Toasting the way along the Coast
A love of fabulous local ingredients and the rugged coastline of Northern Ireland has proved the key ingredients for a successful business venture for one Larne woman thanks to the Go For It Programme, in association with Mid & East Antrim Borough Council.
The Go For It 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.
Portia Woods explains how she established the new venture, Toast the Coast, following a conversation over a dinner table about the opportunities available on our doorstep.
Portia explains; “I got talking over dinner one evening and I saw there was a real gap in the market in part of the coastline from Belfast to Cushendun. We have some of the finest eateries along this route and the best ingredients and they weren’t being explored to their full potential.”
“We offer a selection of public tours which people can just book on twice a month as well as offering private tours. People buy the tour for a special occasion or as a gift. We have been really surprised at the amount of local people who want to go on a tour as well as international clientele,” she explains.
Portia says she grew up loving local food from picnics on days out when off school to fresh local produce and meals out at local hostelries, it was always something she was exploring.
So she decided to put her food knowledge together with the local coastline into a business.
“The tour stops off for tasting menus in six stops – Whitehead, Larne, Ballygally, Glenarm, Carnlough and Cushendun. There is fabulous food awaiting guests as well as information and facts from the chefs and proprietors themselves. There’s lots of storytelling and facts about the coastline and the local produce along the way on the tour as well as plenty of craic. People have responded really well and really enjoy the tour. The success has all been down to the Go for it Programme as they were able to help me turn my dream into a reality.
“My advisor was Alan Hamilton, from Carrickfergus Enterprise and he was truly inspirational. I have a background in sales and marketing but he was able to help me encompass everything I needed to think about the business in the early days.
“He helped me think about my long-term objectives and helped me be realistic about what I was going to achieve. He helped me develop a business plan and do financial forecasts for the first two years which was important. He also helped me do risk assessment and things I wouldn’t have thought about.”
Portia says such has been her success with the go For It programme that she would encourage other people with a business idea to do the programme and gain a clear focus before starting out.
“It is a free tool at your disposal and you get all this access to experts who can really support and guide you. They are very professional and know about all aspects of the business. They can help you at every stage along the way.”
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.
Alan Hamilton, Business Advisor with Carrickfergus Enterprise for Mid & East Antrim Borough Council, said: “Portia has a real passion for local food and the local countryside and she brought these both together when she joined theGo For It Programme.
“We worked with her to develop her business plan, helping her define the tourism concept, sales strategy, routes, marketing and financial forecasts.
“It’s great to see Toast the Coast up and running and absolutely thriving and proving such a hit with locals and tourists alike. Portia offers a welcoming environment for customers and goes that extra mile to ensure they have a tour with a difference with her.”
If you have a business idea you’d like to develop or if you are thinking about starting a business call 0800 027 0639 or visit: visit www.goforitni.com