Down Business Centre Entrepreneur says, ‘I DO!’ to new business venture

A Crossgar based entrepreneur is helping local couples say ‘I DO’ after launching a unique new wedding venue business with the support of the Go For It Programme, in association with Newry Mourne & Down District Council and Down Business Centre.

The Go For It Programme is part funded by Invest Northern Ireland and the European Regional Development Fund under the Investment for Growth and Jobs Northern Ireland (2014-2020) programme.

Ann Pinkerton is the proud owner of Runaway Irish Weddings, a small and intimate wedding venue situated at ‘The Rocks’ just outside Crossgar and close to the shores of Strangford Lough.

The dream romantic venue is approved for weddings up to 18 people and is set in 2 acres of beautiful garden grounds surrounded by woodland with tranquil paths, waterfalls and ponds. The weddings are conducted in the lovely pondside Summer House.

Speaking about the business, Ann Pinkerton, Owner of Runaway Irish Weddings said: “After attending college and university studying hospitality and events management, and also working on and off within the industry, I decided to follow my passion and ran my own holiday cottage business in Dumfries and Galloway. It was here I first gained a small wedding venue licence and saw the real potential in small weddings.

“When I moved to Northern Ireland, I discovered there was no small wedding or elopement venues and knew I had found a gap in the market. When I found ‘The Rocks’ I instantly knew this magical place would be perfect for intimate and romantic weddings.

Ann is a Humanist Celebrant with Humanists UK and is assisted by close friend and fellow Celebrant Trevor Molloy. Humanist Celebrants are experts in creating unique, personal and bespoke ceremonies with the focus on the couple and their wishes.

Runaway Irish Weddings also provide weddings for couples who are facing end of life circumstances, delivering a quiet and peaceful ceremony that carefully meets the couple’s wishes.

Ann continued: “The words, the music and whole feel of the wedding are so important. It is the couple’s love story woven into a narrative that will be a lifetime memory. I work with an amazing team all handpicked to provide the very best of services. Award winning chefs, incredibly talented photographers, musicians and florists. We aim to provide a happy and relaxed wedding carefully curated to meet the couple’s dreams and wishes.

Ann turned her idea into a reality after taking part in the Go For It Programme, which is delivered free of charge by a team of experienced business mentors through Northern Ireland’s wide network of enterprise agencies. It provides expert advice and help with developing a robust business plan to help turn ideas into a commercial enterprise.

Ann said: “Whilst I had run a similar business previously, I lacked the expert knowledge and deep understanding of the marketplace in Northern Ireland.  I saw a social media post about the Go For It Programme and got in touch. I was put in contact with a business advisor at the local Down Business Centre and it all went from there.

“My business advisor, Joan, provided tailored business support and insights that I just wouldn’t have been able to access on my own. I felt totally supported and having such a good sounding board in the early stages of the business was so helpful.  The business plan really helped me understand the niche audience I wanted to target and the best methods of communication to reach them.

Councillor Laura Devlin, Chairperson, Newry, Mourne & Down District Council said: “The Go For It Programme provides accessible, free and tailored business support – giving new entrepreneurs the confidence, contacts and the knowledge they need to start trading. I wish Ann every continued success with Runaway Irish Weddings and encourage anyone thinking about starting their own business to go for it and get in touch!”

Joan O’Hara, Business Advisor, Down Business Centre said “We were delighted to be able to support Ann in the start-up stage of her business. Ann was in a position of vast knowledge and expertise for her field but lacked the knowledge of the local market to launch her business.  That’s where we were able to step in and help.

“Through the completion of her business plan, we were able to finalise Ann’s business proposition, and complete and two years of financial projections.  Ann has created an intimate wedding venue perfect for the couple who value intimacy and privacy. I look forward to hearing the many love stories of happy marriages from Runaway Irish Weddings in the future.

If you have a business idea you’d like to develop or if you are thinking about starting a business contact Down Business Centre on 02844616416.