A 23-year-old County Antrim woman has won a prestigious business award for her determination to help animals as well as bringing educational opportunities to others in her sector.
Katie Jane Wray of Horse and Hound Physiotherapy, Ballyclare was awarded Young Entrepreneur of the Year at the Enterprise Northern Ireland Awards.
Katie works mainly with horses as well as treating a range of other farm and domestic animals. Uniquely, she also organises high level training for animal physiotherapists and their trainers, bringing in top therapists from the UK to offer the best possible continuous professional development.
In just one year, she has set up a thriving business and works across Ireland and is in such demand she accompanies some of her clients to prestigious shows in Europe.
“I always loved animals and grew up riding horses and competing in national competitions. When I was competing I saw the level of sports therapy given to horses at this level. I spent five years studying and then went freelance but I really wanted to start my own business,” she said.
Katie Jane received support in setting up her business from LEDCOM (Local Economic Development Company) in Larne.
“Just over a year ago I met with LEDCOM. They helped me so much with all the aspects of setting up the business and I am so grateful for the support that I’ve received from them. To be recognised as one of the top young entrepreneurs in Northern Ireland is just so amazing and it hasn’t quite sunk in yet. I feel it’s quite uncommon for an agricultural business to be recognised in this way and I’m really proud that this highlights the innovation within our sector,” she added.
The award judges highlighted the innovative specialist training that Katie organised and how this added to the core services of her business. They said Horse and Hound Physiotherapy is constantly evolving with new products and services being introduced giving the business a competitive advantage. Katie Jane is currently looking at developing research partnerships with a university in Sydney, Australia.
Ken Nelson of LEDCOM said: “This award was well-deserved. Katie has achieved so much in such a short time. She really encompasses the energy and drive of the best entrepreneurs in Northern Ireland. At LEDCOM we strive to offer the highest quality advice and support to start up businesses and we are so encouraged to see young people like Katie opting to start their own enterprise.”
Chief Executive of Enterprise Northern Ireland, Gordon Gough, said: “Enterprise Northern Ireland is the voice of local entrepreneurship and we’re very pleased to celebrate great examples of local ingenuity and talent. Helping to develop strong companies that create employment and export across the world is an important part of what we do.
“These awards are an excellent chance to recognise the hard work and dedication of businesses and members of the Enterprise Northern Ireland network. Whether it is through offering business support or highlighting access to finance initiatives, our network of enterprise agencies is playing an important role in stimulating Northern Ireland’s economy.”
Chris McVeigh, Head of Business Banking Unit at Ulster Bank, the headline sponsor of the Awards said: “Entrepreneurs and small businesses put their heart and soul into their ventures, and we’re really pleased to be supporting these awards to give them deserved recognition for their efforts and their success.
“We have a proud history of supporting start-up and scale-up businesses to achieve their ambitions. Through finance, advice and taking the time to really understand our customers’ business, we’re committed to making it easier for businesses to grow and thrive in a sustainable way.”