A former engineer has turned his passion for traditional craftsmanship into a successful blacksmith business thanks to help from the Go For It programme in association with Newry, Mourne and Down District Council.
This project is part funded by Invest Northern Ireland and the European Regional Development Fund under the Investment for Growth and Jobs Northern Ireland (2014-2020) programme.
Robert Galbraith, from Downpatrick, decided to open Watershed Forge in 2022 after working as an engineer for 12 years. Having always enjoyed working with his hands, he got into blacksmithing after watching YouTube videos and taking lessons. That spurred his passion for the traditional craft and dreamt of one day having his own blacksmith workshop.
Robert explains: “When I realised that I could make money from doing what I love through the work that I was producing, I then wanted to better understand how I could make it into a business, so I contacted the Go For It programme to ask for advice on how I could make it a viable business opportunity.
“Whenever I launched Watershed Forge, I just felt like I had a lot of freedom and fulfilment from what I was doing. It was me pursuing my dream and allowing me to make it happen.
“For me, the best thing about owning your own business is being your own boss, you get to make the decisions day to day on what you want to do and the jobs you want to take on or don’t want to take on.
“It’s just that freedom to decide. I get to choose my own hours, sometimes they’re long, but they’re for me and that’s what’s most important.”
Robert has already achieved a lot since opening the doors to his workshop and one of his proudest moments to date has been delivering a large-scale restoration project in Armagh city centre.
He launched Watershed Forge after taking part in the Go For It programme through Newry, Mourne and Down District Council.
The Go For It Programme is delivered free of charge by a team of experienced business mentors through Northern Ireland’s wide network of enterprise agencies. It provides expert advice and support to develop a business plan that helps entrepreneurs turn their ideas into commercial businesses.
“Go For It gave me a real understanding of what was required to run my very own business. I’d never done anything like this before and didn’t understand overheads and outgoings. The business plan gave me the knowledge and insights to examine the levels of work I needed to deliver in terms of money coming in versus money going out.
“It gave me the skillset and confidence I needed to take that leap of faith to launch the business and the belief that I could make it successful. I would advise anybody looking to start their business to contact the Go For It programme and they will help you on the way!”
Councillor Michael Savage, Chair of Newry, Mourne and Down District Council said: “I’m delighted to see Robert receive the necessary support through the Go For It programme to help him launch his very own traditional blacksmith’s workshop in the heart of Downpatrick.
“It’s an age-old tradition that he’s helping keep alive in the region and the type of skilled restoration work he is bringing back to life is the highest of quality, so it’s great to see him fulfilling his dream of owning his own blacksmithing business and supporting the economic development of the District.
Joan O’Hara, Business Advisor with Down Business Centre added: “It was a real pleasure to work alongside Robert with the development of his business plan. He has so much passion for the craft and really wanted to continue the tradition with a viable business in the area. We helped guide and support him
“We mentored Robert in the process of preparing a business plan, focusing on areas such as market research, financial planning, marketing, and goal setting. This provided him with a clear plan for the future of the business and helped him secure the premises that transformed his vision into a reality. It is fantastic to see Robert’s business thrive, and we wish him every success for the future.”
If you have a business idea you’d like to develop or if you are thinking about starting a business contact the Go For It programme on: 0800 027 0639 or visit: www.goforitni.com.
For me, the best thing about owning your own business is being your own boss
The Northern Ireland Business Start-up Programme – Go for It
This project is part funded by Invest Northern Ireland and the European Regional Development Fund under the Investment for Growth & Jobs Northern Ireland (2014-2020) Programme.