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Saturday 21 October 2017

Ireland’s female entrepreneurs told to treat Brexit like any other business risk

Enterprise Ireland says businesses should continue forging ties with Britain.

Dublin skyline
Dublin skyline

By Kalyeena Makortoff, Press Association City Reporter

Ireland’s business development agency is encouraging female entrepreneurs to ramp up exports to the UK, saying Brexit should be approached like any other business risk.

Sarita Johnston, female entrepreneurship manager at Enterprise Ireland (EI), rejected suggestions that it may be irresponsible to urge small businesses to expand trade with Britain while post-Brexit arrangements are still in up in the air.

Brexit uncertainty, she said, is just one more factor to consider when female entrepreneurs are scaling up their business.

“The economics of trade are continuously changing. Trade is cyclical, and no matter what environment we are, there continue to be barriers to trade,” she told the Press Association.

“Nobody knows what Brexit means but we do know that market trends and market environments and market economics change on a daily basis.

“What we have tried to do at Enterprise Ireland is to potentially identify the greatest area of where there will need to be more support for companies going forward,” she explained.

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Female entrepreneurs are receiving an extra helping hand, though. Enterprise Ireland’s has so far spent 20 million euro (£18 million) over the past five years to support female-led start-ups and encourage their expansion through networking, mentorships and finance leads.

“What we have done is try to motivate females to instil in them a ‘can-do attitude’ rather than be risk averse. So there’s certainly not a pull back in terms of (suggesting) that they can’t go to the UK, and they can’t go to other overseas markets.”

But the government agency is not burying its head in the sand, having recently launched a Brexit SME Scorecard to help all small and medium-sized Irish enterprises assess their exposure to Brexit, which is followed up with a list of suggested actions and resources at their disposal.

“Females are as ambitious as men but sometimes their ambition needs to be unveiled a little bit more carefully,” Ms Johnston said.

The most successful female-led Irish businesses in Britain are currently involved in sectors including tech, software and recruitment, she said.

“Historically there would have been a consideration that more females went into home care and consumer-type projects and service-led businesses but we’re starting to see a change in that, particularly in the technology-led companies.”

But she highlighted that the women, more broadly, have an advantage when it comes to forging relationships, which could be harnessed by businesses looking to find buyers or clients abroad – including in the UK.

“We’re very very good at networking. We do network differently than men,” Ms Johnston said.

“Females have a tendency to be very collaborative in terms of their relationship-building, and that really helps when it comes to building partnerships and relationships with buyers, or potential joint venture relationships or strategic alliances in the UK.

“Because, as you know, sales are very much built on relationships, and females’ interpersonal skills…can be used to our advantage to strategise and also to maximise our potential with overseas customers.”

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