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NI Business Consultancy Owner Named ‘One to Watch’ in Prestigious LDC Programme

County Antrim business owner, Shirley Palmer, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) and Founder of The Simple Series, has been named as ‘One to Watch’ in the Lloyds Development Capital’s (LDC) Top 50 Most Ambitious Business Leaders Programme at a prestigious event in London recently.

COUNTY Antrim business owner, Shirley Palmer, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) and Founder of The Simple Series, has been named as ‘One to Watch’ in the Lloyds Development Capital’s (LDC) Top 50 Most Ambitious Business Leaders Programme at a prestigious event in London recently.

The programme, which is supported by The Times and now in its fourth year, celebrates the inspiring leaders behind some of the UK’s most successful and fast-growing medium-sized companies.

Selected from a pool of 600 nominees and 150 interviewees, Shirley is the only business owner from Northern Ireland to be named in the ‘Ones to Watch’ list, and indeed the only one from Northern Ireland in the overall LDC programme, which showcases the leaders behind tomorrow’s mid-sized firms and growing businesses that are making a big impact.

Shirley has led a very successful career to date, working for nearly 20 years in the private equity sector in London before setting up, a consultancy focused on Conscious Leadership and Mindset Mastery. During the outbreak of the pandemic, she created The Simple Series, a consultancy firm which aims to help entrepreneurs and company owners based around the globe to get the most out of their business.

With The Simple Series, business owners and entrepreneurs can avail of a plethora of services and programmes covering business strategies, business mentoring, leadership, and management, change management, marketing and sales strategies to name but a few.

Speaking about the accolade, Shirley said: “I am absolutely honoured to be named as ‘One to Watch’ in LDC’s Top 50 Most Ambitious Business Leaders programme.

“To be listed alongside some of the most successful and ambitious business leaders in the whole of the UK, and to be the only one from Northern Ireland to have made the ‘Ones to Watch’ list, is a fantastic achievement and one that makes me feel very proud.

“I set up The Simple Series with the desire to assist businesses, regardless of size or sector, to achieve their fullest potential. I recognised that in this ever-changing business economy some businesses need a little bit of support to realign themselves, to navigate market challenges, to grow or even to start afresh and our services are geared towards helping them to do just that.

“The events of the past 18 months have been extremely tough for businesses and entrepreneurs, which is why I believe that services such as those offered by The Simple Series are necessary.”

Shirley returned to live in Northern Ireland in 2019, and earlier this year she teamed up with business enterprise agency, LEDCOM to launch the Seed Formula with funding from the Ulster Bank. The Seed Formula is a 12- week programme geared towards guiding and supporting women from rural communities across Northern Ireland, to start a business in their chosen field. The programme is currently ongoing, and Shirley hopes that it will have a profound effect on the number of female entrepreneurs in rural communities and subsequently, will have a positive impact on the rural economy.

“I am extremely passionate about enabling people to follow their dreams and start their own businesses, which was a huge motivating factor behind the launch of the Seed Formula programme. I believe that women from rural communities have a lot to offer and having more female entrepreneurs situated outside larger towns and cities, will have a very positive effect on the rural economy by creating new jobs and enhancing the quality of life,” continued Shirley.

“Businesses contribute a great deal to the local, and indeed global economy, therefore ensuring that these businesses are a success, is extremely important. Going forward it is my hope that The Simple Series will continue to grow and expand, just like the companies and entrepreneurs I work alongside.”

LDC’s John Garner added: “The last 18 months have presented challenges that none of us could have foreseen, but despite everything, it’s fantastic to see that so many business leaders have achieved some truly remarkable things.

“This year’s ‘Ones to Watch’ group epitomises that fighting spirit and have truly impressed the judges with their stories of growth and ambition.

“Congratulations to all those featured, and we look forward to seeing their continued success and impact, and contribution to the broader UK economy.”

The County Antrim native has worked with thousands of start-ups, SMEs, entrepreneurs, and visionaries across many different countries namely, Australia, Canada, Europe, UK, United Arab Emirates, and the United States. Shirley’s clients also span numerous sectors including business services, consumer brands, software and IT services, healthcare, education, property, technology, and finance.


One Week Left To Go To Apply For This Year’s Boardroom Apprentice

Founder of Boardroom Apprentice, Eileen Mullan

There’s only one week left to apply for this year’s Boardroom Apprentice programme online via the official Boardroom Apprentice website.

All applications are to be submitted by 3:00pm on Tuesday, May 24.

Now in its sixth  year, the Boardroom Apprentice is a UK first 12-month unique board learning, development and placement programme which enables those who would like to serve on a public or third sector board to learn and gain experience through in-depth training and support.

Founded by Eileen Mullan in 2017, the programme has helped 223 candidates from across Northern Ireland to begin their Boardroom journey thanks to its support from the Department of Finance.

Applications are open to those aged 16 or over from all backgrounds and abilities as the programme aims to enable a wider diversity of individuals to sit on boards and help move their board member role from aspiration to reality.

Eileen Mullan, Boardroom Apprentice founder, said: “I decided to create a programme that brings together three key elements – knowledge and understanding, experience and support.

Over a twelve-month window Boardroom Apprentices will get practical board experience, a suite of learning days and support to fully equip them to serve on a board in the public or third sector after completing the programme,“Being a Boardroom Apprentice is a gift. You get the programme as a gift with the expectation that you give it back. Being a Boardroom Apprentice is about preparing you for public service, which is about you playing your part.”

Throughout the 12 months, candidates are required to take part in regular learning days on topics such as finance, governance along with  a board placement on one of this year’s 58 Host Boards, matched by both Eileen and a selection of former apprentices.

2020 Boardroom Apprentice Magdalena Bisewska revealed the experience is for everyone.

“I would encourage anyone to apply. It’s about creating opportunities for everyone. We’ve all got something to contribute.

“I think everyone from any nationality, any background, all walks of life, should apply as it’s given you the confidence, the knowledge and the skills to make a difference.”

This year’s programme will run from 01st September 2022 – until 31st August 2023 in adherence to all relevant Covid-19 guidance.

“If being on a board giving your time and sharing your skills is something you aspire to do, but are not sure how to do then Boardroom Apprentice will enable you to do just that,” said Eileen.

Applications are still open, to apply go to 

For more information on Boardroom Apprentice go to 

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UK Wide Industry Standard ‘We’re Good To Go’ Restored Faith In NI’s Hospitality Sector

CEO of Tourism NI, John McGrillen

The UK wide industry-standard, We’re Good to Go, which has supported businesses throughout the pandemic has been phased out following a successful campaign.

The standard which was introduced in July 2020 when organisations were struggling to adjust to new regulations allowed businesses to demonstrate the Covid-19 protocols they had put in place to keep both staff and visitors safe while the hospitality sector moved to reopening.

“It has been tough, we had to adjust and review our operating procedures and various range of risk assessments,” said Pim Dalm, the Managing Director of Clandeboye Lodge Hotel in Bangor County Down.

With the help of the ‘We’re Good To Go’ accreditation, Clandeboye Lodge Hotel was able to maintain a safe environment for its staff. 

“We felt it was very important to make sure that our staff felt confident that as business owners we had taken all reasonable steps to ensure that the environment in which they were either interacting with guests or interacting amongst each other was as safe as could possibly be.”

Looking back on the unpredictability the tourism sector was facing at the time, Dermot Friel, owner of Friel’s Bar and Restaurant explained the importance of safety for organised trips.

 “Tour operators wanted to know if their guests and visitors were going to be looked after in a safe environment. That was one of their first questions, were we ‘Good To Go’ accredited?” he recalled.

Fortunately, the success of the initiative allowed many local businesses to safely reopen their premises and welcome visitors and guests after a long period of uncertainty. 

For Hillsborough Castle and Gardens, the We’re Good To Go accreditation meant that Northern Ireland’s primary royal residence could start planning for the future.

“Being declared Good To Go was peace of mind that you were safe at work and that you can provide a safe experience for your visitors.

“The We’re Good To Go campaign was an incredibly important part of our discussions with international vendors about our 2022 calendar and for trying to build back up to our pre covid business levels,” said Christine Grant, Palace Host Team Leader of Hillsborough Castle and Gardens.

Examining the consumer confidence, propensity to travel and consumer concerns at the time, Tourism NI’s Consumer Sentiment Analysis gave exceptional insight into the success of the We’re Good To Go initiative. 

Only a few months after launching the initiative, by March 2021, almost a quarter of NI consumers (23%) were aware of the ‘We’re Good to Go Mark’. For the vast majority (92%) who were aware of it, this mark gave them confidence that a business was safe to visit. The same research confirmed that when restrictions eased, two-thirds of NI consumers would be more inclined to visit a business that displayed the mark over one that didn’t.

Tourism NI’s CEO John McGrillen said: “The ‘We’re Good to Go’ scheme was vital for businesses as it reassured visitors that they had put the necessary arrangements in place to deal with Covid safely. That consumer confidence was a critical part of driving consumer demand.

“I am exceptionally proud of the industry for their collective effort and investment to ensure guests felt safe when visiting their experiences and attractions. This is testament to the resilience and strength of character of the wonderful people we have working within the sector across Northern Ireland. 

“This tenacity and giant spirit throughout the tourism sector contributes to the positive outlook as we move towards economic recovery following the pandemic.”

Throughout the campaign, all businesses operating within the visitor economy including accommodation providers, visitor attractions and more were encouraged to apply for the accreditation. In Northern Ireland, a total of 2,148 businesses took part and displayed the green logo on their premises and online. 

By the end of summer 2021, NI holidaymakers felt more confident to book further in advance than ROI visitors. This could partly be attributed to the success of the We’re Good To Go standards of which 50% of consumers were aware.

Since Covid restrictions in Northern Ireland were officially lifted in February 2022 and consumer nervousness around travelling lessened, VisitEngland, VisitScotland, Visit Wales and Tourism Northern Ireland have agreed that the initiative has achieved what it set out to and drew the scheme to a close. 

With nationwide restrictions behind us, Tourism NI acknowledges the support of the industry for taking the proactive step in helping visitors feel safe when travelling within, or to Northern Ireland. 

The organisation is looking forward to welcoming both domestic and international visitors and guests in the coming season and seeing the tourism and hospitality industry restored to pre-pandemic levels. 

Whilst the ‘We’re Good To Go’ scheme has closed we would like to encourage businesses to stay connected with Tourism NI for other supporting activities.

For more information on how Tourism NI can support your business visit: 

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