@GMITOfficial #foodinnovators #entrepreneurs

It was a day full of chat, hugs and excitement when we met with the course graduates yesterday. Starting a new business and being an Entrepreneur is no easy task so with that in mind, the course mentors decided to meet with the students a few weeks after the course had finished to see how they were progressing. During Dr. Lisa Ryan’s welcome she referred to the day as a “re-ignition day” and with the help of Brendan Allen (@castlemine) and Ronan Byrne (@friendlyfarmer), it certainly was that and more. Watching the students interact with one another was like watching a group of old friends get together – it was obvious that the course had meant much more to people than just acquiring knowledge and skills, it was the foundation of great friendships, connecting a group of likeminded people and our personal favourite, a great “networking” outlet.

With Brendan and Ronan involved in yesterday’s meeting the students knew they would not be left in their comfort zone for too long and so, after some coffee and networking, the students were back in presenting mode. Each student presented their own journey to the class, from enrolling on the course, to what they achieved throughout and what they are doing now.

It was exciting, enlightening and emotional listening to each student and their success stories. Everyone had shared the same apprehension and nerves at the beginning of the course, some believing they were too old to return to education, others feeling they had no life experience, little confidence and confused as to what step to take next. However, looking around the room yesterday I wouldn’t associate those feelings with any of the people that were sitting in front of me, all we (the mentors and I) could see were strong, skilled, ambitious food entrepreneurs.

We were delighted that the feedback on the course was so positive with many of the students commenting that it was one of the best courses they had ever completed. The practical learning environment topped the list as being the most positive aspect of the course for many. They believed, putting theory into practice throughout the course enabled them to adapt to the entrepreneurial mind set easier and to understand the importance of customer discovery. “Knowing what your customer wants, what they need”, “live and breathe your customer” – these phrases were so commonly used in class that they are still ringing in the ears of the students and influencing them in their decision making.

Some of the feedback and successes shared with the group yesterday included:

o   The course provided me with everything I needed to know about starting my own business

o   I have the confidence to present myself and my product

o   I have registered my Kitchen

o   I am now selling my products in 14 stores

o   I have gained the knowledge that is required to become a food entrepreneur

o   The course was marvellous, the mentors were fantastic and gave us so much of their time

o   By applying the knowledge and skills I acquired throughout the course my business has increased by 30% with less customers, I am no longer a “busy fool”

o   I realised I had more skills than I thought

o   If I had access to a course like this years ago, it would have been a great benefit to me in managing my business

o   I have applied for the food academy

Ronan suggested that the class bear in mind “what to do if it is just not happening”  and work in groups to discuss the issues that may be hindering business progression and come away with at least one action at the end of the session that each student could enforce immediately. The mentors and the students brainstormed, collaborated and established new connections. There was a great atmosphere in the room – positive, engaging and proactive.

One of the students mentioned two words that have hindered her in becoming an entrepreneur to date – Risk and Fear. Two small, four lettered words that can have such a huge impact on a person – words that frequently cross the mind of an entrepreneur and now for the graduates of this course, words that are not that scary anymore!

The day ended with some great catch ups, some delicious food and an inspiring quote from our Friendly Farmer Ronan Byrne: “what will be is up to me”.

Roll on October to celebrate the official graduation of the first cohort of GMIT’S Certificate in Food Innovation and Entrepreneurship course.

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@GMITOfficial Food Innovators and Entrepreneurs

It is hard to believe that the first roll out of GMIT’s Certificate in Food Innovation and Entrepreneurship has come to an end! Wow, what an amazing journey it has been for the team, the budding entrepreneurs, the many guest lecturers and myself. We have had plenty of highs, some lows, lots of technical up skilling but overall it has been a fantastic sixteen weeks of creativity, business planning, refining business concepts, networking, lots of food tastings and most importantly the creation of many new friendships.

Last Tuesday, the students worked with consultant Nick Allen (Entrepreneurship and Commercialisation Specialist – Whitwell Consulting) to fine tune their final business pitches. Yes, there were nerves, tension and some sleepless nights in the lead up to Wednesday’s final business pitches but working with Nick on Tuesday really helped to ease some of those nerves. Public speaking is never easy and something that many of us fear (it is phobia for many, including myself, and is known as Glossophobia, I learn something new every day!) but I was blown away by the professional presentations the students delivered last week.

Sixteen weeks ago, on the first day of the course, each student was asked to introduce themselves to the group and many found this a nerve wrecking and uncomfortable experience. Bearing that in mind, it really was hard to believe that I was watching the same fourteen students last Wednesday, as they presented their business to an unfamiliar audience with a new found confidence, enthusiasm and passion – true entrepreneurs. What a difference a few weeks can make!

The student’s business ideas are now a reality for most. The have developed professional and viable business plans and have demonstrated that they can pitch their business and confidently answer questions from potential investors – these students are well on their way to success. With a fantastic panel of in house and guest lecturers, this course has provided the students with the knowledge and skills they require to develop their businesses and become Food Entrepreneurs. We were delighted to work with Brendan Allen (Castlemine Farm), Ronan Byrne (The Friendly Farmer), Declan Droney (www.declandroney.com) Maurice Knightly (Former, O’Briens Sandwhich Bar), Dr. Lisa Ryan, Dr Francesco Noci, Dr. Edel Keaveney and the many guests we have welcomed throughout the sixteen weeks including Enda McEvoy (www.loamgalway.com), Kevin O’Hara(www.independentbrewing.ie ), Peter Boland (www.cases.ie), Nick Allen (Whitwell Consulting) and Olivia Lavelle (www.lingohost.ie) – what a phenomenal team!

Luckily, we continue to work with these high calibre industry leaders as we currently deliver the course to a great class of budding food entrepreneurs on the GMIT Castlebar campus.

Before we parted ways with the students of the Certificate in Food Innovation and Entrepreneurship Galway class, they shared some very kind words:

The Certificate in Food Innovation and Entrepreneurship has been an amazing experience. It is deeply practical, promotes a fantastic entrepreneurial attitude and is taught by the most committed, hands on, experienced and knowledgeable industry experts who genuinely care about the well-being of the students”, Ciara Daly

This course was very enjoyable. The topics covered were diverse and covered in great detail. The dedication of the people giving the course was admirable, everyone was very generous with their resources and their time….I would highly recommend this course” Anita Talbot

“This was a hugely inspirational experience in a hands-on practical learning environment. The delivery was very innovative. I would highly recommend it as a first introduction to business and entrepreneurship or to up skill existing knowledge and experience. It is beneficial to both entrepreneurs and employees working in an entrepreneurial environment” Deborah Coffey

Keep an eye out and support the student’s new businesses being launched over the coming weeks: www.gettingfedup.com, http://www.facebook.com/TheNourishingGardener, https://www.facebook.com/Burren-Natural-Cordials-1751586898404238/?qsefr=1 ,  https://www.facebook.com/boynevalleybroth/, @GalwayColdBrew, The Copper Pear, Julia’s Truck, My Gourmet Family, Synergy Sea Buckthorn, Ali and Lou Cookery School, Sea Mead and Nutribase HQ.

#SocialMediaMarketing @OLavelle

The sun is shining and it feels like summer; in Ireland that can only mean one of two things – its either exam time or the kids are back to school! And so, for the lovely students of the Food Innovation & Entrepreneurship class, it is exam time. As many of the students have not been in formal education for some time, sitting an exam was a pretty daunting thought for them so the nerves were at an all-time high this week. However, study they did and Im pretty sure they all did very well despite the post mortem I may have overheard in the canteen afterwards!! On a brighter note, the students also took part in a social media workshop with Olivia Lavelle (@OLavelle #foodtechire) Olivia demonstrated how vital the use of social media platforms are in developing and promoting any business. It is a key marketing and sales tool used by everyone in every industry. It was a great day of buzz words, snapchatting, tweeting and instagraming (I really don’t think that is a word!). Understanding Facebook insights and dark posts can have a huge impact on driving your business and getting more ‘bang for your buck’. As Olivia suggested, you do need to put the time in to understand the trends and to drive your business via social media. She suggested the students spend one hour per week on Facebook insights and an hour blogging. It is a great way to begin and it also drives customers to your business website. The younger generation are superstars when to comes to social media – let them show you how its done!

We also had a very relaxing visit from The Friendly Farmer, Ronan Byrne, who popped in to talk the students through their final presentations next week. Understandably, the students are not too excited about delivering a 7 minute business pitch in front of an audience of people they don’t know but after listening to Ronan break it down into core sections and themes, the time really will fly by (that’s what I am telling them anyway!!) The week wouldn’t be complete without a final session with Declan Droney who spoke about “the purple cow” concept by Seth Godin – transform your business by being remarkable. Declan asked each student what is remarkable about them and in doing so, we discovered some interesting and fascinating things about each other – we really do have a remarkable class! The student had some amazing stories, some of which will be used in the introduction to their business pitch next week. We are all very excited about next Wednesday and cannot wait to see such high caliber food entrepreneurs present a great selection of innovative businesses. We will be keeping everyone updated via social media, so stay tuned!

Facts, Figures and Group Dynamics

Its all about business plans, pitches and financials this week as the students on the Galway course met with Declan Droney (www.declandroney.com) to prepare, forecast and finalise their businesses facts and figures. With the final day of the course looming, the students have two weeks to finalise their business plans and prepare to pitch their business idea to a panel of judges, no pressure! Branding and market touchpoints also played a significant part in this week’s lecture with Declan providing the students with an abundance of information and advice on these key elements to business. To end the week, Declan decided to surprise the class by asking them to deliver an ‘on the spot’ unprepared pitch – who doesn’t love spontaneous public speaking!  Although there may be some nerves, the class are excited and motivated (and possibly a little sad that the course is coming to an end) to embark on the next stage of their start up journey. It has been an exhilarating four months to date but a very exciting two weeks lie ahead.

While the students in Galway are busy working towards their final presentation, the students on the Castlebar campus prepare themselves to deliver their first presentation. Working on a group project in conjunction with Café Rua (@Rua_Mayo), the students in Castlebar are putting team theory into practise and finding out how to embrace team dynamics. With a very interesting project to work on, the groups are using the knowledge and skills they have acquired over the past few weeks to implement some very innovative processes. Their first presentation will take place on Friday, 13th May – I hope nobody is too superstitious!

Next week is shaping up to be a very interactive week with Olivia Lavelle (@OLavelle) delivering a social media workshop, Maria Staunton speaking about the Innovation Hub, GMIT Castlebar, and some mock presentations included for good measure!

#FoodTech #swgalway & Tasty Treats

Wow, this has been a very exciting week for our Food Innovation and Entrepreneurship class. The students from both the Castlebar and Dublin Rd classes took part in Ireland’s first ever FoodTech startup weekend. Basically, a startup weekend is designed to allow people to experience the life of a business startup over the course of fifty four hours from pitching a business idea right through to the design and development of that business – yes all over one weekend! With over forty participants and business ideas pitched at the event, five of the ideas from our very talented Food Innovation and Entrepreneurship students made the top ten with three of those winning the top prizes. It was an amazing weekend filled with positive energy, creative thinkers, local delicious food and an impressive line-up of local entrepreneurs, mentors and advisors on hand to contribute to the ten teams. The weekend was a huge success with a panel of national and international judges and fantastic sponsors. Details on the event can be read by visiting http://www.up.co/communities/ireland/galway/startup-weekend/8220

Among the winners were our students: Anita Talbot winning second place for her delicious ‘cold brew coffee’ business – Galway Cold Brew. In third place, Nigel Murray’s solution to food producers’ nutrition labelling issues (Nutribase HQ) was of great interest to the judges. The overall Public Vote category was won by our very own Deirdre Bennett aka “The Nourishing Gardener”. Deirdre’s passion for gardening, nutrition and connecting children to nature was inspiring. So to say I was a little proud of the students may be an understatement, they are superstars!

To add to a great start to the week, I was delighted that the students were developing a prototype of their product/service and testing it with the public this week. I thought it was only fair that I participated and so I got to sample some very tasty treats….did I mention how talented the students are!! Yes, these products were simply delicious. I also got to keep an amazing bunch of flowers one of our students brought in from the Burren, thank you Liz Griffith – my house looks so colourful and smells amazing! There will be some very innovative products and services hitting the marketplace once these students finish the course so stay tuned, believe me you will want to know where to get your hands on these products/services. Have a glance through the photos to get an idea what is coming your way! After gaining sought after feedback from the public on taste, texture, spending habits and price points the students are now working on their business models and preparing their business plan. To help them along the way, our very successful mentor Declan Droney (http://www.declandroney.com/) spent an invaluable day with the students yesterday going through their business concepts, advising, connecting, problem solving and brainstorming – exhilarating day, what a business mind!

All in all it has been a very busy and exciting week for the students so far, and it is only starting for the students on the course in Castlebar. This morning, Dr Lisa Ryan headed straight for Mayo armed with a very exciting lecture and an interactive planned day on one of her favourite topics Food Science and Nutrition. As the students in Galway know, this is going to be one very interesting day full of very surprising and valuable information, enjoy it!

Practise Makes Perfect

With only five weeks to go until the students have to pitch their business idea and business plan to a panel of experts, using the phrase practise makes perfect seems quite apt right now. Yesterday Brendan Allen put the students through their paces and asked them to deliver a 1 minute pitch on their business idea to the class. The students offered feedback and constructive criticism to each other, you have to love peer learning! However, Brendan wasn’t shy in offering his opinion and very honest feedback on their pitches also!! He did hammer home that practise will make perfect and that it is the only way to ensure the pitch is delivered, smooth, informative and effective. I was so impressed with the pitches, it was like watching a different group of students to the people I had met on the first day of the course. The business concepts have been refined and developed (some have changed completely) and the increase in the students’ confidence levels was phenomenal! Some of the students are heading to the Food and Technology Start up weekend in Galway on Friday to pitch their food business ideas – how amazing is that. I am so excited to see them in action and looking forward to a fun filled weekend http://www.up.co/communities/ireland/galway/startup-weekend/8220

In the afternoon, the class had the privilege of meeting local entrepreneur, the very successful Peter Boland (Cases Wine Warehouse). Peter was hugely motivating and spoke to the class so honestly and open. He encouraged them all to “do it now”. Feeling inspired and motivated the class left for the evening (to work on their business plans, no doubt). Today, Dr. Lisa Ryan and Dr. Francesco Noci are educating the class on new product design and novel processing techniques. With their expertise and extensive background in this area, today promises to be highly informative and engaging.  There is nothing these two don’t know when it comes to food and science!

Im off to meet the students on the course in Castlebar tomorrow with Nick Allen (CEO, Whitwell Consultancy). Nick will push everyone outside their comfort zones tomorrow as he focuses on communication and presentation skills, the joys of public speaking! I am looking forward to picking up some tips.

Fine Dining, Craft Beer and Customer Discovery

Reality hit this week as the start of module two saw the Galway class evaluate their own business ideas and implement the customer discovery process around them. Finding out if your customer is knowledgeable on your product/business idea can be a daunting task but one that our class handled very well. Devising the right types of questions to ask customers and analysing the information gathered has given the students some great food for thought. Combining that with adhering to Brendan Allen’s (www.castleminefarm.ie) lecture on understanding the diffusion of innovation theory, I have no doubt that motivation is at an all-time high in the classroom. They are bursting with innovative business ideas! Having previously met with business mentor Declan Droney (www.declandroney.com) the students are on their way to completing a business plan for their own business ideas, so the following few weeks will prove to be very interesting for them.

While the Galway class were working hard, I decided to hit the road with the Castlebar class and enjoy the sunshine while visiting the Michelin star winning head chef, Enda McEvoy (www.loamgalway.com) and award winning artisan brewery Galway Hooker (Aidan Murphy www.galwayhooker.ie). What a fantastic day we had. Meeting these successful entrepreneurs and learning about their businesses, the challenges, the highs, the commitment and their passion was so inspiring. Both Enda and Aidan gave the students such quality time, they were so relaxed and happy to answer any question the students had. They even let us wander around their premises and sample some produce. It was an exceptional experience and the students were delighted to have the opportunity to meet such influential entrepreneurs. However, it’s back to the books tomorrow as the class meet with Ronan Byrne (The Friendly Farmer) to learn about personality traits and team theory – categorising people, what’s not to love!

First Day Nerves…..

While the Galway class were in study mode this week learning food safety management and all things HACCP, I together with Dr Lisa Ryan and Brendan Allen got to roadtrip to the beautiful County of Mayo for no better reason than to welcome a new class of budding food entrepreneurs! Eighteen highly enthusiastic students arrived on the GMIT Castlebar campus on Thursday morning laden with some great food ideas and entrepreneurial spirit. Personally, I love the first day of this course as it is so exciting having the opportunity to meet so many likeminded people in one room and hearing their fantastic concepts and backgrounds. Of course we had the normal awkward first day introductions which I think I stumble over more than most, but new friendships were imminent once the coffee break was in full swing. The ever inspiring Brendan Allen got the creative thinking started this morning with plenty of group work and brainstorming, together with various creations made from spaghetti and marshmallows!!! Sharing his own story Brendan took the students on a journey of the highs and lows of any new food business which left the students feeling interested, motivated and excited. What a great two days in Castlebar and a wonderful new group of students. Looking forward to the great businesses that will hit Mayo and beyond after this course is finished.

Pitch Perfect

It was a week of beer, cheese and hors d’oeuvres and what a fantastic and highly engaging week it was. Three weeks ago, our Host Company Independent Brewing from Carraroe set the class a task asking them to provide them with solutions to a problem their company are currently facing.

I guess it had an ‘Apprentice’ feeling about it as the class were divided into teams and had three weeks to develop a concept and pitch the solution to the company (a panel of 8). Competition was fierce amongst the teams and using the tools and concepts they have acquired throughout the course to date, they developed innovative and practical solutions for the host company. There was a great energy around this project as the teams learnt all about team dynamics and bonded over beer tastings, report writing, questionnaires, learning all things social media and finally, and for many, the most daunting – the fear of presenting, pitching an idea in 7 minutes and public speaking!

Each team delivered their presentations to a panel that included members of the host company, the course lectures, my good self and some independent assessors. The presentations were fantastic, the solutions were innovative, creative and outright brilliant and the panel were highly engaged and overwhelmed. Personally, I was proud of the level of commitment, determination and professionalism the students demonstrated. They are without doubt true entrepreneurs and I am already looking forward to the day they pitch their own food ideas at the end of this course.

When Science meets Food

I am not sure about you, but I for one, never fully understood the science behind food or how they were interlinked – well that all changed after I listened to Dr. Lisa Ryan (Head of Dept. of Naturel Sciences, GMIT) deliver a very gripping lecture to the class. Many of us have heard the words carbohydrates, proteins and fats when it comes to our diet but I am not sure that we fully understand the science or nutrition behind those words. This lecture educated the class on energy balance, food composition, functions of macro/micronutrients, body absorption and food sources. Dr Ryan explained that understanding how certain nutrients and minerals affect the body could influence why people eat certain foods and follow a particular diet. The class were highly intrigued, interested and in some cases surprised to learn the science and nutrition behind certain foods. Knowing this information and being able to speak to someone as experienced as Dr. Lisa Ryan is in food science, will be a great aid to the students as they develop their food products.

Dr. Ryan also discussed the importance of food labelling and the regulation around same, something everyone in the food industry needs to be aware of. Consumers need to be educated about any new product so correct labelling of your food product will serve as both an educational and marketing tool. From now on I will be paying much more attention to food labels and plenty of your potential customers will be the same, so make sure your label is accurate!

I think it is safe to say people are becoming more and more aware of food composition and are more concerned about the health benefits of what they eat. If you are planning on bringing a food product to the market, you need to understand the science and nutrition behind that product and its potential place in the health markets. The saying “you are what you eat” makes a whole lot more sense to me now!