Armoy lady, Claire Hunter, has been crowned Northern Ireland Business Woman of the Year at a star-studded event in Belfast.
Married to local dairy farmer Brian, the mother of three was recognised at the Belfast Telegraph Business Awards for all her hard work and effort made since she bought the Marine Hotel in Ballycastle in March 2013.
Following years of negotiating and development Claire and her partner Colum McLornan finally brought the only hotel in Ballycastle back to life when it re-opened in June 2013. They now employ 26 local full time staff and up to 75 members in the summer.
Originally from Dunmurry, Claire explained: “Colum and I met at Catering College over 20 years ago and our friendship developed from there. Colum went on start up Friendship Travel, a successful Singles Travel Company in Antrim which was crowned, for the second year running, the Best Small Holiday Company for Singles and the Best Holiday Company to the Caribbean and Bermuda. Whereas I focused on managing restaurants before moving on to become the Ireland distributor for toastabags (www.toastabags.co.uk). However everything changed when I married an Armoy diary farmer - he couldn’t move his cows to Belfast so I had to move to Armoy!
“When I first saw the Marine Hotel I instantly saw its potential and Colm agreed. However it took two years of negotiating to buy it and then months of hard slog and worry to finally get it open. But we did and take great joy in having got to this stage - being open a year and receiving this award.”
Wishing to thank her staff, husband,Brian and partner, Colum for their support Claire added: “Getting the award is great but I couldn’t have done it without the team, both inside and outside the hotel. I would especially like to thank my fantastic childminder Sinead Jamison and mother-in-law who have been my lifeline in allowing me to take the time to work hard and achieve the reopening of the hotel and this award. “