Gerard McElwee of McElwee Custom Motorcycles.
Derry City and Strabane District Council is celebrating a significant milestone after helping its 450th new business start-up to compile a Go For It Programme business plan.
This project is part funded by Invest Northern Ireland and the European Regional Development Fund under the Investment for Growth and Jobs Northern Ireland (2014-2020) Programme.
The Go For It programme provides advice and support to anyone wishing to start their own business, by taking them through the process of creating a business plan.
Gerard McElwee at McElwee Custom Motorcycles is one local business to have completed the Programme with Derry City and Strabane District Council after leaving full time employment to turn his lifelong passion for motorcycles into a career.
Celebrating the success of the Go For It Programme in the Council area, the Mayor of Derry City and Strabane District Council, Councillor Michaela Boyle, said: “The Go For It Programme continues to be a fantastic success in the area.
“ I am delighted that so many entrepreneurs have established the business of their dreams with the incredible support and expert advice on offer at Enterprise North West and Strabane Enterprise Agency.
“Council have steered 450 local entrepreneurs like Gerard from McElwee Custom Motorcycles through the business start-up process, helping them to turn their ideas into a reality.
“Budding entrepreneurs can avail of expert advice to develop a comprehensive business plan, covering everything from accounts to marketing and long-term business growth.
“New business start-ups, like McElwee Custom Motorcycles play a vital role in our local economy and as such, continue to be a priority for the Council.
“I would encourage anyone who has a business idea to get in touch and utilise the expert advice that the Go For It Programme offers.”
Strabane-based McElwee Custom Motorcycles is a specialist motorcycle workshop that focuses on custom builds and classic motorcycle restorations whilst also offering a full range of regular services including engine repairs, tyre fitting, maintenance and diagnostics.
A specialist motorcycle mechanic by trade, Gerard McElwee has spent years mastering his trade, building his skillset with the goal of opening his own workshop in his home town.
Gerard said: “Since I can remember I have always been fascinated with bikes, I got my first bike when I was 17 and started tinkering and learning from then.
“Looking back it was clear that any future career would involve motorcycles, it is my true passion.
“I worked in England, for Norton Motorcycles and it was there I developed my craft but I always knew I wanted to come home and open my own workshop.
“I had the contacts within the local biking community, but lacked the business know- how to get the business off the ground.
“The Go For it Programme was fantastic, they helped me turn my passion for restoring motorcycles into a robust and viable business.
“Their guidance was really practical and they helped me to really reinforce my business idea into something which wasn’t available in the local area.
“My business advisor at Strabane Enterprise Agency helped me to put together a business plan which outlined a clear growth strategy including financial forecasts, sales targets and marketing plans as well as insurance and legislative details.
Since completing the Go For It Programme, Gerard has also availed of further support through the council’s Business Boost Programme, which aims to provide specialist support to small businesses within the Council area to grow their business.
“Through Business Boost I was able to put my Go For It business plan into action to help strengthen and grow my business.
“I held an evening for local motorcyclists in my workshop, showcasing what I could offer, making sure that if ever they needed a repair, I would be the first to spring to mind. It proved really successful, and from then my workshop has been full.”
“The Go For It Programme has opened many doors for me, including Derry City and Strabane District Councils £10,000 Business Start Up Challenge, where I was a runner up and was awarded £1,000.
“I was also named North West Business Person of the Year at the recent North West Business Awards.
“These opportunities would have passed me by if it hadn’t been for the Go For It Programme.”
If you have a business idea you’d like to develop or if you are thinking about starting a business contact the Go For It Programme on 0800 027 0639 or visit: www.goforitni.com.
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