Kara Irish Pottery in Greysteel wins business in US gift market

Greysteel-based Kara Irish Pottery has been assisted by Invest Northern Ireland to develop sales in the US of a range of innovative Irish sandstone coasters.

The company, formed by experienced businesswoman Ann Mullan Karakatsanis, has invested over £122,000 to develop exports especially by means of a relationship with the QVC television shopping channel. The coasters will be launched on the QVC Rose of Tralee show in September. In addition, Disney recently ordered the coasters for the Epcot centre.

Invest NI has offered £20,000 towards the project which is expected to provide three new jobs by the end of this year.

Announcing support for the business, Des Gartland, Manager of Invest NI’s North West Regional Office in Londonderry, said: “This is an important project for the giftware industry in the North West particularly in terms of Derry’s forthcoming role as the UK City of Culture in 2013. This hugely significant event will offer substantial opportunities for companies in the North West specialising in quality giftware.

“We are assisting the investment because of the extensive experience of Ann Karakatsanis in the US pottery market. It’s an entrepreneurial business that’s firmly grounded on her knowledge and vast expertise, particularly in terms of products geared to the huge Irish American community there.

“The project, therefore, offers significant export potential, both in the US market and from visitors to Derry seeking good quality and original souvenirs. Invest NI’s support has been geared to help the business to exploit the opportunities it has identified in the US marketplace for stone coasters in giftware and corporate sectors,” he added.

Ann Karakatsanis, outlining her business plan, said: “I decided to set up the manufacturing operation in Derry because of my family links with the area and the heritage of pottery and ceramics there. I had pinpointed an opportunity in the US for stone coasters and wanted to exploit it. It’s a market in which stone coasters are now extremely popular.

“My market research indicated considerable interest, especially in the Irish American community, in a sandstone product featuring traditional Irish designs. Irish sandstone is also an excellent material for intricate design work.

“I am confident that we are creating something unique which will lead to significant business through the network of retailers that I have developed over many years in the US. The City of Culture event will offer opportunities, and I would also expect to see business flow from traditional activities such as St Patrick’s Day in the US.”