment
from the business. Owned and
operated by brother and sister
team Aaron Stronge and Tamara
MacLeod, the restaurant has been
in the family for over 25 years.
As part of the revamp, Little Eddy’s
will have a local focus – from food
companies including Belfast based
Suki Tea and Man Made, Dundonald,
and artwork from the Majury family
and ‘Stone the Crow’.
Commenting on the opening,
General Manager for Little Eddy’s
Maggie Jardine said: “I am delighted
to help the family expand the
enterprise. Daft Eddy’s has been
a feature of Sketrick Island for 25
years, and the family wanted to
maximise the potential of the coffee
shop space and take it in a new
“As a popular cyclist destination,
we created a ‘Grab and Go Cycle’
station complete with bike racks.
Furthermore, in response to
demand from pet owners who visit
the island we created a pet patio
and dog-friendly area – so owners
can enjoy lunch or a coffee with
their furry friends,” she said.


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