A group of eight ambitious seafood entrepreneurs from County Wexford have become the first in the South East region to benefit from a new intensive business development programme. The official graduation ceremony took place today (Tuesday 13 September 2011) in the Wexford Enterprise Centre.
The ‘Wexford Seafood Development Programme’ was introduced in the South East region after a similar, highly-successful syllabus was made available to participants in coastal communities in West Cork.
Aimed at both start-up and existing seafood enterprises, the New Ross-based course was co-ordinated by BIM, the Seafood Development Agency, in conjunction with Wexford Local Development Ltd and Wexford County Enterprise Board. Training and mentoring support was delivered by Bullseye Food Marketing.
Donal Buckley, Business Development & Innovation Manager BIM, believes that the new programme has ensured that local seafood companies are fully-prepared for the opportunities and challenges of a contemporary marketplace:
“We’re confident that the ‘Wexford Seafood Development Programme’ will mean a boost for local seafood companies that are determined to strengthen their entrepreneurial skills and strategically develop their businesses. Here in the South East, we need to look beyond offering wholesale or ‘raw’ seafood produce. The demands of the marketplace mean that businesses in the region have the opportunity to re-position themselves and capitalise on the higher-margin ‘value-added’ sector.
In Co. Wexford, there’s certainly no shortage of innovative business ideas; however, it’s vital to furnish seafood entrepreneurs with practical food industry knowledge. As we endeavour to support a new generation of entrepreneurs in coastal communities, it’s crucial that we focus on marketing know-how. We also need to nurture a sense of awareness in relation to emerging food trends and production technology.
After nearly ten months’ intensive training, we’re confident that these ambitious local entrepreneurs are now ideally-placed to drive sales in the domestic and international marketplaces.”
As the inaugural Wexford Seafood Development Programme finishes, many course participants now have ‘value-added’ products that are ready to launch in Ireland and overseas.
John Kenny of Atlantis Seafoods in Wexford is one of the entrepreneurs who took part in the accelerated training scheme.
Like many of his industry peers, he’s hoping that his business can attract the attention of retailers and distributors in continental Europe and further a field.
“We’re definitely going down the gourmet route and we’re now more confident than ever that our ‘value-added’ products have enormous potential on both the domestic and export markets. Over the last year, we’ve been very much focused on product development and strategic marketing – our new product range will include innovative and more adventurous flavour combinations that are designed to appeal to the modern consumer.
Before the programme, we were aware that we needed to diversify our business model in order to ensure company growth and development. We were ready to begin pursuing new business ideas, but in certain areas, we lacked a complete marketplace insight. Over the last ten months, it’s been fantastic to attend the combination of group workshops and one-to-one mentoring sessions. At this stage, I feel fully prepared to launch our new product range, co-ordinate a sales and marketing campaign and take our business to the next level.
While we’re looking forward to developing our own business, it’s also great to be able to further enhance the reputation of Co. Wexford seafood. As an increased number of value-added exporters emerge from the region, we’ll have an excellent chance to promote our unique local fisheries heritage”, John explains.