Food proved to be a formula for real success in the finals of the 2019 Local Enterprise Awards, with three Donegal Food Enterprises carrying away major prizes on the day of the competition.
Sixteen finalists were in contention for awards at the ceremony held in Letterkenny’s Radisson Blu’ Hotel, when a total of 8 awards were presented on the day.
O’Donnell’s Bakery were named as Runner-Up in the Best Established Business category, while food businesses also took top prizes in two of the four new awards presented this year.
One of those new categories was the Food Coast Award, won for the first time by Sara and Philip Moss of Filligan’s, while Hugh Wilhare of Mulroy Bay Mussels captured the Export Award.
Derek Walker, Nat Noot; Andrea Kelly, On the Go Coffee Co and Ciara Shine of Shine’s Seafood were also among the the finalists and were each given a presentation for reaching that stage of the competition.
Having watched his business grow over recent years, Andrew McElhinney’s O’Donnell’s Bakery was a strong contender for the overall prize, just being pipped in the end by James Coyle of JC Engineering who took the overall award.
“It’s good being in business and giving people employment, but at the heart of it is that we love what we do. We like food, we like Donegal food and we like spreading the joy about Donegal food,” Andrew said.
There is great satisfaction, he added, in knowing people are picking up their products.
“We did a survey previously, there were 35,000 people lifting our product every day, that figure is now 70,000 just in Ireland. In America there are about 12,000 people a month purchasing our product, so I’d classify that as successful,” he added.
Speaking after the ceremony, The Food Coast Award winner Sara Moss of Filligan’s said she was truly delighted to have won against such worthy competition.
“I really am thrilled to have won and I know how many great food businesses we have in the county and the level of competition we faced. It is a great way to finish the year.”
Filligan’s Marketing Manager, Willie Cremen, said the award was a recognition of over 20 years of hard work put in by Sara and Philip.
“This is the result of an accumulation of years of hard work, so it is super to end the year like this and it will help us focus on plans for the new year,” he said.
Indeed, according to Filligan’s Marketing Manager, taking part in the competition itself allowed the business to hone in and focus and he described the process as very worthwhile.
“Being part of the competition does force you to sit down and look at the strengths and weaknesses in the company. That is a positive thing because it makes you really focus in on the business,” said Willie.
Meanwhile Hugh Wilhare from Mulroy Bay Mussels said he was delighted and surprised to have won the award for export. He said it was recognition for the work his boys had done in the business over the past number of years.
Of course, Mulroy bay Mussels are no stranger to the export business and indeed have grown on the back of their sales to other countries.
“France would have been our main market for almost 30 years but we have branched out a bit over the last few years with the help of the Local Enterprise Office. We’re now selling into Malaysia and the Chinese market and our plan would be to expand that side of the business,” he said.
That type of ambition will surely please Head of Enterprise in Donegal, Michael Tunney, who, in his concluding comments, said he would love to see that resilience matched by other qualities.
“At a conference we hosted earlier in the year, I asked the question of why we don’t achieve more? I would love to see the resilience we have in abundance matched with greater ambition. I have no doubt the type of positive people we have in the room today are the people who can help us achieve that vision,” he said.
The overall business of the year for 2019 was James Coyle of JC Engineering, while in the Start-Up business category, the top prize was presented to Cathal Sheridan of Huku Balance, with Kieran Murray and Conor McGrath of Thinstone, Donegal taking the runner-up prize.
Lynn Costello Erskine of the Pear in Paper took the prize for Innovation; Eileen Rafferty and David Stevens of The Bothy scooped the Creative Coast prize.
All of the finalists were given a presentation for reaching that stage of the competition and other finalists included Siobhan Boyle of Sculpt Cosmetics; Mark Bolton of Bolt On; Conor McLaughlin, McMorrow & McLaughlin Solicitors; Pat Lafferty, Multi-Crete Agri Products; Derek Walker, Nat Noot; Andrea Kelly, On the Go Coffee Co; Ciara Shine, Shine’s Seafood and Jessica Peoples of Zona Dance.
Local Enterprise Office Donegal is supported through co-funding from the Irish Government and the European Regional Development Fund 2014 – 2020. To contact the Local Enterprise Office in Donegal, log on to www.localenterprise.ie/donegal or phone 0749160735.