Derry City & Strabane - Local businesses sing the praises of BIG programme as new spaces open up




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Local businesses sing the praises of BIG programme as new spaces open up

13 July 2022
Two local businesses who have taken part in the Business, Innovation and Growth (BIG) programme have encouraged others to sign up to receive invaluable support.
The BIG programme is open to small businesses within the Derry City and Strabane District Council area who will receive expert advice and guidance on driving innovation and productivity and becoming more competitive in both indigenous and export markets. Council are currently recruiting for new businesses who are interested in taking part in the programme.
Participants receive one to one mentoring support covering topic areas such as general business planning, finance, sales, communications, digital marketing, cyber security and e-commerce.
There are also themed workshops and seminars aimed at enabling business growth and equipping businesses with the additional skills and development to compete within a digital global market.
The programme is part funded by Invest Northern Ireland and the European Regional Development Fund under the Investment for Growth & Jobs Northern Ireland [2014-2020] Programme.
Award-winning distillery, Wild Atlantic Distillery, is one company who have previously taken part in the BIG programme. Based in the beautiful village of Aghyaran, brothers-in-law Jim Nash and Brian Ash took inspiration from the spectacular rugged coastline of the island to start Wild Atlantic Distillery - celebrating high-quality whiskey, vodka and gin through tours, workshops and sensory experiences.
As company Director and Co-Founder Jim explained, taking part in the BIG programme gave them the confidence to push the Wild Atlantic Distillery to the next level.
"For both Brian and I, we had the passion and the determination to make our business a success, but we felt that as we looked to expand, the BIG programme offered us a lot of expert assistance that would only help us continue our positive trajectory. Through the mentorship, we gained a valuable insight into the many different sectors of business ownership and growth, from marketing to sustainable job creation. Being part of the BIG programme is certainly an experience that we feel we can take with us in the long-term."
Colleen Hamilton also took part in the Business, Innovation and Growth programme. Colleen owns Graze2U, a company based in Newbuildings which provides top-class grazing platters and artisan foods. Using fresh and locally sourced produce, Graze2U caters for weddings, parties and other events as well as providing smaller boxes and individual items like cheese, meat and cakes.
Colleen said that through the BIG programme, she learned more about how to bring Graze2U to a wider audience.
"Social media is a huge way in which I promote what Graze2U has to offer, and through the BIG programme it was great to hear more about how I can utilise that in the best way to bring our service to a wider audience. A big theme of the business is celebrating the expansive, high-quality local produce that we have right here on our doorstep and in turn I've been delighted to see so many people supporting Graze2U and shopping local by calling into our store in Newbuildings or ordering online. In business you are always learning and growing, and I would credit to mentoring team at the BIG programme for helping me to do that."
Kevin O'Connor, Head of Business with Derry City and Strabane District Council, added: "Both Wild Atlantic Distillery and Graze2U are just two examples of the great success we have had to date with the BIG programme. Following the pandemic we are now moving into a period of recovery and growth for our business sector and we want to offer as much support as we can for small, local businesses who are seeking to expand and reach new audiences. Running your own business is certainly not easy, but through the BIG programme, there are mentors on hand to offer tangible and productive advice that these businesses can carry forward. It's vitally important that we shop local and support local and through the BIG programme we are driving innovation and growth and supporting job creation. I would strongly encourage any businesses interested in being involved in the programme to get in touch!"
For more information and eligibility criteria for the Business, Innovation and Growth programme, visit or call Council's Business team on 02871253253.
Further information on Wild Atlantic Distillery the available at
For more on Graze2U, visit