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The first of three themes for this year’s BizCamp that will address the challenges we all face as entrepreneurs or “would-be” entrepreneurs.


Could I? Would I? Should I?

Seven speakers will share their journeys from imagination to reality.

Mike Thomson had a somewhat linear path from work in a Deli to The Artisan Food School where he achieved a Dairy Certificate. He moved on to cheesemaking at Leicester Handmade Cheese, perfecting his skill to return home and become Northern Ireland’s first raw milk cheese producer with Mike’s Fancy Cheese. He couldn’t have anticipated the joys of crowdfunding, and he’ll share that success story!

Jenna Stevenson‘s journey had a more serendipitous twist. On leaving University with a degree in Sports Science, the usual jobs in teaching and training just didn’t appeal. She made her way to Australia, where a practical decision to find work opened the door to a new career. She’ll share the journey from an olive grove in Australia to founding a showcase business bringing Northern Ireland’s artisan food and drink producers to a world stage via Bite to Savour.

Peter McCaul began his career on a traditional path, moving through the ranks of production control in several “blue chip” companies. He traded that for travel and worked in hospitality from San Francisco to Sydney and back to Northern Ireland. The next adventure was business development in a tech company where it occurred to him there could be a software solution to the economic challenges retail was facing in the downturn. Invest Northern Ireland’s Propel Programme helped him launch the first iteration, Dealtronic. Now, a bold entrepreneurial pivot has resulted in IDC-Intel.

Marianne Kennerly, a textile artist & designer is a veteran BizCamp speaker. She presented three years ago on Unicycle – her first social enterprise. Now a serial entrepreneur, her passion is reflected in her tag line: “Making Things, Making Things Work”. She’s doing both now at Boom! a cooperative work space she co-founded in Bangor. The collective creative energy of the resident entrepreneurs works on two levels. It offers affordable “headspace and workspace” while bringing their presence to revitalising the town centre.

Roger Warnock and Assistant Project Manager, Jim Smith will present on an innovative enterprise addressing a major social issue here. Roger’s passion for social innovation combined with 20 years of traditional & startup business experience and expertise in strategic marketing are the backbone of the initiative. Two enterprises operate from one location, employing and training young at-risk parents who’ve had contact with the justice system. The mission is twofold: change outcomes for them & their children while making the program fully self-funded in three years. Buy a book, have a cuppa and build a new future at The Book Reserve and Thinking Cup Cafe.

Allen McAdam describes himself first as a farmer. Enterprise agencies across the border region regularly call on him to deliver training in rural business development and best practices. Expert in identifying potential public and private sector funding in both Northern Ireland and the Republic, he brings creativity to the process of developing successful pilot projects. An entrepreneur in his own right, MCA Consulting provides the leading automated footfall monitoring services for use in urban and rural environments in Ireland. He serves on the board of the International Fund for Ireland.

Ken Sharp is known to his Bangor neighbours as the owner of the Salty Dog Hotel & Bistro. Those of us farther afield know him as founder of Triage Hospitality. He’s a creative problem solver who brings expert, hands-on experience to helping clients improve their productivity, reduce costs and increase revenue. This combined with his experience in strategic planning is what he brings to his talk on “Co-Opetition” or Co-Operating Competitors. He’ll be speaking to the “How and Why” competing businesses in the tourism and hospitality sector do, and should, work together to improve a region’s fortunes.



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