Digital School of Food

NEW ONLINE PROGRAMME OPEN WICKLOW’S FOOD ENTREPRENEURS

An innovative new online food programme, from the Local Enterprise Offices, which is open to entrepreneurs across County Wicklow is set to boost the number of Irish food start-ups.  The Digital School of Food is the first of its kind in Europe and gives food entrepreneurs expert advice and guidance, from their home, office or kitchen.

The new Digital School of Food was piloted in the Dublin region in conjunction with Enterprise Ireland and Bord Bia.  Following the successful pilot, it is now available to those with an idea for a food business in Wicklow run by the Local Enterprise Offices.  The online programme is an e-learning initiative that brings producers from idea right through to start-up and grow stages.

The programme will give food entrepreneurs an education in planning a product journey and route to market, through thinking about finance and how to grow sales, right up to expanding the business. It includes support from experts in the field as each course has a real producer who contributes tips and advice throughout.  The programme includes contributions from trade buyers in Supervalu, Musgraves and Spar along with the likes of Domini Kemp of ITSA Food Group and food producers who have been through the system.  

Entrepreneurs who complete the Digital School of Food are then primed to move on to take part in Food Starter programme offered by the Local Enterprise Offices and subsequently Food Academy, which gives producers the opportunity to get their product on retail shelves.

Local Enterprise Office Wicklow has supported several successful food businesses in the region including Olive and Pat Germaine of The Bird and the Teas, very successful chutneys, relishes and preserves producer.  They represented Wicklow in the Local Enterprise Village during the National Ploughing Championships 2019 in Borris, Co. Carlow and have taken part in the Food Starter Programme.

Hanna Sherrin of Ballyhubbock Farm has participated in Irelands Best Young Entrepreneur Competition with Local Enterprise Office Wicklow and the Food Academy. You can find Ballyhubbock artisan sheep milk ice-cream on selected Supervalu shelves.

Heather Humphreys, T.D., Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation, commenting on the new programme, said: We have a proud heritage of producing world-class food in Ireland.  Now, more than ever, it is vital that we support our food firms and particularly budding entrepreneurs with ambitions to start a new business.  As needs have evolved, these programmes have evolved and the online Digital School of Food is a testament to that.  Aspiring food producers can now begin their journey from their own home. 

The Local Enterprise Offices continue to innovate in the way that they are delivering programmes and this is extremely significant now.  They are playing a key role in helping our small businesses in this challenging economic climate and they will be to the fore as small companies rise up in the coming weeks and months.”    

Head of Enterprise, Vibeke Delahunt said "Irish food is renowned the world over and we enjoy an enviable reputation for high-quality food production.  It is important that we continue to cultivate new food entrepreneurs and start-ups, particularly during these challenging times. The Digital School of Food is an excellent first step for anyone with an idea to establish a food production business. It will help them mould that idea to bring it to the next stage. This is particularly significant now, with many potential entrepreneurs at home, they can access this programme from anywhere.  “Starting a food business can be straightforward but growing it can be challenging. The Local Enterprise Offices are there to support those who take the programme. Following completion, participants can move on to more advanced programmes such as Food Starter and Food Academy, as well as further supports such as management development and assistance in raising funding for their small business. The Digital School of Food is a game-changer for food entrepreneurs and will enable aspiring entrepreneurs to learn best practice in setting up a food business.”

Cllr Irene Winters, Cathaoirleach Wicklow County Council, said: "The launch of the Digital School of Food ties in nicely with the work by Wicklow County Council and County Wicklow Partnership to develop local food producers and the launch of www.wicklownaturally.ie. I encourage anyone with an aspiring food business idea to take part in the training through the Digital Food of School and to connect with the Local Enterprise Office Wicklow and the Food Producers group driving Wicklow Naturally." 

"The Wicklow Food and Beverage Strategy had its origins in the Local Economic and Community Plan. The need to support the county's food and beverage production, through brand development, promotion, marketing and food tourism was highlighted. With Covid-19 ongoing the need to support food and beverage production is even more crucial. Wicklow Naturally will support its members and we will be working alongside our colleagues in the Local Enterprise Office and County Wicklow Partnership to showcase the business supports available to people during the ongoing Covid-19 crisis and beyond. There are a lot of people continuing to work behind the scenes who are the driving force behind the implementation of the food and beverage strategy and we encourage food and drink producers to contact Wicklow Naturally, sign up as members, which currently involves no cost to businesses."

The Digital School of Food is the latest support established for food entrepreneurs in Ireland by the Local Enterprise Offices, following on from Food Academy and Food Starter.  For more information on the Digital School of Food go to www.DigitalSchoolofFood.ie     

About the Local Enterprise Offices

The 31 Local Enterprise Offices, which are funded by the Government of Ireland through Enterprise Ireland, are located in local authorities nationwide. The Local Enterprise Offices play a key role in fostering start-ups and business growth locally, offering a range of financial and mentoring supports to new businesses and existing small businesses that want to grow. In 2017, Local Enterprise Office client companies created over 3,600 new jobs across the country.  They run several programmes throughout the year to encourage entrepreneurship including Local Enterprise Week, Ireland’s Best Young Entrepreneur (IBYE), National Women’s Enterprise Day, the National Enterprise Awards and the Student Enterprise Programme. (www.localenterprise.ie)

Local Enterprise Offices & Covid-19 Response

The network of Local Enterprise Offices has a suite of supports to help small businesses during the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.  These include the Business Continuity Voucher, which gives businesses sector-specific consultancy for their company to plan to deal with and recover from the current market issues.  The Trading Online Voucher helps companies to get their business online and establish a way of selling their products to a wider network.  The scheme has also been expanded to allow companies to apply for a second Trading Online Voucher if they have previously received one.  Local Enterprise Offices are also providing free business planning and mentoring to all small businesses affected by the Covid-19 pandemic.  More information on all the supports can be found on www.localenterprise.ie/response 

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