• Meet Some of Our Growth Clients


What brings a native of Brittany to settle in Bryansford?  Why love of course – the love of the countryside, the people and the food.  And it is his love for cooking and, in particular, for creating delicious chutneys that lead Benoit Le Houerou to establish Grá Bia Artisan Fine Foods.

Benoit first moved to Northern Ireland in 2013 having studied for a City in Guilds Diploma in Food Preparation in a hotel in the Channel Islands.

He had always loved to cook and in his spare time he enjoyed nothing better than spending time in the kitchen creating chutneys which he turn gave as gifts to his family and friends.  Part of the gardening team at Montalto Estate, as well as  sharing the care of his young daughter, Benoit had his hands full but he began to wonder whether his home made chutneys could be sold commercially.  In2018 he saw an advertisement for the Go For It programme decided to apply to explore the potential for setting up a business.

And that’s when Benoit became a client of Down Business Centre.

Working with our Go For It Business Adviser Joan O’Hara, a Business Plan slowly began to develop.  “Each time we met, Joan asked me questions I couldn’t answer.  She got me thinking about all aspects of my business and by the time I met her the next time I made sure I had the answer well thought through.  Joan’s support and enthusiasm for what I was trying to achieve was priceless” says Benoit.

On the technical front he was supported by the team at Loughrey College helping him to further developing his products and then testing and analysing them in line with stringent food standards.  They also helped him look at the product’s presentation and the all-important packaging and branding.

In May 2019 Grá Bia Artisan Fine Foods was launched. The name Grá Bia comes from Benoit’s passion for food with a ‘Celtic’ twist. ‘Grá’ means ‘Love’, ‘Bia’ means ‘Food’ and, as he says, “Producing delicious chutneys is all about sharing Love and Passion for Fine Foods”.

Grá Bia chutneys combine fresh fruits, vegetables and spices to create wonderful flavours.  There are currently 5 products in the range Beetroot and Mint; Mango and Green Chilli; Pineapple, Cranberry and Black Pepper; Rhubarb, Date and Ginger; and Tomato and Black Onion Seed.

“I am very keen to work closely with local businesses and suppliers from Northern Ireland. Most of the fruits and vegetables come from our local shop, Hales Fruit Sales in Newcastle, while the Apple Cider Vinegar, used in all our recipes, comes direct from Long Meadow Farm in County Armagh” says Benoit

Grá Bia chutneys are on sale at a number of outlets across Northern Ireland and earlier this year an on-line shop at www.gra-bia.co.uk was launched.  The website was developed in conjunction with Eilish Devline through the Newry Mourne and Down ‘Get Your Business On-Line programme

Benoit has continued his relationship with Down Business Centre through the Newry Mourne and Down Business Growth Mentoring programme.  Centre General Manager, Janice McDonald has been mentoring Benoit as he seeks to further develop the business and in, in particular, grow Grá Bia’s distribution through specialist food and giftware retailers.

“Having a Mentor has been of great benefit as I seek to reach the next stage in the business’ development.  Janice has a wealth of business experience and being to discuss issues and opportunities with her has been a big help.  Running a small business can be lonely and it’s been really valuable having Janice’s ear when I just need to talk something through”.

Website: www.gra-bia.co.uk


Q&A With Catherine McIntosh, Strive & Thrive Consulting, Newcastle Co Down

Describe your business/what you seek to deliver/the market you are targeting/serving

Strive & Thrive Consulting provides training to individuals and teams to enhance wellbeing, resilience, leadership and high performance.

Workshops and training programmes are delivered both face-to-face and online direct to businesses.

Over the past six months, Strive & Thrive has delivered workshops and programmes to businesses in all sectors including legal, tech, manufacturing, media and the NHS.  We have also provided online webinar which have reached participants from 27 different countries.

Strive & Thrive also offers personal development programmes to individual consumers.

What made you register for the NMD Business Growth programme?
 I was confident that the programme would deliver the skills, knowledge and moral support that I needed to get my business established.

Has the programme been beneficial to your business?  What aspect(s) helped you most/propelled you into action
The NMD Business Growth Programme has been hugely beneficial to my business. From supporting the establishment of the business, to the development of the website, marketing and sales.

What are the key learnings that you have taken from the programme?

  • Build a strong network
  • Find out what your client needs
  • Be confident in your products
  • Be collaborative for growth

Has your business launched, grown or identified new areas for growth through the programme?
The NMD Business Growth mentoring programme was integral in supporting me to successfully launch and grow my business with confidence.

Would you recommend the programme to other businesses?
I would highly recommend this programme. The level of expertise and experience of the mentors is highly valuable to anyone wanting to launch, grow or diversify their business.

Website: www.striveandthriveconsulting.com


Mourne Yoga

Meet our Mentoring Client – Mourne Yoga

“When my partner and I moved to Northern Ireland in spring 2018, we’d moved for a lifestyle change. I’d worked behind a desk in London for nearly 15 years and was getting drained by the commute, the bureaucracy and the lack of ownership that I felt in what I was doing day-to-day. I’d qualified as a yoga teacher in 2015 and had hopes of starting a small business teaching yoga classes in a beautiful setting.

And I found it in the Mourne countryside, setting up a wee yoga studio in a gorgeous old stone barn close to Castlewellan. The setup was ideal and people were very receptive to it. The business did well and numbers grew quickly, but as ideal as the space was, it was small and in order to be viable I knew I needed to diversify; the question was ‘how’. I also recognised some of the pitfalls of working on your own and decided that it would be really beneficial to have a mentor. And that’s where the Newry Mourne & Down Growth Programme came into its own. Janice McDonald and Joe McCoubrey acted as my mentors and were incredibly proactive in their approach with me. I knew the skills that I wanted to gain, such as a better strategic approach to the business as a whole and an understanding of the financial picture behind the business, which they helped me with.

But what I also found incredibly effective was their role as a sounding board. This is incredibly important when you’re essentially a sole trader of a small business; you don’t have the day-to-day office chat which often spawns ideas and keeps you motivated, so you have to look for other ways to generate these which can be hard. Janice was an exceptional ‘business partner’, sending me local information relevant to the business, generating ideas with me, encouraging me to diversify my offering and do the simple things well. She encouraged me to develop a longer-term offering, which I implemented and quickly saw significant growth in both the number of people attending and the income that was subsequently generated. Joe showed me a more efficient way to keep track of my accounts which has made the tedious end of year tax return submission much easier. With improvements in these key admin areas, I’ve gained time to focus more on what I love which is teaching this wonderful practice of yoga to others.

While this Covid year has been a tough one on the business, what I’ve learned has stood me in good stead and I’ll always be grateful to both Janice and Joe for their guidance on this program”

Lorna Nelson, Owner and Resident Yogi, Mourne Yoga


Meet our tenants Green Ladies NI.

Green Ladies N.I make Natural Deodorants that not only really work but use only 100% natural ingredients and eco-friendly biodegradable packaging. So, as their promotional material says ‘They’re good for You and Mother Earth’

The business was the brain child of Tracy Megoran, a former hairdresser and Siobhán Ní Dhea, a local singer-songwriter who first had the idea back in 2015 on a travelling trip to France.

Tracy had newly retired from two decades of working in the hairdressing industry and found immediate benefits by reducing her exposure to the chemicals that are commonplace in that environment. This led to further investigation about the products we use daily, what kind of chemicals go into them and the effects of those chemicals. Deodorant and antiperspirant were top of the list and Tracy decided to do some research and conduct an experiment while they were camper-vanning around France.

Siobhan, who already had a keen interest in aromatherapy and holistic living joined in on the experiment and they found it took nearly 4 weeks to detox from regular deodorant/antiperspirant. The aluminium and parabens used in many of these products block the sweat ducts in the armpits and there is concern that these chemicals might be absorbed by the user. Sweating has become a taboo and chemically altering this perfectly natural process has become the norm, but the Green Ladies wanted to change that.

Back home, Siobhan developed a recipe for an all-natural deodorant that uses only nourishing ingredients and beneficial essential oils.  After a few attempts she found a recipe that worked well and smelt great so now the next step was to package it. We wanted our product to reflect our core values – respect and compassion for ourselves and our environment, so plastic was never an option.  We sourced biodegradable cardboard tubes, designed, and printed our own Kraft labels and within a few months we were almost ready to go into business.

With Tracy`s entrepreneurial skills and Siobhan`s recipe the Green Ladies N.I was formed in September 2018 and they became tenants of Down Business Centre in at the end of 2019

In just over two years the company has gone from strength to strength.  They now have over growing list of stockists in the Zero Waste and Health and Beauty sectors across Ireland and have plans to widen their product range further.

Website: www.greenladiesni.com