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Small business start-up fund rises from ashes of boom years

A START-UP fund for small businesses in inner city Dublin has been relaunched after falling dormant during the Celtic Tiger.

Inner City Enterprise (ICE) was founded by Evanne Kilmurray in 1991 and helped 1,250 businesses get off the ground before shutting down in 2005 as the boom years meant its service wasn't needed as much.

Now the scheme is up and running again, and was formally relaunched yesterday by Jobs Minister Richard Bruton.

ICE provides loans of an average €3,000 to long-term unemployed people in the inner city Dublin area who want to start their own businesses.

It assisted 231 people last year, helping them get on to back-to-work schemes and start 25 businesses. Every one-in- eight people it helps goes on to set up a business and about two thirds repay their loans in full.

ICE is funded with a mixture of private and public money; state agency Pobal gave it €65,000 this year (down from €70,000 last year) and other supporters include Microsoft, Bank of Ireland and KPMG, while Tesco and CRH came on board this year.

"We have a real private sector mentality and the contacts of the firms who support us are hugely helpful," said Ms Kilmurray.

ICE's board counts Tesco Ireland chief executive Tony Keohane as a member and Tesco's community relations officer spends one day a week working for the initiative.

ICE is also in partnership with Dublin's four local employment services (LES) offices – so anyone who walks in the door at an LES office with a business idea is sent straight to ICE.

"The biggest barrier to setting up a small business is not money but getting support and advice," said Ms Kilmurray.

"We all make mistakes in life so just having guidance is so important."

She has sat on the board of Telecom Eireann and An Post and has just been appointed a board member of Microfinance Ireland, which provides funding for slightly larger enterprises than ICE's target group.

Irish Independent