“…fine, true artisan foods: taste them once, and you want them in your life.”
Irish Food Writers, John and Sally McKenna.
It’s not just renowned food critics who salivate at the mere mention of North Coast Smokehouse – a whole new generation of people, from all walks of life, have become converts. Established by Ruiaridh Morrison and Melanie Brown following their return to the northern hemisphere from New Zealand, this is a small business success story born from creativity, the appliance of science, and a desire for sustainable living.
To outsiders North Coast Smokehouse might appear to be the perfect blueprint for a start-up. Take a background that includes managing salmon farms, work for New Zealand’s Animal Health Laboratories and Biosecurity, and apply it to a niche in the market. Not so, says Ruiairdh. “Unlike in New Zealand, we were aware that hot smoked salmon was not readily available in Northern Ireland. We also had a great response to the product when sampled by family, friends, and customers at our market stall. But as a start-up business, to upscale from domestic to selling and production with premises, well it was virtually impossible to do any reasonable projections as we really had no way of knowing if people would actually buy it.”
Buy it they have. Respected retailers, restaurants, cafes, B&Bs, allied to regular clientele at local specialty markets…people just can’t seem to get enough of products lovingly prepared using traditional methods. “I don’t think anything prepares you for the amount of stuff you don’t know when you start. So, my advice to anyone thinking of starting their own business would be to talk to officials before launching, get as much guidance as you can.”
“We registered with the Exploring Enterprise Programme at the Ballycastle office of the Causeway Enterprise Agency and they explained the principles of setting up a business and the structures. We also applied for the Innovation voucher with Invest N.I. (working with Loughry Agricultural College) and found their flexibility and willingness to help so beneficial.”
Since returning from the Land of the Long White Cloud, Ruiaridh and Melanie have watched their business grow organically, the graph soaring on an upward trajectory. They took their leap of faith, refused to compromise on principles and ideals, listened and learned. The net reward? North Coast Smokehouse is now an integral part of the burgeoning food and drink industry in the Causeway Coast and Glens region.