Blog : Business



Now more than ever, businesses need to stop doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. As a business owner, do you know what you want out of your enterprise and how you are going to achieve it? Michelle Lestas’s new book ‘In Business With Yourself’ has been developed to help business leaders navigate through these challenging times and develop an approach for business that works.

It has been created with Michelle’s wealth of experience, knowledge and observations gathered over 25 years, having worked with international business leaders as well as running her own businesses. A serial entrepreneur, the fundamentals of the book are based on Michelle’s identity-led business growth, which is a truly innovative theme that runs throughout the book.

Speaking ahead of the book launch, Michelle said: “I provide an unfiltered insight into some of the highs and lows of leading in business and why when business owners understand business identity, they are equipped to deal with the successes and challenges ahead. The pandemic is forcing all of us to react quickly in an ever-changing landscape. I use case studies and many tips to encourage businesses to make positive changes to support business growth. I’m all about maximising efforts for the biggest gains.”

Moving through the tides of running businesses, Michelle has developed a direct and practical approach to leadership. The book is a compelling read for any business owner, self-starter or entrepreneur and it is available for pre-order at



LoyalBe, an innovative digital loyalty provider, has formed a strategic partnership with Visa, the global frontrunner in digital payments. The aim of this strategic partnership is to bring LoyalBe’s frictionless loyalty solution to the Irish market, enabling SMEs to compete on a level playing field with larger corporate retailers and allowing Visa to support small businesses in new ways.

LoyalBe’s clever digital loyalty solution utilises Open Banking technology to make the process of rewarding loyalty seamless. The LoyalBe app displaces traditional paper loyalty cards, instead offering a single smartphone application that relocates the power of ‘loyalty’ in the hands of shoppers and independent hospitality and retailers alike.

Cormac Quinn, CEO and Founder of LoyalBe, believes that this original application of Open Banking technology will be of even greater value to small, independent retailers as we emerge from this period of uncertainty:

“Our loyalBe app works by connecting directly to the customer’s bank card to reward purchases, thereby giving retailers the ability to understand their customers better and offer them a more personalised shopping experience. By using Open Banking technology, we make the process of rewarding loyalty seamless. Given its frictionless nature, we don’t require any equipment or software at till points and customers don’t need to change their behaviour. They simply just pay by card as usual.

“This new partnership with Visa will empower SMEs to compete on a level playing field with big retailers, through our digital loyalty solution. Loyalty is proven to drive increased sales but, for a long time, it was only the larger, corporate retailers who had access to data and analytics that gave them an advantage. From the beginning, our mission at LoyalBe has been to democratise loyalty and give smaller retailers access to invaluable data which can be used to stimulate customer engagement.

“People have seen how the smaller, independent retailers have been affected by the pandemic and now, more than ever, people are keen to champion local businesses. In this climate, tools such as LoyalBe are even more valuable in getting people back through the door and, most importantly, ensuring that they continue to come back.”

As businesses become more comfortable accepting contactless and mobile payments, now is a good time to explore growth opportunities through building customer loyalty digitally.

More details about LoyalBe and how businesses can build a loyalty programme with ease can be found here.



One of the world’s leading innovators of high-tech, critical components for the aerospace and medical industries, Denroy, has launched ‘bubl’, its solution to making face coverings more empathetic.

Based in Bangor, Denroy has designed a transparent filtration mask, a first in the UK market with a unique transparent component, coupled with a replaceable eight-hour filtration system, making it 100% reusable.

The ergonomic design means the mask fits snugly around the bridge of the nose, cheeks and chin. It is also designed to a high spec allowing the wearer to breathe easier. The transparent visibility allows for natural, empathetic communication by reducing barriers caused by traditional masks. The benefit of being able to see facial expressions, read visual cues or even lip read, is a huge benefit. The newly awarded CE mark gives consumers confidence that bubl conforms with health, safety, and environmental protection.

Bubl was born out of a time of uncertainty for Denroy due to the devasting effect the current pandemic has had on the aerospace industry. As a team of innovators and solution focused creators, bubl has been able to harness the passion of its team and secure all jobs within the business.

Speaking on the development of bubl, Kevin McNamee CEO of Denroy said: “Lockdown has challenged us to pivot the business in a slightly different direction from what we are used to. But what a fantastic product to do it with! Our design team has poured the same passion and invention into creating the bubl, as they would have for any other highly engineered product. It is comfortable, reusable and most importantly transparent.  Seeing someone simply smile behind their mask, could make a real difference and positively impact many industries who may consider swapping their tradition mask for the bubl.

Lead designer of bubl, Marcus McCay adds: “We are delighted to launch bubl, a product that we are really proud of and something that was developed out of the COVID-19 crisis. From fighter jets to front-line heroes, we have diversified within the business to create a barrier mask that eases communication and fits snugly on your face. During lockdown, we also collaborated on the ‘Hero Shield’ visor that has already been supplied to over 1 million NHS workers. Now, the bubl mask is available for everyone and it will eradicate some of the pressures that those working in person facing occupations are up against.”

Bubl is a type II medical mask and comes with 60 filters to be changed after eight hours of use. It retails at £29.95 and replacement filters are £9.95 per pack. bubl can be purchased online via:



In line with government Coronavirus guidance Foyleside Shopping Centre is welcoming the reopening of its non-essential stores from Friday 12th June. During lockdown, Foyleside Shopping Centre has supported essential stores to remain open throughout this period as well as maintaining the safety of all shoppers and staff alike.

The health and safety of customers and employees continues to be the top priority and Foyleside has introduced enhanced measures to keep you shoppers safe. Enhanced hygiene regimes that were introduced at the start of the outbreak will continue, with more deep cleaning of key areas and touchpoints like escalators, toilets and keypads. These measures have remained in place while Foyleside Shopping Centre provided vital access to essential services during the lockdown period. Hand sanitiser stations will be present throughout the centre and signage to ensure visitors stay socially distanced that will not only meet all requirement but go ‘above and beyond’.

It is advised that visitors have PPE with face masks on entering the building and the Centre will also be utilising its in centre people counting system monitoring the number of shoppers in the Centre at any given time. All staff have received specialist training in line with Covid guidelines and ongoing staff training is in place to ensure visitors stay socially distanced.

Speaking on how the centre has adapted, Fergal Rafferty, Centre Manager said, “As Foyleside is one of the larger shopping centres in the country, we are in a fortunate position whereby we can manage the customer journey throughout the centre  and in all the stores. As well as heightened hygiene measures across every touch point, we have technology to monitor footfall and flows and ensure social distancing is practiced, as well as the benefit of onsite security customer services teams to carefully control the measures at all times”.

Fergal continued, “Our priority is the safety and wellbeing of all of our customers, retailers and colleagues. We have considered carefully how to create an operating environment that allows the centre and all stores to reopen safely. Throughout the mall and within all of our stores, we will display clear information for consumers on how to shop in this new environment. Our team have been working incredibly hard to keep our centre clean and safe during the lockdown and we are hugely grateful to them. We would also like to thank our customers and visitors for all their cooperation and patience so far”.

Other measures which will be introduced include encouragement for shoppers to use contactless payment for transactions, safety reminders on in-centre digital displays and safety announcements over the tannoy system.

For more information and a list of stores which will be opening please visit



Carrickfergus Enterprise has been awarded its ISO certification during lockdown to mark its continued and constant commitment to provide high quality services to its clients and local businesses.

ISO 9001 is the international standard that specifies requirements for a quality management system (QMS). Organisations use the standard to demonstrate the ability to consistently provide products and services that meet customer and regulatory requirements. The accolade has been awarded for the 21st year in a row and it is a positive boost for Carrickfergus Enterprise as it continues to support and mentor local businesses through this challenging time.

Continuing with business support since lockdown began, Carrickfergus Enterprise has been hosting weekly ‘Coffee & Catch up’ sessions. They have enabled local business owners and staff to collaborate via virtual calls to network and interact. Businesses have been encouraged to get involved with a focus on those located in the Mid and East Antrim area, the Causeway Coastal Route, Tourism & Hospitality Businesses as well as Women Entrepreneurs.  Businesses are connecting from Carrickfergus to Limavady and across to Rathlin Island.

Kelli Bagchus from Carrickfergus Enterprise said: “Now more than ever, we need to stay connected with one another and it is our aim to work with local businesses and clients we support, ensuring they meet their business and employment goals. This can be an isolating time however we have maintained our output during lockdown, proven by the recent ISO certification. We have adapted the way we work by introducing services such as our weekly virtual calls.  Activities like this have ensured we continue to maintain a high standard and keep connected with one another.”

Kelli Bagchus adds, “Sometimes, a coffee and a chat is all it takes to give someone the motivation to make a positive difference to their day. The meetings are actually giving businesses that don’t usually connect, a chance to have a chat and even collaborate for the first time, so it is proving to be a great success.”

One business owner who runs Ballyeamon Barn Hostel in Cushendall, has benefitted from the virtual meetings. Liz Weir said: “It’s quite a shock, you suddenly lose all your income with a snap of the fingers. Living alone in a remote but beautiful area can lead to depression and feelings of isolation. The regular virtual coffee and conversation sessions have kept me connected to other tourism providers discussing similar issues of concern. Apart from offering useful practical support, these sessions have raised morale and given me hope during a period of worry and economic crisis.”



Are you missing some tasty Fish & Chips or a mouth-watering Seafood Chowder? Worry no more! Award-winning restaurant, Fish City, is thrilled to announce that its delivery service is now LIVE.

With a sprinkle of salt, lashings of vinegar and a good spoonful of mushy peas, it’s no wonder this hearty dish is a local and national favourite.

Yet, given the introduction of social distancing and the #stayhome campaign, Fish City was forced to close its doors temporarily. Keen to bring its signature dishes back to the masses, the team has been working hard to get delivery back on the menu.

Based in Belfast City Centre, Fish City, has now partnered with Just Eat, along with Deliveroo, Uber Eats and its own app – to bring some of its amazing dishes straight to you.

“This has been an extremely unsettling and worrying time for all businesses.” says owner of Fish City John Lavery.

“But we have remained focused on supporting our team and our customers. Our commitment to serving “the freshest seafood and most sustainable in town” has earned us a number of awards.

“At this stage in the lockdown, people are probably bored of cooking at home and are looking for a real treat to see them through this time. Fish & Chips has always been a local favourite and our customers can choose from some of our favourite fish and seafood dishes, such as Haddock or Cod Fish & Chips, Seafood Linguine or the Fisherman’s Curry. All cooked fresh to order.

“We took this initial period since closing the restaurant to ensure we could perfect the logistics around delivery. We are adhering to the government guidelines and ensuring the safety of our customers and staff remains paramount.”

Delivery is available from 5pm tonight (Friday 10 March) to the Belfast and surrounding area. You can also collect from the eatery direct and due to the relaxed parking restrictions on Ann Street, get right to the door.

You can download the Fish City app via its website: or you can order via Deliveroo, Uber Eats and now Just Eat. Alternatively, you can avail of its click and collect service online www.fishcity/ or call 028 9023100.



At a time when consumer loyalty has never been more central to a retailer’s ongoing success, loyalBe is an app that abandons the needless collection of loyalty cards and replaces it with a seamless, single smartphone application that puts the power of ‘loyalty’ in the hands of shoppers and independent hospitality & retailers alike.

Following a six-figure investment and authorisation by the Financial Conduct Authority, loyalBe is the brainchild of local Belfast man Cormac Quinn who identified and created a frictionless loyalty scheme that doesn’t require consumers to take out their phone at the point of sale to earn rewards, or for retailers to house bulky equipment onsite taking up premium space.

In fact, customers simply link their bank card during registration and earn points whenever they spend in-store. It couldn’t be easier!

With growing sign ups and new businesses coming onboard daily, Cormac is confident that loyalBe is the perfect solution to revolutionise and futureproof the consumer and retailer relationship.

“When I began to research this market, two things were clear. Firstly, loyalty cards have always had an issue with customers not wanting to bulk up their wallets or purses with endless pieces of paper; and secondly for businesses, how can they know who their loyal customers are and how often they’re actually visiting.

“By looking at the benefits of loyalty schemes and also the weaknesses, I felt there was an opportunity to create a technological solution that made it easier for consumers to receive rewards and businesses to connect more seamlessly with shoppers.

“Our loyalBe app works by connecting directly to the customers bank card, rewarding purchases and giving retailers the ability to understand their customers better, and offer a more personalised shopping experience. Given its frictionless nature, we don’t require any equipment or software at till points and customers don’t need to change their behaviour. They simply just pay by card as usual.”

A number of hospitality and retail outlets across Belfast are currently seeing the benefits of loyalBe, helping them create more loyal customers who in turn visit more frequently and spend more per visit than non-loyal ones. They have access to the ‘back office’ dashboard that lets them know their top customers, receive private feedback, engage with customers and much more.

Speaking on the benefits and positive impact loyalBe has been on driving footfall and sales, Paul Glover, owner of Arthur’s Coffee Company says: “We’ve been using loyalBe for a while now and I have to say it’s transformed how we reward our customers.

“Previously we were limited to just a physical paper loyalty card that offered no flexibility in what was rewarded or provided accurate return rate feedback. Now, thanks to loyalBe we’re able to reward the entirety of our customers spend across the range, generating a better response to and from the customer. Beyond that, we’re able to amend, extend and add new deals within the dashboard.

“This is the sort of flexibility that is not commonly available to small businesses and gives us a better chance at competing with bigger companies that have more resources. It all adds up to a very comprehensive system that we use daily, allowing us to remain competitive.

“I’m very happy to see the continued improvements and new features in the system and happily recommend loyalBeto my various contacts within the industry.”

Cormac concludes: “We have ambitious plans for loyalBe and are ecstatic by the positive uptake so far – it is an exciting time. Our aim is to increase the number of active users and businesses using loyalBe significantly and as such are offering any new hospitality and retail businesses who sign up by the end of April 2020 a 100% lifetime discount.

“As a Belfast company, we want to encourage consumers to shop and support local. Our ability to offer this 100% lifetime discount is testament to our desire to help local business maximise the power of loyalty.”

The app can be downloaded from the Apple and Android stores, online via and retailers interested in signing up can register via

loyalBe is regulated and authorised by the Financial Conduct Authority. Financial Services Registration number is 829479. 




Gander, a world-first award-winning app created to reduce food waste, has transformed the spending habits of Northern Ireland shoppers with a significant soar in downloads and increased sales of yellow stickered foods since its launch last August.

Earmarking Northern Ireland as the initial launch pad for the app, over 41,000 downloads have taken place in the last four months, placing it in the top 12% of apps nationally. In addition, up to 45% more reduced-price food have sold which means 45% more has been kept from going to waste. These improvements mean that stores on average are selling between 85-100% of their reduced product shown on Gander, with yellow-stickered items selling 40% quicker since the introduction of Gander; and often at higher prices as shoppers are interested in getting the reduction as soon as it appears.

Gander integrates directly with a retailers POS which enables retailers to automatically display to shoppers in real-time all reduced-to-clear food on the shelves within their local store.  Furthermore, Gander does this automatically, meaning nothing changes in store at all and no additional staff training. The app allows the customer ultimate control over what reduced priced goodies they search for, whether it is by location, favourite stores, reduction, food type and even dietary.

Speaking on the success, one of Gander’s founders, Ashley Osborne says: “The traction and growth of Gander has been amazing. We had expected a decent level of interest, but never envisaged the degree of downloads – especially when only trialled in Northern Ireland initially. The level of positive buy-in demonstrated by customers and retailers alike has been phenomenal and testament that Gander’s proposition is a great fit for consumers out there.

“Customer feedback has been incredibly supportive and the interest in high quality reduced food is impressive, now that they can actually see what is available whereas previously you would have to go to the store and hope to find something reduced. Plus, shoppers are feeling empowered thanks to Gander, aiding them to be more sustainable in their shopping choices. This supports the app’s endeavour to decrease and prevent food waste and create a more sustainable environment has also proved highly effective.”

Ashley adds: “All in all this has led to not only a substantial reduction in surplus and waste, but an increase in overall sales of reduced items, with up to an 800% return on investment for a retailer using Gander.”

Gander launched initially by integrating with Henderson Technologies award winning EDGEPos system to display all of the yellow stickered produce from their stores in real time. Gander went live in 310 participating SPAR, EUROSPAR, ViVO and ViVOxtra stores.

Due to the successful launch of Gander, it has attracted a lot of interest from additional retailers, many of whom will be rolling out with Gander in the next few months across UK and ROI.

The Gander app can be downloaded via the Apple or Android app stores



Employment initiative, Let’s Work has received just under £1.7m funding from Northern Ireland Executive’s Social Investment Fund under the Delivering Social Change framework.  The programme aims to increase employment in areas of socio-economic needs across Northern Ireland and has welcomed over 50% participation since the scheme launched in September 2019.

Carrickfergus Enterprise is project managing the scheme alongside employability specialists, Network Personnel and it is set to be completed by December 2020 as its aims to engage with up to 160 participants from the top 10% or 20% socially disadvantaged areas including: Larne, Ballymena, Carrickfergus, Newtownabbey, Antrim, Coleraine, Magherafelt, Cookstown, Moyle and Ballymoney.

The employment training programme will widen access to job opportunities and create meaningful pathways to employment.  The goals of the project include, reducing the number of unemployed people in the Social Investment Fund Northern zone, improve skill levels of long term unemployed, and increase personal confidence.

In just over 3 months, 53% of 160 participants are positively benefiting from “Let’s Work” and the next year will see further engagement to support people to enhance their skills, encourage training accreditation and convert work placements into full time equivalent roles.

Vice Chair of Carrickfergus Enterprise David McIlhagger said: “This significant investment and support for those who are unemployed is really encouraging. Our ethos at Carrickfergus Enterprise is to create jobs and we have already seen great success in terms of placing participants with key employers as well as developing participant skills and knowledge. Let’s Work encourages participants to strive toward a fresh start in employment as well as supporting businesses in gaining a skilled and knowledgeable work force. Through working closely with the project partners, we are seeing real change not only in attitudes but in lowering unemployment in lower socio-economic areas across Northern Ireland.

“Carrickfergus Enterprise has been responsible for a breadth of employability and business successes across the province.  This large-scale project can make positive changes to peoples lives and can go some way towards addressing some of the key barriers to employment and create positive news for the area.

Alex McKee from Network Personnel said, “We are delighted to be the Service Delivery Organisation for “Let’s Work”. The person-centred ethos of the project perfectly complements our existing suite of employability provision, bridging the gap for individuals who are furthest removed from the labour market and who will benefit most from a structured programme of support during their first few months of employment. By facilitating a perfect match between employer needs and participant aspirations, we can ensure a rewarding and mutually beneficial experience for both parties. “Let’s Work” is a fantastic grassroots stepping stone which will vastly enhance the long term employment prospects for a great number of people in our local communities”.

Dr Mark Browne – Director of Strategic Policy, Equality & Good Relations in the Executive Office added: “The Social Investment Fund was designed to find solutions to deliver real, lasting benefits for communities that need it most.  I am delighted that the £1.7m allocated to this project will assist with improving training and employment skill levels to enable access to job opportunities. It is great to see how this project is already benefiting those most in need across the SIF Northern Zone and adding to the great work already supported by SIF.”



Innovative and focused on the visitor to Northern Ireland, following an initial launch investment of £20,000, Carrickfergus Enterprise has this month introduced the Experience Northern Ireland App. Designed to be a one-stop itinerary planning solution for visitors, it is the only App of its kind available. Free to use, it enables users to plan ahead whilst visiting Northern Ireland.

Featuring must-see destinations in one easy to navigate App, ‘Experience Northern Ireland’, is a brand-new hospitality and tourism platform aimed at heightening awareness of Northern Ireland’s well-known and hidden gem locations whilst boosting footfall to businesses.  It aims to make tourism and hospitality businesses more discoverable by the visitor; a key aim behind this novel App.

Kelli Bagchus, Manager of Carrickfergus Enterprise said: “After months of development and testing, we are delighted to launch our brand-new Experience Northern Ireland App. It is the perfect way for a visitor to plan everything from a fun day out, to a five-day tour around Northern Ireland.  The App creates an all-encompassing trip whether the visitor knows where they want to go or just discover great experiences along the way, we are confident that the itinerary created using the App is exactly what visitors to Northern Ireland need.

“The App isn’t just for holidaymakers; we want to encourage people living locally to explore the wonderful places right on their doorstep and perhaps discover some hidden treasures along their travels.”

Experience Northern Ireland focuses on helping visitors travelling within Northern Ireland create custom holiday itineraries. Visitors are completely in control of the planning as it houses information on accommodation, tour providers, heritage experiences, where to eat and what to do, as well as major attractions to visit all connected in one place.

Times and distances are also calculated automatically to ensure itineraries are maximised, mapping out the journey digitally for ease of travel.

The tourism and hospitality sector is one of the fastest growing in Northern Ireland and as a social enterprise it is a commitment of Carrickfergus Enterprise to support as many businesses as possible. Businesses in Northern Ireland can now be part of the Experience Northern Ireland App and enjoy the benefits of the complementary website and aggressive SEO and Marketing Strategy for 2020 and beyond.

To download the free App, search Experience Northern Ireland on your App store. If you would like your business, tourism experience or accommodation listed on the Experience Northern Ireland, please get in touch with Kelli at or call 028 93369528.