• Meet Some of Our Start-Up Clients


Having Gillian Hanna as a tenant is literally music to the ears of everyone at Down Business Centre.

Three years ago Gillian became a client of DBC Business Adviser Joe McCoubrey through the Rural Development Programme; her project – to build on her part-time private music lessons business and establish a Music School

Although Gillian studied Art and Design at University, music has always been in her blood.  An accomplished pianist and all-round musician, she gained her Music Teaching and Performance Diploma and while she worked as a Playground Designer during the day, in the evening she delivered private music lessons in her own home.

“I always had the dream of having my own Music School” says Gillian “and when I identified an opportunity to apply for a Rural Development Programme grant to do just that I couldn’t wait to get started.  Joe was a tremendous support and challenged me every step of the way as I set about defining my business concept and developing a business plan.

I was successful in my RDP application and was allocated a unit at Down Business Centre.  As well as the unit, I received financial support towards sound proofing, the purchase of instruments and start-up marketing costs.  The doors of GH Music School opened in Autumn 2018”.

Today the Music School comprises of 4 individual training rooms and delivers a programme of day and evening courses in Piano, Guitar, Drums, Violin and Singing.  Gillian works in the business full time and is supported by a team of 12 part-time tutors.  Her pupils comprise of children and adults of all ages and most live within a 5 mile radius of the Centre.  As well as the classes delivered from her DBC Unit, Gillian also visits 4 local primary schools where she teaches music and singing.

“I have been a business start-up client of Down Business Centre and now I am a Tenant.  I can thoroughly recommend the expertise that they offer and the business accommodation and service they provide.  The location of the Centre – just off the Belfast Road on the outskirts of Downpatrick – has been ideal for my Music School with free parking available during the day and evening.  I hope to be in a position to expand going forward and I will certainly be looking to stay within the Centre” says Gillian.


When Peter Surgenor first came into contact with Down Business Centre he wasn’t just hoping to set up a new business, he was planning an entirely new lifestyle.

Peter was a Lecturer in Art and Design at the South Eastern Regional College in Downpatrick.  It had been a long held ambition to one day have his own pottery studio but it wasn’t until he and his partner bought the former Preaching House in Killough Co. Down in 2018 that he decided to turn his dream into a reality.

“I knew from the moment I stepped over the door of the Preaching House” says Peter “that it had the potential to offer me a change of lifestyle and a change of career.    The problem, however, was that I knew next to nothing about actually setting up a business and making it work.

I decided that the best place to start was to apply for Business Start-Up support through the Go For It Programme and was referred to Down Business Centre.  I knew a couple of people who had been through Go For It with DBC and I was really pleased when I was allocated Joan O’Hara as my Business Adviser as her reputation went before her.

From our first meeting Joan understood what I was seeking to achieve and knew that I really needed her help!  She was great; very down to earth and practical in her approach and she took me step-by-step through the whole business planning process.  It was Joan who suggested that I explore the potential for setting up a Community Interest Company, a business that would be a vehicle for my creativity but at the same time have real community value.  It was great advice and in April 2019 Preaching House Pottery CIC was established.

As well as being the home of my ceramics studio, where I produce my ceramics and textiles range, I deliver a range of arts and crafts workshops from the Preaching House.  As a not-for-profit CIC we re-invest any profits in the local community and collaborate with a wide range of organisations to deliver all sorts of local social initiatives.  Preaching House has become a hub of creativity and social engagement in Killough and I am very proud of what we have achieved so far.  Thank you Joan – I couldn’t have done it without you” says Peter Surgenor.