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Starting a Business in Coleraine

If you are in the process of planning your business, have just started trading or have been in business for some time, Causeway Enterprise Agency can provide you with the tailored support you need to manage it more efficiently, productively and profitably.


What do Business Trips, Astronauts, Cooks and Mashed Potatoes have in common?


Sarah Travers hosting the Q&A session with entrepreneurs Tracy Hamilton of Mash Direct, Terese Charles Tech Entrepreneur, Grainne Kelly of BubbleBum, Edel Doherty of Beyond Business Travel and Celebrity Chef Paula McIntyre at the 2nd Annual Female Entrepreneurs Conference 2018 held at Galgorm Resort and Spa organised by Women in Business and the Causeway Enterprise Agency

Have you forgotten already? We hope not, we are of course referring to the amazing panel of female entrepreneurs that we all got the chance to listen to at the Be Bold for progress conference two weeks ago. As promised this is the second blog in our series with the thoughts and ideas we captured on the day. Time flies and we would like to bring you back into the room that day and help each one of you to grow and learn from the best.

This year’s panellists were, Tracy Hamilton from Mash Direct, the mashed potatoes, Paula McIntyre, author, broadcaster, chef, and cook, Therese Charles, tech entrepreneur, educator, researcher, and wannabe Astronaut, and Edel Doherty from Beyond Business Travel, who knows everything there is to know about business trips….

The panel were interviewed and challenged by the lovely Sarah Travers and joined by one of our key note speakers Grainne Kelly from BubbleBum.

We are lucky to know people in business that are prepared to share their personal story, but this panel showed extreme bravery, honesty and integrity by sharing huge personal and business challenges with us.

Tracy Hamilton was first up. Mash Direct was established with her husband Martin, after they decided to diversify their farm business by adding value to their wholesale farming business. Fourteen years on, Mash Direct is a flourishing farming and food production enterprise and exports its innovative range across the world. Tracy has been instrumental in turning Mash Direct into a household name and Brand Leader throughout the UK and Ireland, ranged in over 5,000 stores. In fact, they have now launched in the USA but Tracy explained the difficulties of running the farm and the business, the challenges and benefits of working with your husband and now her children. She keeps it altogether with her own brand of tenacity, determination and ‘if it’s not in the diary its doesn’t happen’, under Tracy’s leadership the business has not only grown, it has won over 125 awards, truly inspiring.

Therese Charles was probably largely unknown to most of you, in truth that’s how she likes it, but we are pretty sure that most of you still remember her story…Therese explained that school, ‘didn’t work for me’, she didn’t know why, she knew she wanted to be an Astronaut but her teachers had a different view stating in one school report that, “Therese’s imagination runs away with her to the detriment of her English and grammar”. So she became a Rally Driver, as you do, competed, did well and broke her back in an RTA when she was 18 years old. She was told she probably wouldn’t walk again, the first of 7 surgeries was carried out on her 21st birthday. It was 1994, she couldn’t be an Astronaut or a Rally Driver, she went back to school, fell in love with technology, found she had a skill, completed 2 degrees and decided she wanted to research the addictive nature of games and help ‘kids like her’ to learn. Do you remember how quiet the room was when Therese told her story? She created Silverfish in 2011 along with her team of geeks, she made apps, educational games and applied game technology in other sectors like healthcare. Often this would be the end of the story where the clever entrepreneur reaps the benefits of all their hard work, for Therese there have been more challenges. Her fit and healthy appearance on the day belied further health problems that she has bravely fought through, she is driven by wanting to help those ‘kids like me’, she gets up everyday to do just that. What got you out of bed this morning?

Edel Doherty was a director of Selective Travel management for 17 years before she started her travel management company BEYOND Business Travel 7 years ago. The Business under Edel’s leadership has grown year on year to the successful company it is now with a turnover of £13 million and a team of 20 people. Experts in travel management for ambitious companies BEYOND make sure everyone is at their best no matter where they are in the world delivering world class service and cutting-edge technology. Softly spoken she may be but there is no end to this business woman’s achievements, she selflessly praised her team as key to the company’s success and glowed at the client feedback, a few days before following the chaos caused by the ‘beast from the east’. Her team had worked late and over the weekend to get people home. One client had managed to get home on Sunday night to see his family before he left again on Monday and her team had also managed to get another client home in time for the birth of his first child. Edel understands that her business doesn’t just book flights and move people from A-B, they deliver a service that enhances their life and often enables them to have a life, a great example of putting the customer at the heart of the business.

Paula McIntyre, fell in love with restaurants when she was 14, she begged her mum and the local restaurant, McDuff’s to give her a job, she got to wash the dishes but she loved being there. She went to college in Belfast, got a scholarship to America, owned her own restaurant in Manchester and then decided to move home. She describes herself as a Cook, not a celebrity chef, a Cook. She believes you ‘make your own luck’, her career has developed organically. Today she divides her time between lecturing students at NRC, judging the Radio 4 Food & Farm awards, she is a director of Slow Food, regularly contributes to Kitchen Cabinet and Farming Life and is a huge advocate and champion for NI Food. She was heading off to do some more food demos in Borough Market in London. Put simply in her own words Paula said, “At the end of the day I cook and I love food and I’m lucky,” wise words from the girl that started washing dishes age 14.

We captured the final piece of advice from the panel below:

Tracy – “keep talking, keep sharing and doors will open”

Paula – “if someone offers you help, take it”

Edel – “setting goals is key and helps keep you focussed”

Therese – “Don’t die with the music still in you”

Over 200 delegates attended the Female Entrepreneurs Conference 2018, made up of business owners, entrepreneurs and start-ups. The event was supported by Causeway Coast & Glens Borough Council. Mid & East Antrim Borough Council, Causeway Chamber, Enterprise Northern Ireland & Ulster University Business School.

If you have a business idea or need some help contact Causeway Enterprise Agency on 028 7035 6318 or email or Women In Business NI on 084 5607 6041 or email

View the full Gallery from the event HERE

Join Women in Business NI HERE

Join Causeway Chamber HERE