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Sass & Halo’s Aoife urges local start-ups to take the 10k Business Challenge

29 January 2018

Derry City and Strabane District Council’s 10k Business Challenge winner Aoife Doherty has urged local start-ups who want to take their company to the next level to get involved in this year’s lucrative competition.

The initiative, which seeks to reward creative and innovative local businesses, has a closing date of Monday February 12th.

It is open to any company who has started trading in the past year or who has completed Council’s ‘Go For It’ programme.

Aoife is the proprietor of Sass & Halo in Derry’s Craft Village, who design, hand make and sell bespoke crowns for all ages and occasions.

She has used the prize money from last year’s success to move her business into new markets and expand its product range.

“It was amazing to win it,” she admits. “An injection of £5,000 might be nothing to some businesses but to me it seemed an extortionate amount of money and opened up so many possibilities and opportunities.

“It allowed me to take the business to the next stage and start exploring export markets in the UK and Europe which was a big element of my long term plans.

“At home the weddings market is a big one for me and I was able to start exhibiting at wedding fairs last year which has generated a lot of new leads and business.

“I also invested in a pop up shop that allowed me to exhibit at markets and fairs all over Ireland.

“The crowns are popular at music festivals as well and I’m planning on bringing the pop up shop to the likes of Glastonbury and Electric Picnic this year.”

With a degree in Fashion Management and a lifelong passion for the industry, Aoife was well placed to turn her hobby of designing and making the crowns into a sustainable small business model.

The decision to begin trading wasn’t one she took lightly however and she admits the support and expert advice she received from Council’s ‘Go For It’ programme was pivotal in turning her aspirations into reality.

“I’d always loved fashion from a young age and I studied Fashion Management at the College of Fashion in London which gave me a good grounding in the business side of the industry,” she explained.

“I worked in marketing for a year in London but I always liked the idea of coming home and starting my own business.

“The support I received from Go For It was really helpful and practical.

“I wrote by own Business Plan and I was able to e mail drafts to their advisers so they could advise me every step of the way.

“I wouldn’t have a lot of experience in the financial side of things so the help and advice they offered for me to get my figures right was invaluable.

“The advisers also had loads of contacts locally to help with my start up and they would never turn you away no matter what you asked for.”

The £10k Business Start-Up Challenge is offering six cash prizes to help entrepreneurs progress their business idea: a £2,500 1st prize, £2,000– 2nd prize and £1,500 – 3rd prize and 4x £1k prizes.

The application process will comprise of a completed application form accompanied by a business plan which will be reviewed by a panel of four judges who will shortlist six businesses to pitch their business idea at a winners’ announcement event as part of Enterprise week on Thursday 8th March 2018.

Applications are open from insert date and can be accessed via Derry City and Strabane District Council’s website at www.derrystrabane.com/10Kchallenge.