A Letterkenny businessman scooped the national ILDN enteprise award at a prestigious function in Dublin on Thursday night.
Derek Walker (28), who is registered as blind, is the owner of Simply Natural Health in Letterkenny and also established the Letterkenny Artisan Market last year with his fiancé, Anna McQuade.
Derek, pictured with Anna above, was the overall winner of the the Irish Local Development Network Enterprise Awards, which were held last week in Dublin.
A former student in St Eunan’s College, Derek was diagnosed with a rare eye condition at the age of 12 and lost a large portion of his eyesight and was registered blind.
Speaking to the Donegal Democrat/Donegal People’s Press on Friday, Derek said, “Obviously I am delighted with this and from the very outset I want to thank DLDC for all their support along the way. I just could not have done it without them.
“I went to countless interviews and found it very difficult to get a job. I was beginning to lose confidence in myself but I realised that if I keep saying to myself, ‘I can't do it,’ or listening to others telling me I couldn't to it, then I would get nowhere.
“I developed a much more positive attitude and with the encouragement of my family, my fiancée and DLDC I am where I am today.”
Derek had developed a problem in his knee two years ago which required surgery.
“I used wheatgrass to help recover from the operation. and it was then that I got the idea to create a much easier way to take the wheatgrass.
“I began in a spare room in my house but soon knew that I needed to expand. DLDC in Letterkenny were totally supportive but more importantly they helped me regain my confidence and belief in myself.”
Today he operates from a 10,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art premises in Carrygally Business Park.
Derek added that he hoped that his achievement would inspire others who have an idea to go out and explore their options. “There are enough people who will tell you it can't be done - with the right frame of mind you can realise your dream.
“When I realised at a very young age that I was going to end up blind my confidence was at an all time low but now I just feel that the world is my oyster.
“I am rebranding the company in about three weeks and calling it ‘Natnoot’ – the Natural Nutrition Company – and will be developing our own website.” There is no doubt that the future is very bright for this young entrepreneur from Letterkenny.