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Where Can Food Startups Get Help?

There's clearly an appetite among Irish food startups for some hands-on guidance: Bord Bia's recent small business open day in Santry attracted a full house of entrepreneurs, who lapped up the advice and insights given to them on the day.


Of particular interest was the Dublin Food Academy Start, an initiative begun last year that nurtures food-based startups. The Food Academy is organised through city and county enterprise boards (CEB), supported by Bord Bia and SuperValu.

Participants typically undergo a three-day training programme over a two-month period, covering areas like market analysis and strategies, brand building, finance, product development, human resources, etc. Each full day of training focuses on a different area of the business and is followed up with a mentoring session.

At the end of the programme, participating startups are given the chance to pitch their product to buyers for the SuperValu chain, while follow-up supports are also promised by Bord Bia for the entrepreneurs that take part. The Dublin CEBs charge startups €200 to participate in the academy, while the fee varies from €100 or less for CEBs elsewhere in the country.

Very much in its infancy, the food academy was piloted in Wicklow last year and is being carried on by Dublin CEBs in 2014, who will run the programmes, based on demand, several times during the year. Interest is high at present thanks to Bord Bia's small business open day, which detailed the initiative to the many small business principals in attendance.

The Happy Pear, a Greystones-based café and food market, took part in the first academy last year, out of which the business secured a deal to stock some of its health foods in the local SuperValu. According to Happy Pear director Darragh Flynn, the academy provided him with valuable business templates, sample pricing models and the like, as well as contacts and ideas.

The short-but-sweet food academy training programme is looking to roll out additional sessions throughout 2014; more info can be sourced from any of the 35 CEBs nationwide. (31/01/14)

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