Banks not giving credit where it's due
A TROUT farmer, a nurse turned computer whizz and a letting agent are finalists for a prestigious business award.
The women are fighting back against the recession and hope to clinch a South East Female Excellence in Business award.
They all say that there is evidence of an upturn in sales in the past three months.
Last year's winner, mother-of-two Fleur Creed, founder of the Genesis Business College in Wexford and Carlow, made an impassioned plea to the Government to fund small businesses through the Enterprise Boards in her acceptance speech.
This year, the businesswoman, who is also judging the awards, wants local authorities to devise a loan system to help small businesses pay their rates over a three-year period.
"Instead of bringing to court people who simply cannot pay, councils should come up with a loan or a payment plan to allow them give it back over the next three years," she said.
Ms Creed also described how banks are "still not supporting" small and medium enterprises, despite their claims.
She said. "They're saying they're giving loans to four out of five people but they're not counting the people who are told at the counter not even to bother applying."
"I know businesses that have gone to banks with signed contracts looking for cash flow but they still have not got it.
"I think businesses really need to be organised and have good business plans before they have any hope."
Mag Kirwan, who is shortlisted for the prize, runs Goatsbridge Trout Farm in Kilkenny with her husband. The biochemist has been trying to change the image of trout among Irish consumers.
"We, as an industry, were very poor to promote this product," she admitted. "We lost our market share. You had fish being imported that were perceived to be exotic fish because people had gone on holiday and experienced other fish."
Promoting the product has been top of Ms Kirwan's brief -- and this includes opening up her trout farm to visitors.
Regina Mangan from www.bookaroom.ie set up as the first property agent dealing solely with rentals in Waterford City in 1997.
She said rents have fallen back by 22pc to 2004 levels, adding: "You can rent a fabulous two-bedroom apartment in Waterford city for between €500 and €600."
Paula Corden from Deycom Computer Services in Carlow gave up her nursing job to help her husband after they had set up an IT company. They now employ nine people.
She described last year as a "car crash" for businesses. "We had to let five people go. That is soul-destroying."
However, Deycom has hired two new sales staff as the market has improved.
The awards will be presented at the South East Women in Business Conference in the Tower Hotel, Waterford city, on September 17.