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Today, we’re featuring ‘MADE in Mourne’, a Kilkeel-based shop selling locally-made products and services. But it’s really much more than that, and founder Jenna Stevenson’s here to tell us why.
Jenna, tell us a bit about yourself.
I was born and bred at the foot of the Mourne Moutains, just a couple of miles outside Kilkeel.
I attended Kilkeel High school, where I went on to graduate from UCLAN in Sport & Exercise Physiology in 2008, then off I went to travel around the world with Stuart (now my husband). We worked here and there to pay our way in a number of places, and one of our favourite spots was the Hunter Valley just a couple of hours outside of Sydney. We both worked on an olive grove known as Pukara Estate, and we’ve returned there a couple of times since we came home in late 2009.
In 2010 I started to import olive oil and balsamic vinegars from Pukara Estate and attended St George’s Market every Saturday, and as well as other markets throughout Ireland. It was hard work, and I saw first-hand how difficult it was for artisan producers in Northern Ireland to get their products to market.
Then in 2014, BitetoSavour was born. It’s a business which showcases Northern Irish artisan food online through our website and off-line through our corporate gifting and retail spaces.
I made the decision to move my business back to Kilkeel in 2017 as I had baby No.2 on the way. It just wasn’t sustainable for me to run up and down the road to Belfast, so I relocated myself in a barn in the middle of the country (as you can imagine, this was very isolated and had very poor WiFi).
I then set up the group MOURNE Entrepreneurs. We met on a monthly bases to discuss business and how we were getting on, helping each other out now & again. It became very clear we needed a creative space to meet and that didn’t currently exist.
Then last August, we found the space. We launched a 100-day plan to create a not-for-profit social enterprise in the heart of the Mournes with the aim to provide a fresh and stimulating environment to support and celebrate talented local creatives and entrepreneurs, and showcase their work.
We started to build and asked the businesses to support us (and they did!) and the community to join us, and they did too!
You’re right in the heart of the Mournes – do you get up into the mountains yourself?
With a 10-month-old I currently don’t get up the mountains often. But I remember climbing my first mountain in P4 with my Granda and Uncle – Slieve Binnian. At the time, we buried a time capsule, and we still have the original footage my Uncle took on our phones. We set off with all the family (at least 12 of us) to find it again just last year, and we did! We all added new messages and re-buried it. The mountains for me are for making memories.
So what does MADE in Mourne sell?
There are four unique areas to MADE in Mourne:
GROUND FLOOR – theShop – we are proud to say we now support over 70 local makers whose original gifts create unique home deco and crafts, and homemade artisan foods.
FIRST FLOOR – theHUB – this is a creative space complete with meeting room, co- working spaces, and an honesty coffee bar for start-up small businesses and community meet ups.
SECOND FLOOR – theSTUDIO – we have 8 resident businesses, including a photographer, filmmaker, dressmaker, etc, all based in MADE in Mourne.
THE COMMUNITY – We have set up a number of community groups around our ‘in residence’ volunteers so you can connect with like-minded people and indulge your passion and interests locally, whether professional or amateur: MOURNEartists, MOURNEentrepreneurs, MOURNEphotographers, MOURNEpoets. These are all run through private Facebook groups – join in!
Is there anything in particular about MADE in Mourne that makes it unique?
MADE in Mourne is a very unique model as we house a wide variety of creatives from poets and artists to marketing agencies & computer scientists.
A very unique part of MADE in Mourne is our Honesty Cafe. I think this is very important as we want all our customers and entrepreneurs to feel at home. We even have had a customer kick off their shoes and chill out on our soft seating. I love that!
Any big plans for the future?
We are only a year old so firstly our focus is on keeping the doors open to make sure we are here in 20 years to come. It isn’t easy – there are a lot of volunteered hours to keep MADE in Mourne going.
Our long-term goal with MADE in Mourne is to (1) Enable the development of long-term sustainable jobs in the local creative sector, (2) add significant value to the growth of the rural and coastal economy, and (3) put Mourne on the map and create global opportunities.
What can people do to support you?
Come to the shop, use the space, be part of this positive experience and tell the world. It’s as simple as that really! There is no massive funding or support behind this.
It needs to commercially work, so we need customers through the door, and we also need anyone who likes what is happening here who thinks they can help out to step forward. Our door is always open, the coffee pot is always on, and you are very welcome!