WITH Northern Ireland having the worst rate of shop vacancies in the UK, local businesswoman Áine McGuckian of The Little Herbalista, is flying the flag for Northern Ireland in the national TestTown competition with the hope of rejuvenating Coleraine’s town centre.
It is all part of the Carnegie UK Trust TestTown programme, an enterprise competition to encourage young people aged 16-30 to create innovative new businesses to help bring energy back to flagging town centres.
The Little Herbalista will represent Northern Ireland in Cambridge this week and aspires to win the grand prize, a whopping £10,000 of start-up funding, a month trading in London on Oxford Street, and continued support from the Carnegie Trust and their partners.
Áine McGuckian of The Little Herbalista explains: “High streets are lagging in today’s economy.
“As shop owners, whilst we do face stiff competition, what some may see as a threat, I see as an opportunity.
“With premises lying dormant TestTown was the perfect chance for me to develop my dream of operating my own herbal remedies business and opening my own shop in my local town centre, Coleraine.
“Coming off the back of the recession, one fifth of shops in Northern Ireland are empty, which is significantly higher than the UK average.
“Considering Northern Ireland is a small business economy, with 98% of all businesses here classified as small, there is undoubtedly great opportunity for these premises to be occupied.
“Finally, I have to say a huge thank you to RiverRidge Recycling, The Diamond Centre, Causeway Enterprise Agency, Limavady Roller Doors, Zing Design and Print, O’Connells’ Garage, Garvagh, Nevin Electrics, and Country Garden Herbs, Garvagh.
“Without the support from established local businesses, The Little Herbalista may have remained a distant dream!”
Pamela Jordan, Business Development Officer at RiverRidge Recycling adds: “We are delighted to see The Little Herbalista do so well, and to see other local businesses get on board and support Áine in her new venture.
“RiverRidge Recycling has always vowed to support the local community, and we hope that, through initiatives like these that young entrepreneurs will be inspired by Áine and have a go at setting up their own business,” added Pamela.