Over 120 people attended Donegal County Council’s local development seminar on Thursday focusing on how Donegal can create an entrepreneurial legacy from ongoing developments in the County including hosting the upcoming Dubai Irish Open, the filming of Star Wars and the new Northwest Greenway project. This seminar was held in An Grianan Hotel in Burt.
Cllr Albert Doherty welcomed delegates to the conference and said that the event was all about inspiring each other and looking at how we can all work together to maximise the potential that exists.
“We are on the cusp of a wave here in Donegal and especially in Inishowen” said Cllr. Albert Doherty, “and it is up to all of us to see how we can harness and embrace all these wonderful opportunities for the benefit of not just Inishowen but Donegal and the entire North West Region.”
Focusing on the processes of entrepreneurship, innovation and branding in Donegal – the day encouraged business owners to think about the evolving nature of the economy and how the regions peripherality is now becoming one of our most unique selling points.
Speakers from a range of organisations were involved including Fáilte Ireland, Lancaster University and Telfer School of Management at the University of Ottawa providing insights into the various aspects of what was termed the emerging experience economy.
Joan Crawford from Fáilte Ireland outlined the strategy behind the Wild Atlantic Way and showed examples of ongoing marketing campaigns, highlighting the 188 Discovery Points along its route. The campaign is currently focused on promoting tourism from France, Germany, the US and UK, emphasizing the ability of visitors to relax and destress during their stay.
She outlined how most of the 3.6 million (in 2016) international tourists that Ireland receives annually, arrive through Dublin, drive across and then turn south towards Kerry and Cork, which remains a challenge for developing tourism in the Northwest. To further address this challenge, Joan said that additional promotional resources that are being diverted towards the northern half of the country, including grants of €200,000 to support smaller experience projects and up to €5 million for larger projects. Joan announced Failte Ireland’s plan to launch a Visitor Experience Master plan for Inishowen.
Dr Eddie McKeever from Lancaster University spoke about the nature and role of place in generating local identities and loyalties. He explained that social factors are four times more influential in business location decisions than economic factors. From his research in Inishowen he found that in areas with highly collective cultures that community enterprises were more likely to emerge. Community entrepreneurship is when the community acts as both entrepreneur and enterprise – he explained that Dunree Military Museum and Ballyliffin Golf Club are examples of this phenomenon.
Professor Mark Freel from the University of Ottawa spoke about local place-bound innovation and the importance of empathy towards customer needs. He outlined the nature of value perception and how this links to the solving of problems in people’s routines. He told the audience that in places like Donegal the emphasis should be on the exceptionally good execution of ordinary products and services. He also spoke about making a distinction between local customer expectations and those of visitors.
In his afternoon workshop professor Freel explained that by generating a dialogue with customers, businesses can focus on values which customers can’t often articulate. Unlocking this information can lead to the development of signature products and services that can create lasting bonds with companies and their place.
Janie Ash from Better with Jam Marketing gave a presentation about branding and how it applies to places. She explained that businesses and places must be truthful and clear about the messages they send to customers. If customers trust and identify with a brand then they will purchase repeatedly and tell others of their good experiences. She emphasised the opportunity in Donegal to create a brand which mixes the traditional and the modern.
Finally, Jacqui Jackson, an Entrepreneur in Residence at Lancaster University spoke about entrepreneurial learning and how Lancaster University’s model of small business support works. She explained that entrepreneur learning by doing and experience form bonds with other businesses in their networks. She explained that working with cohorts of between 24 and 36 businesses – Lancaster’s LEAD program had seen small businesses achieve exceptional growth.
The seminar concluded with a workshop where those in attendance had an opportunity to explore how best to apply the concepts outlined in their own business or organisation.Tags: