Bethany, who grew up on the family farm near the Tyrone village, always wanted to run her own small business and was keen to develop her links with the local farming community during her studies at CAFRE in Cookstown, the Northern Ireland centre of food innovation which has helped a host of large and small companies here to develop and bring original foods to market.
At the heart of the Cookstown campus is an Innovation Centre that offers companies of all sizes and categories extensive facilities for the generation of new food ideas.
Bethany is currently a degree student in Food Business and Management and has extensive experience of working in various food roles.
Betty’s Ice Cream, Bethany’s new venture, offers delicious, smooth, scoopable ice-cream in four flavours – vanilla, honeycomb, raspberry ripple and salted caramel -in a variety of tub sizes to suit individual requirements.
Bethany was helped by CAFRE experts to develop the easy scoop feature and with market research into opportunities here for a new artisan ice cream. They’ve succeeded in creating an ice cream that is easier to scoop straight from the freezer.
The venture, Bethany says, was also influenced by the coronavirus pandemic lockdowns. “We saw the trend among shoppers for local food products in particular,” she continues, “and it started the family thinking about products that we could create that would also provide some support for local dairy farmers.”
Bethany came up with the idea of a locally produced dairy ice cream and discussed it with the CAFRE team and some local farmers who were enthusiastic about supplying fresh milk to her fledgling enterprise. “Everyone was very supportive and keen to enjoy the ice cream subsequently produced. This enthusiasm, especially from my parents and wider family circle, helped enormously as I worked to create a different ice cream,” she adds.
While Bethany is quick to acknowledge support from the family, she’s also eager to point out that ‘the buck stops with her’. “Everything rests on my shoulders in the end,” she says.
The name Betty’s is derived from her nickname within the family and among friends.
During June and July Bethany organised sampling events to obtain feedback on her ice cream. This progressed to providing ice-cream for local sporting clubs and social events. Dad Trevor and mum Barbara weighed in to help Bethany taste test the new ice cream on a small stall at the local farmers’ market in Pomeroy.
“Local markets such as Pomeroy and Dungannon are great for feedback from shoppers about a new product,” she explains. “We invited shoppers to try the ice cream and were immensely encouraged by their positive responses. Local people are hugely supportive. We also made our first sales there.”
Bethany’s decision to start up a small business was also influenced by a desire to showcase the massive contribution of women in farming.
“Everyone thinks that agriculture is just a man’s job but I am trying to make that different by starting my own food business and helping someone, a female farmer in Derry, else get started as well,” she explains. She sources fresh milk from the Londonderry farm.
“Women play such an important role in the rural community and certainly deserve recognition for the tremendous work they do. I’ve also been encouraged by other women setting up small food enterprises over the past decade. There are so many inspirational role models,” adds Bethany.
She’s right, of course. Pomeroy, for instance, features one of the most successful farm-based entrepreneurs, Lorna Robinson, the founder and managing director of Cloughbane Farm Foods, now a significant supplier of a wide range of prepared foods to supermarkets here and in Great Britain.
Entrepreneur Bethany now has her sights set on opportunities to attend markets and has signed up with Tyrone Farmer’s Market in Dungannon for the first and third Saturday of each month. She’s also targeted events such as parties, weddings, birthdays and sports events as potential marketing opportunities.
“I am keen to develop business with farm shops and other smaller retail outlets across Northern Ireland,” Bethany continues. “I know I’ve a lot of hard selling to do in the months ahead. I am up for it and really enjoying the work in developing my small business and look forward to pushing ahead with it in the months to come.”
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