A specialist mushroom farm in the heart of east Belfast is just one of over 8,500 business start-ups that have sprouted during lockdown – and it has already caught the eye of Michelin star chefs.
Terry Vaz lost his job during the pandemic, but he and his wife Judy ended up creating their business by growing it from the simple roots of their own garden vegetables.
During nine months of being furloughed, Terry volunteered at an organic market garden twice a week where he learned a lot.
“The lightbulb moment was when we served a fresh batch of home-grown mushrooms to our guests in our backyard for a barbecue,” Terry explained.
“And they said: ‘Goodness, what meat is this?’ And just that pleasing look on their face, that was when the penny dropped really and we were like maybe we could commercialise this…”
The number of new enterprises launched during the coronavirus pandemic is up slightly on the previous year, showing real signs of creativity and entrepreneurship, despite the economic hardships.
“We were in a situation where we didn’t know what was next, what are we going to do with two babies?” Judy said.
“And we just thought we wanted to do something new that we’ve never done before, not in such a big scale.
“And to see us actually making the dream into reality, it’s a really proud moment.”
For Terry and Judy, their eye-catching produce coupled with the current desire for local produce means business is booming.
And once restaurants reopen, they believe demand will only move to the next level.