LEOs launch Digital School of Food to help food entrepreneurs

28 Apr 2020

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The Digital School of Food aims to help food entrepreneurs plan a product journey and route to market, while preparing them for the next steps involved in setting up a business.

On Monday (27 April), the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation announced that Ireland’s Local Enterprise Offices (LEOs) have launched a new online food programme, called the Digital School of Food.

The e-learning platform aims to boost the number of Irish food start-ups, by giving entrepreneurs expert advice and guidance that they can follow from their own homes, offices and kitchens.

The programme was piloted in Dublin in conjunction with Enterprise Ireland and Bord Bia, and it is now being rolled out nationwide to qualifying applicants through the LEO network.

The Digital School of Food

The programme aims to give food entrepreneurs an education in planning a product journey and route to market, looking at finance, growing sales and how to expand the business.

There are contributions from experts in the field, including trade buyers in SuperValu, Musgraves and Spar, as well as Domini Kemp of Itsa Food Group and food producers who have already gone through the process.

After participating in the digital programme, entrepreneurs will be prepared to take part in the Food Starter programme offered by LEOs around the country, and subsequently Food Academy, which helps producers to get their products onto retail shelves.

Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation Heather Humphreys, TD, said: “We have a proud heritage in producing world-class food in Ireland. Now, more than ever, it is vital that we support our food firms and particularly budding entrepreneurs with ambitions to start a new business.

“As needs have evolved, these programmes have evolved and the online Digital School of Food is a testament to that. Aspiring food producers can now begin their journey from their own home. The Local Enterprise Offices continue to innovate in the way that they are delivering programmes and this is extremely significant now.”

Humphreys added that LEOs will be playing a “key role” in helping small businesses overcome the challenging economic climate in the coming weeks and months.

Cultivating the food sector

Oisin Geoghegan, chair of the network of LEOs, said: “Irish food is renowned the world over and we enjoy an enviable reputation for high-quality food production. It is important that we continue to cultivate new food entrepreneurs and start-ups, particularly during these challenging times.

“The Digital School of Food is an excellent first step for anyone with an idea to establish a food production business. It will help them mould that idea to bring it to the next stage. This is particularly significant now, with many potential entrepreneurs at home, they can access this programme from anywhere.”

Geoghegan added that while starting a food business can be straightforward, it is often quite challenging to grow the business. He said that the LEOs want to support those who are determined to expand their operations or take the next step, and called the Digital School of Food programme a “game changer” for food entrepreneurs.

Kelly Earley was a journalist with Silicon Republic