Sep 23, 2004

E-business technology is producing orders for the US, Europe and Asia Pacific for unique skincare products made from goats milk.

Dungannon businesswoman Elizabeth Smith's decision to reach a wider market for her handmade soap products by harnessing the latest e-business technology advice through Invest NI is starting to pay dividends.

Orders for her unique range of goats' milk soaps and moisturisers, handmade on the family farm and branded as Erinvale Natural Skincare Products, are being booked and paid for increasingly through the company's impressive internet site.

Formed in 1999, Erinvale, which currently employs three people, has been advised and assisted by Invest Northern Ireland's Western Local Office in Omagh. It moved into e-commerce at the start of the year, a decision influenced by participation in Invest NI Marketing Awareness and Impact workshops that help smaller companies to increase marketing capability.

"The Invest NI Impact workshops were extremely useful because they provided a lot of very practical marketing information in a format that suited my business. Everything was covered in a one-day session which meant I wasn't away from the company for too long," Mrs Smith, Erinvale's Managing Director, said.

In addition, advice on the development of the website has been provided under Invest NI's ICT Advisor scheme. The Rural Development Council provided the original funding to design the web site.

"The website is a tremendous shop window. It's enabling us to reach a wider audience than the country markets, health shops and small chemists that are currently our main outlets.  Of course, it was a big investment for a company of our size with niche products in a price conscious marketplace dominated by volume producers and supermarkets but we had to make the leap to grow the business. We now sell in countries like New Mexico, USA, Singapore, Germany as well as Scotland, England, and Ireland.

"The investment is beginning to pay off and we are now seeing a growing number of inquiries and sales coming from outside Ireland. While the proportion of web sales is still small, we expect this side of our business to grow steadily, particularly when we are registered on the main search engines," said Mrs Smith, whose daughter Erin has now joined the company full time to take over the Production Department (the company is named after her).

The website, she added, enabled the company to publicise the advantages of the handmade soap and moisturisers to the growing market for natural products and especially those seeking alternatives for sensitive skin and conditions such as psoriasis, eczema and dry skin much more effectively.

"We had established a mail order business some time before the introduction of the website and this meant we had the systems in place to enable us to respond quickly to online enquiries," Mrs Smith added.

Angela Hughes, Invest NI client executive at the Western Local Office in Omagh, said: "This is a go-ahead company which has harnessed IT enthusiastically to optimise its limited resources and expand its marketplace.

"The company has also used the portfolio of assistance and

expert services readily available from the Invest NI  through the Omagh office very effectively to develop the business and most recently to reposition it as an e-commerce operation."

Erinvale Skincare Products are made in a clean hygiene controlled environment and are free of chemicals and artificial additives.  Among the natural ingredients of Goats' milk are alpha-hydroxy acids, which are found in anti-wrinkle creams, along with proteins, vitamins and minerals. Other wholesome ingredients are virgin olive oil, coconut oil, avocado oil, calendula oil and glycerin.

Colour and fragrance comes from herbs and flowers which have been chosen from extensive studies of aromatherapy and herbal medicine.

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