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Simple Series delivers for rural women in County Antrim

Louise Adams, from Glarryford and winner of the Best Pitch is pictured with Simple Series CEO and Founder, Shirley Palmer.

A programme designed to encourage rural women in Northern Ireland to sow their own seeds and start a business has recently been commended by the Environment Minister as it culminated with an innovative and exciting Seed Formula Finale.

Delivered by business consultancy, The Simple Series, in association with business enterprise centre, LEDCOM and with funding from the Ulster Bank, the 12-week programme, The Seed Formula Programme, was geared towards guiding and supporting women from rural communities across Northern Ireland to start a business in their chosen field.

The programme covered some sixty activities from ‘know your customer’ to ‘understanding your finances’ to a ‘sales and marketing strategy’ and more, all of which are very important when building a new brand or business.

The finale gave the potential new businesses the opportunity to pitch in front of a panel of experts including Jonathan Wallace, Professor of Innovation at Ulster University, Carol Fitzsimons, CEO of Young Enterprise NI, Sian Farrell, Co-Founder of StimOxyGen and Susan Chestnutt, Co-Founder of Seaview Farms.

The Minister for Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs Edwin Poots MLA was also in attendance and took the opportunity to congratulate the participants and commended those involved saying “the success of this programme is a great example of how we can adapt and deliver for the people of Northern Ireland especially in our rural community.

“It’s important to develop initiatives to address the barriers which can inhibit those who live in rural areas. Programmes like these are invaluable as they not only help to support and grow but also sustain our rural communities. Well done to all involved.”

Shirley Palmer, CEO and Founder of The Simple Series said; “This programme has been a huge success. The women involved in this programme showed real commitment, resilience, tenacity and on many occasions, they had to step outside their comfort zone, which they found challenging.

“I am extremely proud of what each of them have achieved and they now have the tools to help realise their ambitions. The route to entrepreneurship is not an easy one, however with a solid foundation and a willing and helping hand it can be so much easier.

“Our rural communities have many hidden talents, and this programme has highlighted that. Through this programme rural women have been empowered to build a business, make a positive impact and promote female entrepreneurship whether in a full-time or part-time capacity.”

The finale judges were in search of the best pitch, best product or idea and the most fun product.

The Best Pitch was awarded to Louise Adams from Glarryford with her new brand Cultshe, a clothing and lifestyle brand for the female rural worker and women who love the countryside.

The Best Product was awarded to Lynette McHendry from Larne with her brand Spear & Arrow, with several bone broth products to support healthy living using Northern Irish feed grass cattle.

The most fun business idea was awarded to Caitrin Kincaid from Ballymena with her brand Cube Fun, an educational and mindful toy to support children under the age of 10.

Commenting on the recent event, Ken Nelson MBE, CEO of LEDCOM said; “It has been a privilege to help deliver this programme in conjunction with Shirley and her team. Huge congratulations to everybody who took part as we heard some fantastic pitches and ideas – all very inspiring. I am looking forward to hearing more about these businesses in the coming months and we are delighted that LEDCOM could play its part.”

Fourteen new businesses have been created and some 200 plus people inspired during the delivery of the programme.

Louise Adams who won the best pitch said, “The last four months have been a bit of whirlwind. There is so much to learn when you are building a brand and setting up your business. I’d recommend that anyone with an idea and who wants to set up their own business should complete this programme as mandatory. It really has given me the toolkit and confidence to progress with my idea. Thank you to Shirley and the team and LEDCOM and Ulster Bank for their excellent support.”

Carol Fitzsimons, CEO of Young Enterprise NI was impressed by the standard of the business concepts and the pitches. She said, “I loved seeing the ideas and concepts coming through as they really resonate with current and cultural trends. Personally, I loved the three brands that won as they each showcased diversity in products, education and are needed in the local community. Additionally, these women are brilliant role models for children, young people, and their communities.”

John Ferris of Ulster Bank said: “These were all great pitches, and it was wonderful to see so many different ideas come to life. It was also brilliant to see a real desire and burning passion around their businesses which helped showcase their individual why – a very important aspect in building any brand.”

Professor Jonathan Wallace of Ulster University said, “As a passionate advocate for entrepreneurship I think it's incredible to see what has been achieved in four short months with an extremely diverse range of businesses from health and wellbeing to products and services. Some truly outstanding brands have been developed, particularly Cultshe, Spear & Arrow, Cube Fun and as a lover of cheese I look forward to tasting, Grumpy Panda Cheese.

“This is a great example of how a rural hub or ecosystem can be created to support real entrepreneurship in the local community rather than being city centric. There is a huge opportunity to showcase Northern Ireland, keep up the good work and congratulations to everybody.”

The Simple Series intends to build upon the Seed Formula's success and offer more women throughout Northern Ireland in 2022 the opportunity to create new and innovative projects and/or businesses which will create new jobs and enhance the quality of life for those who live in rural communities.

For more information on The Simple Series, visit:

Cultshe is a community led lifestyle brand for women in agriculture and for those who also love the countryside. A concept brand that plans to showcase it products by the end of December 2022.

Spear & Arrow is a producer of bone broth products. Supporting local, traceability, farm to fork and sustainability is key to their brand. All their bone broth is made from antibiotic and hormone free Northern Irish grass feed cattle bones with local homemade apple cider vinegar.

Cube Fun is a fun, educational game and resource that keeps children actively engaged. Born out of lock down to support children couped up indoors it has now become a great hit with four current styles to purchase from.


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