A well-established animal feed business in Co Tyrone has been able to expand its offering by appealing to the future generation of farmers.
M Beattie and Sons Ltd – based in Corrick near Plumbridge – have successfully introduced children’s toys to its range of products at a time when some multinational toy shops have struggled to stay afloat.
The animal feed business was started 70 years ago by Matt Beattie and carried on by his son Cecil, who went mobile – selling feed around the area from a grocery van.
Cecil’s son Arnold took over the business, introducing haulage to the company before delegating management duties to his son Jamie – the great grandson of the firm’s founder.
Jamie, who joined the family business aged 16, is now 21.
He explained how Beattie’s Toy Barn came about: “Back in 2013 a few of our customers were asking for a selection of farming toys so myself and Jill McGeown – the office manager – began searching for a supplier.
“We started off with a few wee toys in the shop and more and more customers started asking for the toys, especially in the run up to Christmas.”
Mr Beattie said: “We decided to refurbish an old barn that is attached to our main shop and set up a permanent outlet in April 2014.”
The Toy Barn offers a range of farming toys, ride-on vehicles, clothing, wooden farms and accessories.
Their relatively remote location has not been a hindrance to the growth of the business according to Mr Beattie.
“Surprisingly we have had no problem with our rural location,” he said.
“People would travel from Monaghan and Belfast to view our range.
“At the start I did worry about bringing in so much stock but we’ve stuck to the mantra ‘If you don’t have it, you won’t sell it’.
“This has given me the push to order items that are a little different.
“Our customers keep us on the right path and always tell us what they would like to see next. This is how we have grown from just a few items to a large range from all different brands.”
He added: “All the clothing for the children – jackets, body warmers, boiler suits and boots – are for use on the farm.
“They’re not for fancy dress, they’re for practical use.
“Farm safety is high on the agenda with a lot of gear and educational toys.”
The firm has ambitious plans to widen their customer base by going online later this year as well as further expanding their premises.
M Beattie and Sons Ltd is one of the longest established rural businesses in the Derry City & Strabane District Council.
This year it will celebrate its 70th anniversary.
Jamie Beattie’s advice for anyone considering setting up their own business was to take the plunge if they have the passion to make it work: “I would tell them to go for it. If you have an interest or passion in something you will make it work.”
For details on how Derry City & Strabane District Council can help existing, start up and prospective businesses go to www.derrystrabane.com/businesssupport