Dublin inner city charity aiming to assist 160 startups each year
A CHARITY that offers business assistance to the unemployed and is backed by some of the private sector's heavyweights is aiming to get 160 startups off the ground every year until 2017.
The not-for-profit Inner City Enterprise (ICE) project was officially relaunched in 2013 with the goal of helping budding entrepreneurs.
It was founded by Evanne Kilmurray in 1991 and helped 1,250 businesses get off the ground before shutting down in 2005 due to almost full employment during the Celtic Tiger years. The scheme was relaunched due to the advent of the recession and has assisted 120 startups.
ICE offers hands-on advice and assists unemployed people off "the dole" onto the "Back To Work Enterprise Allowance" to get a business off the ground.
The board of directors includes private sector heavy- hitters such as Tesco Ireland Chairman Tony Keohane, former Independent News and Media CEO Vincent Crowley and Irish Distillers' CEO Anna Malmhake.
Those who work with ICE get access to a panel of voluntary business advisers from the private sector and are also assisted where possible by the board.
ICE also has a small Revolving Loan Fund offering €1,000-€5,000, over a three-year period at 5pc interest. MicroFinance Ireland provides loans of €1,000-€25,000 through ICE.
Speaking to the Irish Independent, ICE CEO Evanne Kilmurray said that even with the improving economy she still anticipates an increased need for ICE's services.
"There are green shoots but where we are there aren't, the inner city is particularly tough," she said. "You still have so many people on the dole and they are suffering from the effects of the last five years and that's not going to go away soon.
"This year we will probably get about 160 businesses up and running and we're aiming for another 160 in 2016 and 2017."
ICE costs about €175,000 a year to run and is funded by a mixture of private and public money, with the vast majority of the backing from the private sector.
Mr Crowley, the former CEO of INM, the company that owns the Irish Independent, said securing private funding is one of the main challenges of maintaining ICE's operations. "It comes up at every board meeting so we have a group of people that we know and a target that we have to meet," Mr Crowley said.
"It's not easy as the charity sector has had a lot of challenges in the last few years," he said. "Getting people interested is the easy part [but] getting them over the line takes time."
Personal trainer Helen Walsh, who used to work with U2 during the Celtic Tiger era, is one of ICE's clients. After work dried up during the recession she says ICE helped her start her new personal training business 'Helen Walsh Fitness, Wellness, Coaching'. "I went to them about 18 months ago and they went through the business plans with which was very important.
"All year if I need to bounce an idea off anyone they were just at the end of a phone, which I think is invaluable."
Lights, camera, action - how ICE helped to put Bankhouse Productions on road to success
One of the businesses helped by ICE is Bankhouse Productions, a full service film production company based in Dublin. The company was established by Matthew Toman, a Northern Ireland native who is living in Portobello, Dublin.
The company provides several different film services including concept development, production, direction. Mr Toman staffs the firm himself, contracting most of the work out on individual projects. Mr Toman previously worked as refrigeration engineer for 12 years before being made redundant in 2012. He then met up with some of the ICE volunteers on a course for positive thinking who helped draw up a business plan.
"I knew where my business was going and they just helped to translate it into a business plan for me," he said. "I went from having all this potential to having a business." Mr Toman co-produced a film to be released next month, Urban Traffik, and is now in the process of pitching four feature films to a US studio.
Besides working in film Mr Toman has also published an e-book focused on positive thinking called 'Life's Too Short to Walk in the Shade' which he says he hopes will be the first in a larger series.