InterTradeIreland’s all-island Sales and Marketing programme, Acumen, has been running for more than 15 years and is regarded as a huge success by the business community on both sides of the border with companies typically reporting an average increase in sales of £250,000 following support.
It provides tangible support for small companies trying to break into a new and often unfamiliar market in the Republic of Ireland. Cross-border trading is an essential part of a company’s growth strategy but lack of knowledge and feet on the ground can hamper progress.
One of the businesses that has seized a new cross-border opportunity is Oh So Lean, a food service delivery company in Kilkeel.
Alison Currie, InterTradeIreland’s Acumen Manager spoke with the company recently to find out more about their InterTradeIreland experience.
Tell us a little bit about your business? Where did you get the idea?
“Oh So Lean” began when my son Connor who at the age of 20 weighed in at just under 20 stone, decided he wanted to make a change to his life and joined a weight loss group.
When he started, he found it hard to get meat products to suit his plan. As a butcher myself I decided to create sausages and burgers that would suit the requirements of his diet. With Connor’s weight dropping word got around and Connor’s desire to help others on the same journey started.
He decided the best way to reach people and spread the word would be to start a Facebook page and soon enquiries flew in from all over Northern Ireland and “Oh so Lean” was founded.
Over the years we have increased our range of meat products and with the help of a chef we now have a range of 17 meals, including soups and sauces which also suit all diet plans. Connor is now 29 and weighs in at 12 and a half stone with a waist size 32 and t-shirt size small.
How many people work in it?
We currently have 6 people employed and we are hoping that by the end of 2019 we will have employed another 6 people- doubling our workforce.
Have there been any particular turning points?
The major turning point in our business was in February 2018 when got a contract with Henderson’s to supply our products into their warehouse which would then be distributed into Spar shops. This gave us a platform to get our products across Northern Ireland and reach a larger range of people on the same weight loss journey as Connor.
How has the InterTradeIreland Acumen programme helped?
The InterTradeIreland Acumen programme has assisted by enabling us to get a proper sales team, crucially with the relevant knowledge to get us into areas such as the south of Ireland. We would not have been able to do that on our own.
From this, we have now got a contract with Barry’s group, with deliveries down to their warehouse daily. This would not have been possible without the help of the Acumen programme. It is helping us grow our business.
What would you say to any business thinking about applying?
I would suggest that they make sure they are ready to make the next step. It is not an easy journey – growth can be painful, but with the help and support from InterTradeIreand it can be made easier. Take all the advice and guidance on board.
Are you prepared for Brexit?
Brexit is the great unknown. Of course it is a worry, especially for companies in the food preparation industry. We don’t know yet how it will impact on costs.
However, businesses can’t afford to stay still. We just take it day by day and focus on growth. The important thing is that now we have built up relationships with companies in the South. We will wait and see what happens next.