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Local Spotlight

Find out more about local businesses helping in the fight against Coronavirus and how your business might be able to help.


Cycling technology and data insight company See.Sense, based in Newtownards, produces innovative AI-enabled bike lights that give cyclists more visibility on their ride, while also providing cities with more information about their roads. It has already piloted partnerships with local authorities across Europe to provide insights that are helping to determine the layout and design of future cycling infrastructure.

See.Sense is now lending its technology to support the response to the COVID-19 crisis. It has developed a new app feature called ‘Infrastructure Request’ which will allow all cyclists, no matter where they are, to provide anonymised insights on the suitability of cycling infrastructure for social-distancing measures. The UK government has now announced a £2bn package to create “a new era for cycling and walking” and to relieve the pressure on public transport. See.Sense is providing data insights from the SeeSenseReports for free to City planners and local authorities for their location, to help with the design of pop-up bike lanes with protected space for cycling, wider pavements, safer junctions, and cycle and bus-only corridors.

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Stairlift Solutions

Since the pandemic broke in March, Stairlift Solutions had to Furlough more than half their staff. Although only their Service Manager, James and engineer, Sam, remained for many weeks, they were still busy throughout the lockdown. Stairlift Solutions stopped all non-essential work and just concentrated on any breakdowns or emergencies for their 3000+ customers base across N.I and also for anyone needing a stairlift installed right across the province, which we were still able to do at very short notice if and when needed. The team have brought in new protocols to keep all customers as safe as possible during this time including: doing surveys and quotes from customers photographs, asking customers to remain in a separate room and no need to get paperwork signed. 

As things picked up again, they then brought their office manager, Darcy, back at the start of June and soon after that they re-opened their showroom again to the public. As it turned out, they had a record number of installations in June and continue to be available 24/7/365 for all their customers, both old and new alike. 

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Simply NUC connects Patients and Families during Pandemic

Bangor company, Simply NUC, has donated computer equipment to the Ulster Hospital in Dundonald to help patients communicate with their loved ones whilst in hospital during the Coronavirus pandemic. Simply NUC built a number of Intel small form factor PCs with Zoom and Displaynote Launcher installed which were added to mobile trolleys and COVID wards. The trolley allows mobile access to patients in wards who are unable to use an iPad or who are very unwell allowing them to communicate securely with their families and loved ones during visiting restrictions within the hospital during the pandemic.

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Mash Direct

As a direct result of Covid-19, Mash Direct initiated a campaign to help job seekers to find work by launching ‘Feed the Nation NI’, an employment match making service in Northern Ireland.  The initiative also enabled those looking for work in the current Covid-19 climate to gain employment in the food and drink industry, including the creation of 30 temporary positions at Mash Direct to help members of the local community who were out of work. 

The platform matches candidates to the job most suited to their skills and location and is designed to get people into work as quickly as possible. Job roles for engineers, drivers, warehouse operatives, factory production, farm workers and many more are available. 

Alongside this initiative, Mash Direct also launched a delivery service and their ‘Feed the Heroes’ Campaign. Their Feed the Heroes campaign delivered 3,300 packs of Mash Direct food to NHS workers across Northern Ireland.  

Delivering to the Door of Those In Need

Due to Covid-19 the launch of online ordering coincided with a very different type of demand from customers. Mash Direct recognised it was a very anxious and worrying time for their consumers and wanted to reassure people that the brand is there for your family. During Covid-19 Mash Direct were able to encourage people to stay at home and still enjoy a healthy and nutritious meal with farm fresh vegetables.

By creating an opportunity for consumers to purchase online, it saves even more time for families, elderly and young professionals across the entire week.  The Mash Direct online store carries a range of up to 50 products all of which are gluten free. The boxes are prepared for delivery depending on your exact requirements which includes tailoring the content’s yourself from the full range of Mash Direct products or, drawing inspiration from bespoke box selections. Each box retails at £20 with free delivery to Northern Ireland. 

Hand Sanitiser Production

As a result of the Coronavirus Pandemic, hand sanitiser was a commodity that was quickly becoming unavailable. The World Health Organisation released a formulation for hand sanitiser and local companies jumped at the opportunity to start helping with supply.

Echlinville Distillery and Copeland Distillery have both used their facilities to start producing hand sanitiser for purchase and they have also donated large supplies to health care facilities. 

Find out more about Echlinville's sanitiser

Read more about Copeland Distillery

Hero Shield

Hero Shield Ltd is a not for profit company which was set up at the start of the crisis by a collective of small businesses, led by Newtownards company Shnuggle. The businesses, none of whom had ever produced face shields before, include other local companies: Crossen Engineering and Denroy Plastics, as well as Ad-Vance Engineering, MinPrint and support from Queen’s University. After starting a crowdfunding campaign, the collective fundraised enough money to start production, initially producing 3,000 visors. In the first critical 6 weeks of the crisis they shipped over 100,000 visors. The collective has also secured €300,000 of funding from IntertradeIreland and its Co-Innovate initiative.  

Currently, production is being led by Crossen Engineering and Denroy plastics, who are producing in excess of 150,000 visors per week for the NHS and private companies. Face Shields are available for free to the NHS and public care workers and for sale to private companies. For every private sale, 5% of the profits go back to Hero Shield to help them continue to support the community.  

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New Venture for Food Stories

Michael, the owner of local company, Food Stories, completely transformed his business from manufacturing his own brands of healthy snacks to importing and distributing medical grade PPE, helping support essential workers in Northern Ireland. 

Michael has now imported millions of items of PPE for healthcare and other essential workers. As many companies prepare to return to the workplace in coming weeks, Michael’s supply chain could be one part of the solution to ensuring workplace safety for employees.

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Local Bakery adapting to thrive during the Pandemic

Many local businesses have had to adapt during the pandemic and are thriving. Bangor bakery, Bumble and Goose, were recently featured in the Times. Explaining their story, the bakery experienced a surge in demand when lockdown began and the owners husband, a tiler, adapted and learnt new skills to create a website and drive traffic to it to help his wife's business. 

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Signature Works

Bangor based clothing supplier The Signature Works has moved outside of its normal product range to secure a large delivery of scrubs for the health service in Northern Ireland after receiving an urgent request for supplies due to coronavirus.

They ordered 70,000 pairs of scrubs and had the first delivery to the HSCNI within a week.

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DC Face Shields

Local company Dougan Contracts have swapped production to producing Face Shields for health care workers. Working alongside local companies AG Electrical and Smart Space who are helping with distribution, the face shields are being donated for free to those who need PPE. 

Find out more about DC Face Shields 

Food Heroes

The Northern Ireland Food and Drink Association have released a video of 'food heroes' across Northern Ireland who are doing vital work to ensure food is available. The video features two local companies: Mash Direct and Echlinville Distillery.

Credit: Northern Ireland Food and Drink Association

Healthy Export Business For Peninsula Kelp

Newtownards company, Peninsula Kelp, has developed an extensive portfolio of natural and organic products harvested from the waters around Northern Ireland.

The team have successfully developed their export routes and now export to New Zealand, Canada, the US, France and Great Britain.

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Creative businesses finding new ways of delivering services while helping address issues of isolation for the wider community

Boom StudiosAs with every local business Boom! Studios had to flip its business model. In 3 days they saw 80% of their income stop, studios closed, their weekly programme stopped and all public events cancelled. 

Like many Creative Hubs across the world, they reacted quickly, adding in new services via the Boom Digital Hub. Through this hub they are continuing to support their studio members and are offering art and creative classes to the wider community, working to combat the feelings of loneliness and isolation during this period of lock-down.

For local artists, designers and makers Boom! have re-designed "Trade", their professional development & support activity. They have a sign-posting service for information and are planning to offer professional training.
The other side of the digital hub is the part that is open to the wider artist community and the public. Currently they have 5 online activities a week being offered to the public, from weekly art challenges to abstract art classes, raising funds for Boom! to be able to continue to support local artists, designers and makers. 

There are many challenges to work through at this time but Boom! are excited to be connecting with the community in new and innovative ways. 

Find out more about the classes

Boosting Frontline NHS Staff Learning

Holywood company, Synergy Learning, have partnered with University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust to build a platform that could support the induction and course delivery for up to 60,000 healthcare workers and volunteers many of whom were concerned about their knowledge and skills in specific relation to the pandemic and a potential change from their normal role. 

The platform created contains over 50 training courses 

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Guild of Fine Food Spotlight

The Guild of Fine Food has been gathering and sharing innovative ideas from across the UK and Ireland’s independent food and drink retail community. 

Featured in their spotlight is Indie Füde in Comber, who offered free delivery for those in self isolation and a click and collect service. Also, Rock a Doodle - Belfast Hot Sauce company donated 1,000 bottles to Copeland Distillery for them to make their sanitiser for health care workers. 

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Has your business adapted to the Pandemic?

If your business has adapted significantly, or you have helped front line workers and would like us to share your story please let us know.

Coronavirus Business Advice and Support

The AND business team is here to support you.

For further information or if you need help and advice, please get in touch via email or telephone 028 9147 3788