What government support is available to me, I'm setting up my own business?
Start Your Own Business - 6 part series
DURING the recent elections, people would have heard some criticism levelled at the performance of Government over the past three years. However, when it comes to starting your own business, Ireland is now recognised as one of the best countries in the world for government support.
In January, 'Forbes' magazine highlighted that Ireland was the best country in the world to do business, while previously the World Bank said it was the seventh easiest place to start an enterprise. Many European reports have stated how people in Ireland are very positive towards the idea of entrepreneurship.
Last month the new Local Enterprise Offices (LEOs) were formally launched by the Government. The new LEOs have replaced the former County and City Enterprise Boards and now have a wider remit, combining the expertise of the enterprise boards with the broad reach of the local authorities, supported by Enterprise Ireland.
The Local Enterprise Office is the 'First Stop Shop' for anyone seeking information and support on starting or growing a business in Ireland. With 31 dedicated teams across Ireland, LEOs offer a wide range of experience, skills and services.
In addition to providing information, advisory services and enterprise support, they also deliver training and business mentoring from experienced experts.
The LEOs can also give you direct financial supports if your business is eligible, but if you do not qualify then they will give you advice on a range of alternative funding options available. There are also a wide range of other supports that can be offered to you within the network so your best approach is to start by chatting with an adviser.
The LEOs regularly engage in special initiatives. The recently launched competition for Ireland's Best Young Entrepreneur is a great opportunity for anyone aged 30 years or under on December 31, as significant funding is available to the winners in the three categories of Best Idea, Best Start Up or Best Established Business. The closing date is June 30 and entrepreneurs can enter via their LEO website or www.localenterprise.ie
The second main support agency is Enterprise Ireland which is responsible for the development and growth of Irish enterprises in world markets.
Enterprise Ireland (EI) works in partnership with Irish enterprises to help them start, grow, innovate and win export sales on global markets. The development of start-up businesses is a central part of their development strategy and EI is currently focusing on graduate and women entrepreneurs.
It has nine regional offices throughout Ireland and over 30 international locations, facilitating access to more than 60 countries worldwide (www.enterprise-ireland.com).
It provides funding, export assistance, supports to develop competitiveness, incentives to stimulate in-company R&D, assistance with R&D collaboration, and connections and introductions to customers overseas.
EI works with entrepreneurs and business people across the full business development spectrum – from early-stage entrepreneurs, to established business owners and Irish multinational companies. However, it does not work with locally traded service companies or with micro-enterprises.
The websites www.citizensinformation.ie and www.basis.ie will also provide you with useful information to help you start your own business, while the Supporting SMEs Online Tool is a new guide to government supports for start-ups and small businesses.
Elsewhere, the Start Your Own Business scheme provides tax relief to people who are unemployed for at least 12 months and getting a qualifying social welfare payment and who set up a qualifying business, while agencies like Microfinance Ireland provide loans to small businesses with no more than 10 employees.
Indeed, there are dozens of enterprise support agencies whose goal it is to help people to start a business and Ireland has been recognised as having an excellent support system. Given all of the help that is available, the next step in starting a business is yours!
Sheelagh Daly is CEO of the Wicklow Local Enterprise Office.