Derry & Strabane ‘BIG’ business a success as new spaces open up

Two local businesses who have taken part in the Business, Innovation and Growth (BIG) programme have encouraged others to sign up to receive invaluable support.

The BIG programme is open to small businesses within the Derry City and Strabane District Council area who will receive expert advice and guidance on driving innovation and productivity and becoming more competitive in both indigenous and export markets. Council are currently recruiting for new businesses interested in taking part.

Participants receive one to one mentoring support covering topic areas such as general business planning, finance, sales, communications, digital marketing, cyber security and e-commerce. There are also themed workshops and seminars.

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Award-winning Wild Atlantic Distillery are previous participants. Based in Aghyaran, and brothers-in-law Jim Nash and Brian Ash took inspiration from the spectacular rugged coastline of the island to start producing whiskey, vodka and gin through tours, workshops and sensory experiences. Company Director and Co-Founder Jim said: “For both Brian and I, we had the passion and the determination to make our business a success, but we felt that as we looked to expand. The BIG programme offered us a lot of expert assistance that would only help us continue our positive trajectory.”

Colleen Hamilton, Graze2U.

Colleen Hamilton also took part in BIG. Colleen owns Graze2U, a company based in Newbuildings which provides top-class grazing platters and artisan foods. Using fresh and locally sourced produce, Graze2U caters for weddings, parties and other events as well as providing smaller boxes and individual items like cheese, meat and cakes. Colleen said: “Social media is a huge way in which I promote what Graze2U has to offer, and through the BIG programme it was great to hear more about how I can utilise that in the best way to bring our service to a wider audience.”

Kevin O’Connor, Head of Business with Derry City and Strabane District Council, added: “Both Wild Atlantic Distillery and Graze2U are just two examples of the great success we have had to date with the BIG programme. Following the pandemic we are now moving into a period of recovery and growth for our business sector and we want to offer as much support as we can for small, local businesses who are seeking to expand and reach new audiences.”

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The programme is part-funded by Invest NI and the European Regional Development Fund under the Investment for Growth & Jobs NI [2014-2020] Programme. For more information and BIG eligibility criteria , visit or call Council’s Business team on 02871253253.

Jim Nash, Wild Atlantic Distillery.