Northern exposure programme a lifeline for struggling SMEs
HARD-PRESSED small businesses are being urged to look to cross-border exporting for growth, following the extension of Elevate, a targeted new funding programme.
North-South enterprise body InterTrade Ireland is offering up to €5,000 to fund market research for small companies considering cross-border selling. Some 50 companies have already received finance in the initial round of the programme.
The organisation said small businesses had been hit hardest by the recession and in many cases were surviving solely on local demand. It added that cross-border exporting was a natural next step.
"There are plenty of small businesses with highly innovative products and services that have been very successful in building their presence at home. It is now more important than ever that small businesses look to identify new markets in order to continue to drive recovery," said Jobs Minister Richard Bruton at the programme's launch.
One successful recipient of funding is Cork-based family business Green Saffron, which sells spice blends for homes and professional kitchens. Founder Arun Kapil grew the business locally from Ballymaloe but decided early on to expand in to Northern Ireland because of its ease of access.
"The Elevate programme helped us to increase our turnover by 5pc last year but even more importantly, we are now beginning the process of securing contracts with two UK companies as a direct result of working with an NI company," said Mr Kapil.
To take part in the Elevate programme, annual company sales must not exceed €1.2m and more than 30pc of turnover cannot have been generated in the cross-border market already.