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Local start-ups to global success

Group Shot 2014
Group photo from Invest NI's Propel Programme.
Rebecca Kincade on August 4, 2014 - 8:40 am in Advice, Featured Advice

Starting your own business is undoubtedly one of the most challenging, exciting and daunting steps you can make. Finding the right support, guidance and advice is key for start-ups at the early stage of their journey in order to set their business on the path to success. It is important to seek out and consider support opportunities which align with your business objectives and are bespoke to your needs.

To support Northern Ireland’s entrepreneurial talent pool, Invest Northern Ireland launched its Propel programme in 2009, with the specific aim of developing export focussed start-ups with high growth potential. Since then, it has helped 58 new Northern Ireland companies access £5.3m of private investment and create over 250 jobs.

With applications now open for Propel 2014/15, Invest NI expects that more high calibre entrepreneurs and early stage company teams will seize the opportunity to be part of this intensive and valuable 12-month support programme.

“Propel is open to participants with the potential to scale up an innovative, export focused business and ultimately become significant exporters and employers,” explains Niall Casey, Invest NI’s Director of Skills and Strategy Solutions.

“Successful participants are helped to fast track their business ideas, develop growth plans and explore global prospects. It accelerates the best business ideas through a tested methodology, so that by the time they complete the programme, participants are able to pitch for investment and compete internationally,” Niall added.

Through a series of skills development workshops and individual mentorship work with experienced entrepreneurs, Propel participants are guided on how to fine tune their revenue models and business plans. They are provided with dedicated shared working space at The HUB in Belfast’s Cathedral Quarter, home to the city’s creative and digital community, as well as crucial financial support.

Entrepreneurial talent

The standard of participants since the programme’s inception has been extremely high and participants have stemmed from a diverse spectrum of sectors, facts which reflect the rich and varied level of entrepreneurial talent in Northern Ireland today. Propel is a two phased programme, with both stages involving a competitive application process. Participants who progress to the second phase will have access to a potential £20,000 worth of funding.

One current Propel participant (2013/14) is Alex Milne, founder of Little Deli Ltd, an online app which allows consumers to pre-order from delis and cafes via their smartphone.

“The Propel experience has given me the support and guidance I need to take my business idea to market,” said Alex.“The workshops, combined with the one on one mentoring, have really increased my confidence in pitching, presenting my business and communicating with potential customers and investors.”

Developing and engaging with contacts for business growth are core elements of building a successful business from day one. In that regard, Propel participants or ‘Propellers’, as they are often referred to, are given the opportunity to make connections through facilitated introduction meetings and networking sessions.

“I have made business contacts in Dublin, London, New York and Silicon Valley, San Francisco through Propel,” said Mary McKimm, founder of innovative flower delivery service ‘Yours Florally’ and current Propel participant. These connections will no doubt prove valuable as part of my international outreach over the next five years.”


Throughout September, Invest NI is running five Propel awareness seminars across Northern Ireland. Visitors attending these events will be able to learn exactly what the programme has to offer, as well as hear from past ‘Propellers’ about how the programme has helped their businesses.
Niall Casey, Invest NI said, “We know that there will be entrepreneurs out there reading NI Business Now with the passion and energy to succeed internationally. We’re confident that the next intake of participants will build on the programme’s successful track record of propelling fresh Northern Ireland business talent across the globe.”

If you have an early stage, export-focused business centred around an innovative product or service, Propel could help get your business ready to compete on an international stage.

Applications for Propel 2014/15 are open from August 4th 2014 and will close on September 26th 2014. Following a competitive application process, the programme will commence in November.

Full information about the Propel seminars and online application for Propel 2014/15 can be found at www.investni.com/propel.



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