Farm Compare started with a simple premise; to make life easier for busy farmers. Following a year-long team effort we have turned a concept into reality and in this blog we share some insight to our entrepreneurial journey…
You have heard the saying “if you don’t know the answer, ask someone who does” well that’s what the Farm Compare team did at it’s inception stage. Reaching out to the wonderful Emma Gribben of Digital by Emma, Farm Compare’s Co-founders Karen & Oliver McDonald shared their vision with a like-minded business professional who informed us about Ulster Bank’s Entrepreneur Accelerator Programme and encouraged us to pursue this as the first step.
The programme is a fully funded mentoring course offering start-up businesses free state of the art city centre office space, 1:1 business coaching, access to free legal and tech advice through the programme partners and an unrivalled network in terms of past and present entrepreneurs, plus access to key people on the local and international business start-up scene.
Farm Compare was at a very early stage and without the inhouse resources and expertise that larger organisations have, knowledge gaps were identified, and it was then that Karen decided to join the Ulster Bank Entrepreneur Accelerator Programme at their Belfast hub. Suddenly a small start up with a small team now had access to a wide range of experts and the knowledge gaps weren’t so daunting anymore! With other entrepreneurs in the hub to help with knowledge, contacts, advice or signposting in the right direction. The first of which came when we reached out to Paudie Fearon of Wibble and Liam Brogan of Ireland Craft Beers who proved to be invaluable in providing us with advice and recommendations to help us build our technical team.
The fantastic team delivering the Belfast Entrepreneur Accelerator programme Gabi Burnside, John Ferris, Mathew Teague & Lindsay Cunningham really understand the Entrepreneurial scene and no matter what stage your business is at they delivered workshops that were relevant and engaging. The workshops were an excellent opportunity to meet with experts whether it be from Ulster Bank or through the programme partners like Pincent Masons, TechStart, Eximo Marketing, Whitespace and Hiscox.
The opportunity to hear from Entrepreneurs like David Ferguson of Bob and Berts, Philip McAleese of See.Sense and Anthony Woods of Keystone Business among many others was inspirational and motivational. Getting an insight into their journey in a “warts and all” style was a key reminder that everyone needs to make a few mistakes and sometimes a few steps backwards helps you to move forward. It is a credit these successful entrepreneurs who have “made it” that they took the time out to share their story. People giving up their time to share their story or to have a chat over coffee is a powerful thing and it is something that still amazes me as it can mean so much to business in those early stages.
Something I have learnt from doing the programme is that don’t be afraid to reach out. John Ferris of Ulster Bank Entrepreneur Accelerator Programme said at the outset of the programme don’t be afraid to ask and how do you know if you are asking too much, well just keep asking until you are told. Well we certainly tested that theory when we launched FarmCompare.com at the 2019 Balmoral Show. The show was the natural place to launch given the fit with the industry and the ability to get in front of customers, manufacturers and dealers in one location. The support and guidance we received from the Ulster Bank Programme for the launch was outstanding and we could not have asked for a better springboard; Gabi Burnside, John Ferris, Mathew Teague & Lindsay Cunningham we will forever be grateful to you.
As an AgriTech company the Ulster Bank Entrepreneur Accelerator Programme was a natural fit for us as Ulster Bank supports businesses in the agricultural sector. As members of the programme from the Agricultural Industry Farm Compare attended the Innovation in the Agri-Food Sector Event, hosted by Ulster Bank’s Agricultural Manager, Cormac McKervey; where the focus was on how to support and promote innovation in the agri-food sector in Northern Ireland, an area of focus for the bank. Farm Compare were delighted to join heads of industry and influencers in agriculture and to receive recognition for their innovation efforts with a recent feature in the Ulster Business.
Noted for being disruptive Farm Compare know better that most new business that getting that first introduction to a key client or influencer in your industry isn’t always easy or is it? As member of the programme we were fortunate to share the Farm Compare story with Cormac McKervey and as Ulster Bank’s Agricultural Manager this was a brilliant opportunity to discuss the industry and the disruptive nature of Farm Compare. We were pleased to walk away with insightful advice and introductions to our industry.
We really appreciated the value of having someone outside looking in to offer that sense check that you sometimes need and that’s what we got out of our 1:1 mentoring. It allowed us to have someone to help us tackle some of our challenges and to have that one-minute pitch perfected and ready at every opportunity.
Currently running its tenth intake and delivering results Farm Compare would definitely recommend this programme to anyone looking to start or scale their business to get the tools to succeed.