The Designerie in Bushmills was delighted to welcome Department for Communities Minister, Deirdre Hargey MLA, on a special visit to meet with Rachel Finlay, the store’s new Digital Marketing Officer.

Founded and piloted as a social enterprise by Enterprise Causeway in 2015, the Designerie provides a retail space, selling handmade products from across the Causeway Coast and Glens Borough area, Northern Ireland and Ireland.

Rachel’s post was made possible through the department’s Covid Recovery Programme Employment and Skills Initiative, under the Future Screens NI partnership.

Launched in January 2022, this three-year, £20m initiative is supporting not-for-profit organisations with costs for a variety of new and enhanced roles, within the Arts, Heritage, Creative Industries, Sports and Voluntary and Community sectors.

Supporting salaries and associated costs for new entry level employment posts, its key aim is to support those sectors most impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, aiding recovery and providing much needed assistance.

Communities Minister, Deirdre Hargey, said: “I am delighted I was able to provide this much needed financial support to these sectors through my Departments Employment and Skills Initiative, particularly as they recover from the impact of the pandemic.

“These sectors play a huge part in all our lives to support the health and wellbeing of society and this initiative has created over 300 jobs and training opportunities to help people and organisations go to the next level and provide support to our local communities through the important work they take forward.”

Praising the initiative Jayne Taggart, Chief Executive of Enterprise Causeway stated: “Like many other regions across Northern Ireland, the North Coast’s creative industry sector has been significantly impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Many small micro-businesses and social enterprises were crippled by the loss of income which affected their ability to function, compounded by a loss of staff and on-going challenges around talent retention and development.

“It’s so encouraging to see this first of its kind initiative for the arts sector and incredible to be able to offer a role like this to such an inspiring and talented young woman.

“We are so excited to have Rachel join the Designerie family, from our customers to our resident makers, she will be a vital component in helping to address the challenges of increasing footfall into the store, as well increasing customer reach, appeal and sales through deploying creative narratives and storytelling across its digital channels.

“Rachel’s role will also help upskill the digital creativity and capacity of our makers in residence and of the local artists/crafters whose works are sold online and in-store. These activities combined will ensure the Designerie not only survives but thrives, post-pandemic.

“I would also like to thank Minister Hargey for taking time out of her busy schedule to arrange to meet with Rachel and our staff and makers in residence and I hope she enjoyed the visit and was able to see the tangible difference her department’s funding is making.”

Reflecting on securing the role and her hopes for the future, Rachel noted: “I never thought I would secure a job this early since making the decision to pursue a digital marketing role.

“I love being able to draw on my creativity through digital marketing and getting the opportunity to be part of the team and work in such a creative environment as The Designerie, excited me further when applying.

“Since Covid, marketing has moved even closer towards the digital spectrum, with more businesses engaging with their customers across digital channels. With technology ever improving and advancing, brands are able to connect with customers on a much larger scale, so it’s vital that businesses, particularly small social enterprises like the Designerie, have someone looking after their digital presence.

“I’m so thankful that this opportunity was made possible through this initiative and am eager to work on the Designerie’s social media platforms and get creative with them. I also can’t wait to get working on the website as I love design and figuring out how to create a good customer experience online. My aim is to be able to engage with and reach existing and potential customers and increase traffic to the website, driving online sales.”

The Mayor of Causeway Coast and Glens Borough Council, Councillor Ivor Wallace, commented: “The support secured by The Designerie via The Employment and Skills Initiative is a welcome boost for both the creative sector and the local economy.

 “Funding opportunities like this are essential for businesses as they continue to recover from the difficult trading conditions of the last few years.

“This new role is a positive development for The Designerie and I was very pleased to have this opportunity to visit their premises in Bushmills to find out more about their future plans. Well done to Rachel, and I wish her the best of luck in her new role.”