Can mentoring deliver a new generation of Irish start-ups?

27 May 2011

Jobs Minister Richard Bruton, TD, has launched the 2011 Enterprise Ireland SuperValu Supplier Development Programme, which will see 10 young Irish food start-up companies receive customised training and one-on-one mentoring support.

Developed by Enterprise Ireland in conjunction with SuperValu, and assisted by Bord Bia and Teagasc, the programme delivers support for small or emerging food companies to achieve the product quality, service standards and technical innovation necessary to reach supermarket shelves.

Now in its fifth year, the programme has to date delivered €16m of direct sales from participating companies to SuperValu. 

Ten companies have signed up to take part in this year’s six-month long programme, which will consist of both workshops delivered by SuperValu and industry experts and one-on-one mentoring.

The companies involved are typically small businesses and this year include suppliers of organic and innovative food products.

Participating companies will include Kearney’s Gluten Free Breaded Fish, Killowen Yogurt, Dee’s Wholefoods, Kilbeg Dairy, Irish Organic Milk Producers, Walsh Gourmet Foods, Yogies/Petzert, Danucci, Donegal Rapeseed Oil Co and Truly Irish.

Model to be applied to other sectors of Irish economy

“In order to get the economy and job creation growing again, I am determined to work hard and try to ensure that we get the absolute most, in terms of job creation potential, out of every strength and asset we have,” Bruton said.

“This includes reducing costs, improving access to finance and encouraging innovation – but also mining the potential of the traditional strengths of our economy.

“In the coming months, I will be exploring other areas of the economy where the great potential of business mentoring can be used to support Irish start-ups and ensure that we support in any way we can the businesses and jobs of the future.

“The Enterprise Ireland SuperValu Supplier Development Programme is a crucial element for helping us fulfil our promise to our customers to source from Irish food producers,” Martin Kelleher, managing director, SuperValu, said.

“Cultivating relationships with companies at an early stage can lead to long-lasting and mutually beneficial relationships.

“For example, we recently signed a new deal with Oliver Carty Limited to supply 100pc Irish bacon and ham. Since 1995, we have helped them grow from having a turnover of €792,000 with 11 employees to an annual turnover of €44m with 130 employees.

“We hope to form similar, long-lasting trading partnerships with the participants of this year’s programme, so that they in turn can create job opportunities in their own local communities,” Kelleher said.

Frank Ryan, chief executive of Enterprise Ireland, said the programme is an important part of the agency’s strategy for the further development of the consumer foods sector.

“Last year’s participants achieved listings of €5m and I hope we can match or exceed that success in this year’s programme. Our national growth will rely on boosting local economies, supporting local companies and maintaining local employment. We look forward to working with this year’s participants in what will, I’m sure, be a very successful programme,” Ryan said.

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years