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Boost for Local Mental Health Charity


Male former Business student

A former Business student at Northern Regional College who launched his own online clothing company during the lockdown, has donated profits from trading during August to The Olive Branch, a local mental health charity. Luke McIlreavy from Ballymoney, did a HNC in Business at the College’s Coleraine campus before progressing to Ulster University to do a Business Information Systems degree. He is currently on placement with Randox and when he graduates, plans to do a Master’s degree in Software Engineering.

He said the practical hands-on approach of the HNC course has really equipped him for university and work life.

“The modules studied are very relevant to today’s world and the skills developed, from writing, presentation, working in a team, time management and organisational skills, has made me a well-rounded individual.”

Nine-Zero-Nine sells distinctive club, festival and street attire and Luke has managed to combine the clothing company with his experience of being a DJ in local clubs.

“I’ve been involved in the clubbing scene for over four years now, and was fortunate to have a residency at one of Northern Ireland’s top clubs, Lush! and from there, I’ve played around Northern Ireland, as well as internationally.”

Luke said that he knew from his knowledge of the clubbing scene and previous experience of working in retail, that there was a gap in the market for this type of clothing. He registered the Nine-Zero-Nine in May and, despite the lockdown, the business has taken off.

He continued: “The Nine-Zero-Nine style is very distinctive and is all about encouraging people to express their personality. It is mainly geared towards clubbers and festival goers but even with clubs closed and festivals cancelled, the business has been doing surprisingly well. Having no physical presence does make it harder to interact with customers but I’m active on social media and maintain good communication with customers both pre and post order. 

The Olive Branch aims to give immediate access to a mental health counselling service for those suffering from mental health issues. It is a self-referral and free of charge walk-in service and the offices in Magherafelt and Coleraine are entirely self-funded.

Luke explained: “Mental health is a topic close to me, my family and friends. There’s a personal stigma about coming forward with mental health issues but The Olive Branch’s way of dealing with the issue compared to other traditional practices is fantastic  and I wanted to do something that would contribute to the charity and help make a difference.”

Looking ahead, Luke said he is looking forward to a time when clubs and festivals will be up and running again and has some exciting plans in the pipeline for when they finally get the green light.