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The OPTIMAL Programme

The OPTIMAL (Outstanding Performance Through Individual Mentoring And Leadership) Programme is Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council’s principal business support and growth programme.  It provides tailored and specialist business support to micro and small enterprises to support the development of a more prosperous economy within the council area


Business is hard; this past year has been even tougher than normal.  But whilst your business has faced unprecedented challenges, you’ve also adapted to survive and keep going.  And we want to support you.  If you have less than 50 full-time employees and are based within Antrim & Newtownabbey Borough Council area, the Optimal business growth programme offers support through mentoring, workshops and networking. This project is part funded by Invest Northern Ireland and the European Regional Development Fund under the Investment for Growth & Jobs Northern Ireland (2014-2020) Programme.
The Optimal programme is for small and medium sized businesses and social enterprises within the Borough.

What is the Optimal programme about?

  • Supporting the creation of new, sustainable jobs in Antrim & Newtownabbey;
  • Helping businesses recover from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, supporting them to sustain existing jobs;
  • Referring businesses to Invest NI for financial support;
  • Strengthening the local business base by helping businesses become more competitive in home and export markets;
  • Promoting business growth and innovation;
  • Providing accessible, tailored business support;
  • Promoting networking between businesses within the Borough;
  • Engaging with key business support stakeholders to develop a portfolio approach to business support in the council area, ensuring that there is no duplication of effort.

How Can Mentoring Help My Business?

Mentors are available right now to help your business or social enterprise.  They are selected based on your business needs to enable them to share the advice, skills and knowledge that’s right for you.  Mentoring isn’t the same as training – instead of learning the theory of what works, a mentor will meet with you (virtually or in person) with specialist knowledge to work with you and your business.  They bring their experience from a range of specialisms such as digital, export, marketing, finance or HR and governance.

How Will Mentoring Take Place?

Mentors can arrange sessions flexibly around you so you can focus on growing your business while you work.  Due to COVID-19 restrictions, mentoring will initially be virtual, so it’s more convenient than ever to fit into doing business. If and when restrictions change, you will have the option to switch to face-to-face meetings, stick with virtual or a combination of both – whatever you’re comfortable with.   

Similarly, our series of business workshops will offer learning across 6 different areas: digital, export, social enterprise, sales, general and sustainability. These will also take place virtually at this stage, but will still be interactive and engaging.  You don’t have to take part in the mentoring programme to attend these workshops, so you can still benefit from guidance and advice with the added benefit of networking with other local business owners who are facing the same challenges as you.  Where possible, you’ll be signposted to other organisations that can support you too; whether that’s Council support, Invest NI, your local Enterprise Agency, college or other partners who can help. 

The Optimal Programme is part-funded by Invest Northern Ireland and the European Regional Development Fund under the Investment for Growth & Jobs Northern Ireland Programme.

Upcoming Workshops

Virtual Event: How to utilise TikTok to advertise your business

We have been fielding questions after our last Social Media Workshop:

•          How do you set up a TikTok business account?
•          How do you create your first TikTok?
•          Is there a range of marketing strategies and ideas that I could use?
•          TikTok ‘paid advertising’ how does it work?  

Get the answers at this session and Book your place using the below linkhttps://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/394345667507

We are also delivering an export workshop on the 11th Oct 2022 10am-12:30pm

Virtual Event: Maximising Profits Through Exporting

This virtual event is designed for business owners who are new to exporting or early stage exporters.

An interactive FREE webinar led by Nigel Irvine - an experienced and trusted business development professional with 30+ years’ direct, practical experience of developing product sales and related services in national and international markets. He has held senior international roles in the global construction, mining, agricultural and energy industries.

The webinar will include Q&As, case studies of early stage exporters, information on the range of support available for exporting.

It will provide practical information and advice on :

• Finding & supplying export markets in the current business climate
• Options in getting products to market & how to decide what’s best for your business
• Finding, selecting & managing agents & distributors
• What can go wrong & how to handle it
• Finding, selecting & managing suppliers in international markets
• Effective Channel Management (B2B, B2C)

Book your place using the below link


Optimal Workshops are free of charge and are open to businesses located in Antrim & Newtownabbey Borough with fewer than 50 full-time employees.

Free one-to-one mentoring is also available through the Optimal Programme. To apply visit: www.antrimandnewtownabbey.gov.uk/optimal

This project is part funded by Invest Northern Ireland and the European Regional Development Fund under the Investment for Growth & Jobs Northern Ireland (2014-2020) Programme.

Who Can Apply?

Small to medium sized businesses or social enterprises with less than 50 full-time employees and a registered business address in the Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council area.

How To Apply

The Optimal programme is now open for new applications – just complete the form below and click submit for someone from our Economic Development team to get in contact with you. 

Apply Now

Is your business a social enterprise?:

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Terms and Conditions

  • This project is part funded by Invest Northern Ireland and the European Regional Development Fund under the Investment for Growth & Jobs Northern Ireland (2014-2020) Programme.
  • Support will be dependent on the sustainability or growth potential of the business.
  • Mentoring is allocated on a per business basis.
  • All mentoring must be completed before the programme end date.
  • Only mentors approved by Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council will be used in the mentoring process.
  • Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council will not accept liability for advice given by independent advisers. 

Contact Us

To discuss support for your business and the Optimal programme, contact Sara Thompson on T. 07799 533 876

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Council Contact

Economic Development Officer

Sara Thompson

Mossley Mill,
BT36 5QA

Tel: 07799 533 876

Contact the Economic Development Officer