Awards celebrate entrepreneurship

THE best of Northern Ireland entrepreneur-ship was celebrated at the annual Northern Ireland Enterprise Awards held in Belfast.

The awards showcase the work done by the small business community in the north and the efforts of the local enterprise agency network to support business development.

Among the top awards were exporter of the year for Larne firm Stealth Translation while Alistair Smith of Inspire Business Centre took advisor of the year.

Business start-up of the year was Draperstown food firm So Popcorn.

Junior minister Jonathan Bell, who attended the ceremony, said the awards "recognise the valuable contribution of our local entrepreneurs and business owners".

"All of those who have been nominated for an award should be immensely proud of their achievements, whether they have started or grown their own business," he said.

"This is particularly commendable given the challenging economic conditions we have experienced in the past number of years."

Enterprise NI chief executive Gordon Gough described the body as "the voice of local entrepreneurship and we're very pleased to celebrate great examples of local ingenuity and talent".

Delegates heard from Scottish entrepreneur Fraser Doherty who founded the SuperJam company that makes 100 per cent fruit jam fro his grandmother's recipes.

Still in his mid-twenties, Mr Doherty is the founder and chief executive of SuperJam, the all-fruit jam company he started when he was 14 with his grandmother's recipes.

SuperJam has grown to supply more than 2,000 super-markets around the world; selling millions of jars. The brand has won over 20 innovation awards and launched in 12 countries around the world, exporting to places such as Australia, Russia, Denmark, Finland and Ireland.

Mr Doherty said: "SuperJam was borne out of small beginnings - particularly a small budget but with innovative thinking impressing some of the large retailers, I was able to conceive a world-renowned brand. It is now an 'Iconic Scottish Brand' in the National Museum of Scotland, alongside Tunnock's, Irn Bru and Baxters."

In 2007 Mr Doherty became the youngest ever supplier to a supermarket chain when Waitrose launched the product range.

He said: "Age shouldn't be a limiting factor when doing business. I think there is definitely scope for young people in NI to make themselves a success."

Other winners included Broighter Gold Rapeseed Oil (home based business of the year); Judith Watson of Feet First Newry (exploring enterprise learner of the year); Matthew Large of Glistrr (young entrepreneur of the year) Resurgam Trust (social economy business of the year); Thomas Boyd of Acorn The Business Centre (social enterprise intern of the year) and Venture Causeway (best business support initiative of the year).


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