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Lara morgan

Derry-Strabane Enterprise Week

21/02/17

Budding entrepreneurs and start-ups won't be short of motivation from this year's line-up

Now in its fifth year, Derry-Strabane Enterprise Week takes place from March 6-10, with a whole host of events happening across Derry and Strabane. A legacy of the City of Culture year back in 2013, the initiative has gone from strength to strength over the past few years, with more and more businesses now getting involved.

This year, Derry City & Strabane District Council has also secured major sponsors for the week in Virgin Media Business, who will also be running a digital marketing event with Google. Focusing particularly on business start-ups and on growing the local economy, Derry-Strabane Enterprise Week 2017 looks set to draw a wide range of attendees – and it’s all absolutely free.

'The programme of events has been developed to provide practical advice and assistance that will help businesses to produce strategies for achieving growth and development,” says Louise Breslin, business development manager at the council. “Our key themes this year include digital technology, female entrepreneurship, social enterprise, innovation and food tourism.'

A key event for female entrepreneurs has been arranged for International Women’s Day on March 8, with successful businesswoman Lara Morgan the keynote speaker. Entitled Steps to Success: Inspiring and Upskilling Female Entrepreneurs, the morning event will also include a choice of three workshops, looking at Facebook for business, personal/business growth and finance advice.

Geri Martin, PR and events officer at the North West Regional College (NWRC), which is hosting the event in association with Women in Enterprise (WIE), says it will be well worth attending.

'We wanted to have an inspiring speaker and to combine that with practical upskilling,' she says. 'Lara’s incredible and has such a powerful story to tell about her own background and experience in developing her business. She’s gone from being a sole trader to selling her company for £20m. I realised that she was someone I really wanted to put in a room with local female entrepreneurs, as well as our own students.'

In terms of the workshops, she adds that the idea is for delegates to pick one of these to attend, depending on which of the three areas they feel would best suit their needs.

'We’re really excited about the event,' adds Martin. 'This is Lara’s first time in Derry and she’s really passionate about sharing her story. She’s going to talk about what you need to become an entrepreneur and what inspires her. We’re really delighted she’s taken the time to come over and can guarantee that anyone who comes to the event will go away with renewed motivation.'

With more than 30 talks, seminars and workshops taking place as part of Derry-Strabane Enterprise Week, other key events to look out for include the new £10K Business Start-up Challenge. This will offer cash prizes for businesses with the best business plan or new and innovative start-up ideas, with first prize £5,000, second prize £3,000 and third £2,000. The launch will take place at the Walled City Brewery in Ebrington Square on March 7, when businesses can find out more about how to apply.

'We’re engaging with local successful business people, who will be on the judging panel,” says Breslin. “The competition will be open to all business sectors, though businesses need to have set up in the last six months or have enrolled in or completed the Go For It programme.'

Another new event for 2017 will focus on how businesses may manage post-Brexit, with Derry City & Strabane District Council partnering with the local enterprise office in Donegal for this.

'We’ll be listening to experts in the field of finance to get useful insights in terms of how we can participate in buying and selling goods cross-border,' says Breslin.

'Digital DNA, along with Tourism NI, will also be showing how businesses can harness digital technology to benefit them at another event. There’s a broad spectrum of events taking place, with something for everybody. We’re ultimately trying to boost the local business base and to keep them informed of the kind of opportunities that are available. It’s a very significant week for us.'

Derry-Strabane Enterprise Week takes place from Monday, March 6 until Friday, March 10, with events across Derry and Strabane. For more information and to book, visit: http://www.derrystrabane.com/enterpriseweek-1