'You can be selling when you are sleeping'
MORE than 7,500 businesses are expected to seek State funding for expanding their businesses online under government plans announced today.
The Trading Online Voucher Scheme which helps small businesses to get online quickly has received a funding boost that will see almost €20m up for grabs by businesses as they seek to recover from the impact of the coronavirus lockdown.
That's up from the average annual funding for the scheme of around €2m.
Business Minister Heather Humprheys said the scheme got more than three years' worth of applications in less then three months following the Covid-19 outbreak.
She said there have been "success stories" in recent months of florists, restaurants and Irish fashion outlets trading online.
Ms Humphreys warned that businesses who remain offline are "missing out" on an opportunity to change their business model to tackle the "current challenges".
Increased funding was previously announced in April and another €14.3m has been allocated to the scheme today.
Under the scheme, small businesses can claim up to €5,000 in two grants of €2,500 each.
Ms Humprheys said: "It's an essential part of our COVID-19 business supports for small firms and it is vital that we continue to make it available for enterprises to meet ongoing trading challenges.
Online sales have been a lifeline to many SMEs during COVID-19."
She said the ability to trade online will continue to be critically important for many small and medium enterprises: "Particularly as we face into a period of reduced capacity on shop floors."
Ms Humphreys added: "A quality online presence compliments your existing bricks and mortar business allows you to advertise and trade to a much wider customer base.
"It's what I call 24-hour sales, you can be selling when you are sleeping."
The Trading Online Voucher Scheme is run by the network of Local enterprise Offices (LEOs).
The chairman of the network, Oisin Geoghegan welcomed the extra funding saying the LEOs have been "inundated" with applications.
He said: "Since March, nearly 4,000 businesses nationwide have applied for a Trading Online Voucher... to help them get online and to do more business, online.
"We’re seeing hundreds of examples from around the country of small businesses starting to sell online for the first time, during the Covid-19 crisis.
"While they may have had a website presence before, thanks to the funding and training under the Trading Online Voucher, they have been able to upgrade their websites and can now sell directly to customers both at home and abroad."
The Trading Online Voucher Scheme is open to small businesses in most sectors that have been trading for at least six months, employ up to ten people with a turnover of less than €2 million annually.
Details of how to apply are on LEO websites.