A former retail manager who spotted a gap in the market has opened his own homeware and deli business thanks to the help of the Go For It programme in association with Derry City and Strabane 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.
Conor Irvine, from Derry, decided to open Vine Living following the Coronavirus pandemic in Derry City Centre. Working as a retail sales manager, Conor’s dream was to open his own business.
Conor said: “I was working full time as a retail store manager, and I felt that it was time that I pushed myself that bit further. So, in the evenings I started Vine and set up our social media pages and website.
“Vine Living is a home, giftware and deli business. When you come into Vine you can find everything from locally made artisan cheeses and coffees, handmade candles, bath bombs, wax melts as well as gift sets and cushions.”
No two days are the same for the 32-year-old entrepreneur, his daily routine differs from day-to-day, but he said the hard work definitely pays off.
“I think whenever you have a business idea in your mind’s eye and you continuously work towards it, it becomes this brick-and-mortar business that you open the doors to everyday allowing you serve the local community. It’s still a feeling I can’t get over yet, but I am loving it – I’m just so happy that we’ve launched and we’re here.”
When Vine Living launched and opened its doors in September 2021, Conor had to overcome a few obstacles:
“When opening and starting a business there is always going to be hurdles especially right now in our current climate where we need to make every penny count, and when it comes to buying the stock for Vine I really look at that. I look for high quality products at affordable prices that people are going to really like.
“I am really lucky at the moment as Vine is still growing and we are really excited about Christmas. We have a lot going on with Christmas hampers and Christmas gift sets.”
Conor decided to get in touch with Go For It after seeing the advert for the start-up business programme on social media.
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 help with developing a robust business plan to help turn ideas into a commercial enterprise.
He said: “Initially I seen a lot of businesses on social media mentioning the Go For It programme and how it helped them set up. I contacted my local council and they put me in touch with the programme.
“They set me up with Caolan who was my Business Adviser. Caolan put together a business plan for me as well as a cash flow forecast which helped me set up Vine.
“During the Go For It programme, myself and Caolan went through every aspect of setting up a business from the ground up. We looked at marketing plans, sales projection for the year and we even broke it down to daily sales targets so I can keep myself on track.”
Conor’s hopes for the future are for Vine Living to grow and to expand his product shipping worldwide, not just within the UK and Ireland. For anyone who is even thinking about opening their own business, Conor highly recommends reaching out to the team at Go For It.
“I think if you have the idea of opening your own business, and you want to give it the best possible chance of success, you should get in touch with the Go For It programme and they will help guide you through it.”
Mayor of Derry City and Strabane District Council, Councillor Sandra Duffy, said: “I am delighted to see local businesses like Vine Living continuing to benefit from the springboard that is offered through the Go For It programme.
“The wide range of support available from experienced advisors and local enterprise agencies can instil confidence and help new businesses navigate through those critical early stages of launching a new idea and getting a foothold in the market. I would encourage anyone with a new business idea to check out the help that’s available through the programme.”
Caolan Campbell, Business Adviser at Enterprise North West said: “Conor was an excellent case of someone who seen a real potential in the market. From local Irish homemade products such as soaps to luxury soft furnishings and statement vases, Conor has rapidly progressed his business into a luxury Derry City Centre shop front now too.
“Through the Go For It programme, Conor developed a coherent business plan which involved setting his business goals, completing market research and establishing pricing to name a few. From this, we also worked on developing a two-year cashflow projection, considering his projected sales and initial and ongoing expenses to establish the viability of the intended business.
“Through the Go For It programme, Conor went through a lot of business planning prior to taking the leap of opening his new shop. I am absolutely delighted to see Conor, despite the current economic challenges, thriving at his new business and offering a wide range of local products.”
If you have a business idea you would 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.
it becomes this brick-and-mortar business that you open the doors to everyday allowing you serve the local community
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.