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Roaring ahead with help from LEO

Last week we reported that Lisburn Enterprise Organisation was celebrating its 20th anniversary. Here we highlight some of its success stories

THE Lisburn Enterprise Organisation has helped 1,350 local companies to get off the ground over the past 20 years. Below, we take a look at three of the firms it has assisted along the way.

Gourmet Fruit

David Hallowell with one his 'gourmet apples'A honeymoon in America provided the inspiration for local entrepreneur David Hallowell to start his company, Gourmet Fruit.

"My wife and I spotted a shop selling 'gourmet apples', a luxury and far superior version of the coated apples we see here at Halloween," he explains.

"They were really delicious. They are available pretty much in every small town in the States, and we just thought 'Why not introduce the concept here?" In the States, the apples are covered in a special caramel coating. Unlike the typical 'toffee apple' coating, this stays soft and keeps the apple fresh for several days.

David enlisted the services of a food research company to help him develop a recipe for a similar coating with the same qualities and, after several months, they succeeded in doing just that.

Each 'gourmet apple' is coated in the special caramel mixture, and then decorated with one of a range of sweet toppings.

David began selling his gourmet apples at a market stall and business quickly boomed.

"To date, we've sold about 5,000 apples — each coated and decorated by hand!", says David proudly.

David says his gourmet apples are a unique product within the UK and Ireland. He is hoping to develop his business through a series of franchises in the near future. The range has expanded to include other luxury fruit products for events such as weddings.

The Extra Foot

Harry Connor with his 'Extra Foot' invention Lisburn mechanic, Harry Connor, is proof that you can achieve business success without any prior experience, if you have a great idea and plenty of determination.

Harry has been running his own maintenance business for commercial vehicles for the past 12 years.

One issue which used to bug him was the fact that he needed someone to press the brake pedal when checking vehicles' brake lights, or making certain other checks.

Then, one day earlier this year, it dawned on him that it might be possible to design a gadget which would remove the necessity for that extra person.

"What I was envisaging was a gadget which could be used to keep the brake pedal depressed, without someone sitting there," he explained.

"So I sat down with a piece of paper, and started sketching out the design for a gadget which would do the job simply and cheaply."

Using the Internet, Harry tracked down a Chinese company which was able to make a prototype for him. He ended up selling his motorbike to finance his first bulk order, but has no regrets. "I now have two distribution deals, and I'm already working on further ideas," he says.

"I would like to thank Lisburn Enterprise Organisation for all their help and advice."

Roycroft Interiors

Ruth Coates, Roycroft InteriorsRuth Coates started Roycroft Interiors 10 years ago quite literally at her kitchen table.

"I had a young child at the time and wanted to work from home," she explains.

"I enjoyed creating and had had previous success with sewing projects.

"So I enrolled on a 'Women into Business' programme and then took the plunge into self employment."

Ruth began by producing her own curtains in her 'back room'. She readily admits that the first couple of years were a massive learning curve.

"Eventually the business took over all the living space in my house and my order book was full," she says.

"It was only then that I had the confidence to take the business to the next level.

"I rented a unit in Lisburn Enterprise Centre, and employed the first two of our very skilled ladies who are as particular as myself when it comes to an eye for detail and the finish of an item."

Since then the business has continued to grow. The product range has been expanded to include the manufacture of Roman and Japanese blinds.

"Obviously the current recession does concern us" says Ruth "but it's actually providing us with an opportunity.

"People are tending to invest money in improving their current home rather than moving, and we are thankfully still very busy." If these stories inspire you and you would like to start your own business, Lisburn Enterprise Organisation would be happy to provide you with advice. Call LEO on 028 9266 1160 or visit its website at:

Ulster Star