Getting Back to Business with Local Enterprise Office Donegal

Derek and Anna Walker of Natnoot are growing their juice business with the help of an expansion grant from Donegal Local Enterprise Office
Derek and Anna Walker of Natnoot are growing their juice business with the help of an expansion grant from Donegal Local Enterprise Office

As the country continues to emerge from lockdown and as more businesses re-open, Local Enterprise Office Donegal continues to support businesses in the county as they navigate their way through the current crisis.

The speed at which the COVID-19 crisis affected businesses was unprecedented, with companies and businesses having to close their doors immediately with the resultant loss of revenue and staff facing an uncertain future. From the outset the Local Enterprise Office adopted a proactive approach by making direct contact with their core clients in the county. As Government responded to the emerging business difficulties, new schemes such as the Business Continuity Vouchers and revised Trading Online Vouchers took on significant importance for small local businesses. In Donegal almost 700 businesses applied for the Continuity Voucher and to date over 200 have applied for the Trading Online Vouchers and a further 100+ businesses have been approved mentoring assistance.

This has added significantly to the workload of the Local Enterprise Office as Head of Enterprise Michael Tunney outlines: “ In my 35 years I have never experienced the intensity of work as we did over the past four months. Businesses were phoning and emailing continuously, looking for direction and advice and often just needing someone outside of their business to talk to. The uncertainty and fear was very real and many are still struggling as to how they can make their businesses sustainable. As one business owner said to me – it’s not about making a profit it’s about breaking even. I am very hopeful that if we do manage to control the virus in the county that the majority of our businesses will come through this”

While the Covid-19 pandemic brought unprecedented trading challenges, it has been used by many businesses as an opportunity to make strategic or operational changes. One Donegal business used the shutdown as an opportunity to increase its future trading capacity by developing an online shop. Donegal Farmhouse Cheese, which had been assisted by the Local Enterprise Office in its start-up, secured a Business Continuity Voucher which enabled them in developing a new website, which launched during the pandemic.

Based in Kilcar, Donegal Farmhouse Cheese was set up in November 2018 by James and Noreen Cunningham: “We have a small farm of cattle and sheep and wanted to diversify the farm and add value in different ways,” Noreen said. “Using traditional techniques, and with the help of Local Enterprise Office Donegal and Teagasc, we started producing our handmade Kilard cheddar; a semi-hard cheese produced annually from May to September when the cows are grazing. Kilard Cheddar is handmade from pasteurised cow’s milk, contains no artificial flavours, colours or preservatives and is suitable for vegetarians. The fresh summer grass on the Donegal shores gives our cheese a distinctive flavour reflecting all that is unique about the Donegal countryside. Working with Local Enterprise Office Donegal helped us improve the efficiency of our cheese-making process with a Priming Grant and the COVID -19 support for the new website will help us reach new customers with our online shop.” Noreen added.

Derek Walker of Natnoot also works closely with the Local Enterprise Office to help his business, which was established in 2014: “We began selling wheatgrass juice shots and Turmeric juice shots at farmers’ markets and food festivals,” Derek said. “In 2019, we scaled up and started supplying around 30 retail stores locally in Donegal. We then developed three new products and began producing 250ml bottles of cold pressed juices combining fruit, vegetables, and superfood juices to make tasty and healthy juice drinks. The products proved popular locally, so we wanted to take the business to the next level.”

“We joined the Supervalu Food Academy programme and applied for an expansion grant with Donegal Local Enterprise Office. With the help of grant aid, we upgraded our juicery last September by installing a commercial cold pressed juicer; this allowed us to increase our stockists to 150 stores nationwide. Naturally, the pandemic has been tough, as we had several other contracts secured that have been shelved for now, but I really believe the increase in business that we achieved in 2019 with the help of our Local Enterprise Office has left us in a very good position to continue producing. When the situation allows, we are determined to pick up where we left off and continue growing our team and the business” he said.

For more information on Donegal Farmhouse Cheese visit and to find out more about Natnoot cold pressed juices visit

For information on Local Enterprise Office Donegal visit