Graham and Ann Ferguson from Nohoval, Co Cork, won their category in this year’s JFC Innovation Awards. They will use the cash prize to promote their Oceanaddicts business.
“Winning this award has boosted our confidence and has given us renewed determination to navigate the stormy seas of doing business in Ireland today,” Graham said.
The couple both lost what Graham described as “real jobs” within months of each other.
But the husband and wife team, who are both experienced divers and instructors, set up Oceanaddicts and ploughed their redun- dancy money into the purchase of a former British navy ship, which they converted into Ireland’s first dive live -aboard experience off the Cork and Kerry coasts.
The boat travels along the coast, from Kinsale to the Blaskets, allowing time for two relaxed dives each day in some of the world’s best diving waters.
It calls to a different port each evening, allowing clients to go ashore for dinner and relaxation before returning to sleep on the former navy ship.
“While our core activity is scuba diving, we also offer a wide range of activities for the non-diver, including sea angling, whale and dolphin watching, sea kayaking, sailing, and snorkelling,” Graham said.
The couple caters mainly to experienced divers but they are able to tailor trips for novices.
They are planning to develop theme trips like underwater photographic dives, while they have also started working with local businesses in Kinsale to offer adventure weekends where the people stay on the boat at night.
The JFC Innovation Awards is an all-island competition aimed at farmers and rural entrepreneurs who have begun a new business in the last five years. Graham and Ann won the services and rural tourism category.
Organised by the North’s Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, Teagasc, the Irish Local Development Network, the Irish Farmers Journal and sponsored by JFC Manufacturing, the overall prize fund for the competition is valued at €40,000.
JFC managing director John Concannon said there is a wealth of talent and innovative ideas that need to be tapped into.
“Innovation is needed more than ever in the current economic climate,” Mr Concannon said.
“We need to see new businesses emerge that will create employment and generate wealth in rural areas.
“Our rural entrepreneurs could help lead Ireland out of the recession,” he said.