The Local Enterprise Offices (LEOs) provide a range of supports for the micro and small business sector. The LEOs act as the “first-stop-shop” for providing advice and guidance, financial assistance and other supports to those wishing to start or grow their own business.
The LEOs can help new enterprises provided the enterprise can become commercially viable. There are three grants available to a start-up business and the LEO can also support a Loan application to Microfinance Ireland (all detailed below).
1. Feasibility Study Grants
- Feasibility Study Grants are designed to assist the promoter with researching market demand for a product or service and examining its sustainability. It includes assistance with innovation, including specific consultancy requirements, hiring of expertise from third-level colleges, private specialists, design costs and prototype development costs; and,
- the maximum levels payable in the BMW Region is 60% or €15,000, whichever is the lesser.
2. Priming Grants
- a Priming Grant is a business start-up grant available to micro enterprises within the first 18 months of start-up;
- Micro enterprises (Limited Companies, Designated Activity Companies, sole traders, co-operatives and partnerships) can apply for a Priming Grant to help them get the business started within the first 18 months of startup; and
- the maximum Priming Grant payable is 50% of the investment or €150,000 whichever is less.
3. Technical Assistance for Micro Exporters Grant
- Technical Assistance for Micro Exporters grants are a support to enable clients to take the first steps in new product, service development or in developing and exploring new market opportunities.
- the maximum grant allowable under a Technical Assistance for Micro Exporters Grant is €2,500. Funding is by way of Grant and the maximum support level is 50% of eligible costs.
The eligibility criteria for these grants is as follows: The enterprise:
- must not employ more than ten people (including the promoter);
- must be established, registered, and operate within the geographic location of the LEO;
- must operate commercially;
- must demonstrate a market for the product/service;
- must have potential for growth in domestic and/or export markets and also potential for new job creation;
- can be a manufacturing or internationally-traded services business;
- can be a domestically-traded business with the potential to trade internationally; and
- must be a business which, on growth, may or may not fit the Enterprise Ireland portfolio.
The eligibility criteria listed above are subject to certain priorities and restrictions:
- priority must be given to enterprises in the manufacturing or internationally-traded services sectors which, over time, can develop into strong export entities and graduate to the Enterprise Ireland portfolio;
- salary support may be offered to unique tourism services projects that are focused predominantly on generating revenues from overseas visitors and which do not give rise to deadweight and/or displacement in the local economy; and,
- with regard to restrictions, retail enterprises, personal services, professional services or construction and local building services are not eligible for grant aid.
Microfinance Loans (through Microfinance Ireland)
- Local Enterprise Offices can work with businesses employing 9 or less employees on their applications to Microfinance Ireland (MFI) for small business loans of between €2,000 and €25,000 (unsecured). Loans for commercially viable proposals can be used to help fund start-up costs, working capital or business expansion. By applying for an MFI small business loan through a Local Enterprise Office, clients can avail of a 1% reduction in the interest rate charged.
The Local Enterprise Office is the first stop shop for information, advice and training regarding starting a business. The training supports are available for all business sectors i.e. local service and retail businesses can avail of this training. LEOs provide a wide range of high-quality training supports which are tailored to meet specific business requirements, please see the LEO Westmeath website for further information regarding training: https://www.localenterprise.ie/Westmeath/Training-Events/Training/.