The idea behind the Made In Galway website – www.madeingalway.ie – first came about when staff at Galway County Council were searching for local craft produce to give out as corporate gifts to visiting dignitaries, or to send abroad with our own representatives.
Despite being armed with considerable local knowledge, and possessing a degree of determination that the casual online shopper might not afford such a search, officials found little trace online of any craft producers in Galway.
“If we found it difficult and we were making a big effort to try and source this stuff, the visitor isn’t going to find it at all,” says Brian Barrett, Administrative Officer in Galway County Council’s Community, Enterprise and Economic Development Unit, which decided to establish Made In Galway in a bid to address the problem.
“We have discovered that there’s a wide range of quality craft products and food products made in Galway. What we’re trying to do is increase the awareness of consumers, both people living in Galway and visitors, to this range of products, and trying to build a linkage between them so we’re going to increase the sales of the craft producers and food producers,” explains Mr Barrett.
The free directory site allows producers to provide a description, contact details, web links and photos of their products. Visitors to the site can click through and make a purchase, or simply browse. A visitor may arrive looking for ceramics and navigate onto a wood-turner’s page, for example.
And although a county council initiative, all Galway producers are eligible for inclusion. “Internationally, people see Galway as Galway. Once you’re across the Shannon, you’re in Galway,” notes Mr Barrett.
As well as the obvious benefits of creating jobs and boosting economic activity amongst the participating businesses, the site can also play a significant role in encouraging tourism to Galway.
“By highlighting the range of food and craft and other activities that are happening within the county, it makes it look more vibrant to the tourists, to the visitor. More and more, they’re making their decisions about their holidays based on Internet searches that they do at home,” says Mr Barrett.
The site can prove a valuable resource to tourists when they do decide to come here, according to Made in Galway Project Manager Caitríona Scully. Through its ‘view by map’ function, it can help potential visitors plot a route through Galway, based on various craft producers they might like to visit.
Although only live since June 2012 and taking into account the fact that much of the site’s infancy was occupied trying to round up local producers, the success stories are already beginning to emerge.
In one particular case, a mother in New Jersey managed to locate a cupcake producer here in Galway and send a surprise delivery of cupcakes to her son, who was visiting the city. “It was absolutely lovely for everyone involved,” recalls Ms Scully.
“Another producer’s gotten back to me saying that she’s had at least 30 click-throughs onto the website, when she’s checked her own analytics, so it definitely works as a tool for that,” she adds.
Plans are in train to expand the site’s offerings even further and over the course of the summer a new section for the film, media and cultural sectors will be added, while music will be catered for also.
But Made In Galway is not just a simple web directory and member businesses have already been brought across to trade fairs in France to display their wares. They will also have a presence at the National Ploughing Championships and at an art exhibition in Brussels, in an effort to both expand the brand and the companies under its umbrella.
Locally, simple branded stickers bearing the ‘Made In Galway’ logo have been shown to boost sales, while the Made In Galway team are looking to liaise with Chambers of Commerce and local retailers to explore the possibility of creating ‘Made In Galway’ focal points in-store where all the local produce they already sell can be grouped together under one section.
For Mr Barrett, the reward is in seeing small local businesses growing and finding new markets, despite the difficult times
“There’s a vibrancy of emerging micro-businesses. This is a good step for them before they invest heavily in their own promotion. That’s rewarding for us to see that these companies are establishing, they’re going out there and they’re surviving. In the current climate, that’s great to see.”
For more information on Made In Galway, visit www.madeingalway.ie, visit Facebook.com/madeingalway or follow @madeingalway0 on Twitter.