The 31 Local Enterprise Offices nationwide act as a ‘first-stop-shop’ providing advice and guidance, financial assistance, and other supports to those wishing to start or grow their own business and do so regardless of the age of the applicant. Their business advisors and mentors offer signposting to the programmes and supports that will help and encourage new entrepreneurs to start and successfully run their own businesses.
In 2020, despite the pandemic, the Local Enterprise Offices continued to provide advice and support to entrepreneurs to pursue their business ideas and look for opportunities to start up new businesses. By providing direct financial assistance to over 1,000 business projects, an estimated 366 of which were priming grants for start-up companies, the Local Enterprise Offices have participated in continuing to develop new enterprise in this country.
In 2020 the Local Enterprise Office in Kildare offered a broad range of training programmes to support entrepreneurship and develop start-up businesses. In response to the restrictions in place during lockdown, these were pivoted to Online platforms, making them more accessible than ever before to new entrepreneurs.
The Start Your Own Business (SYOB) programme which guides clients through the various aspects of business and business planning has continued across the country throughout the pandemic. This aims to assist clients in assessing their business idea, its viability and to help them to decide if they should proceed or take a step back. Since January last year the Local Enterprise Office in Kildare has hosted 21 Start Your Own Business courses with over 270 participants.
The Mentor Programme is a free of charge service allowing clients to work with an experienced mentor to identify solutions to areas of exposure within their business. With advice and guidance from their mentor, clients develop strategies that are more robust, which address issues and maximises potential opportunities including those around COVID-19 and Brexit challenges.
Lean for Micro which helps build resilience within small companies. Under this Programme, clients can avail of consultancy support with a LEAN Expert (a qualified practitioner), who will work with the company to introduce lean principles, undertake a specific cost saving projects and assist the company in benchmarking its performance. During the COVID pandemic, the principles of LEAN for Micro have also been used to help implement new remote working and physical distancing guidelines.
The Local Enterprise Offices also offer extensive Management training and development courses to further equip senior managers in Irish microenterprises to expand their knowledge and encourage best practice. Examples of this type of training are as follows: Advertising & Promotion, Banking & Finance, Basic Bookkeeping, Brexit Programme, Female Entrepreneurship, Financial Management, Human Resource Management, Preparing Cash Flows & Developing a Business Plan, Sales and Selling.
The Local Enterprise Offices offer Customs workshops, open to all businesses. These one-day interactive workshops provide businesses with a better understanding of the potential impacts, formalities and procedures to be adopted when trading with a country which is outside the Single Market and Custom Unions (a "Third Country"). Now, in the aftermath of Brexit, these courses are being redesigned to provide accurate, up to date advice to business owners who currently export or those about to begin their export journey.
The LEOs continue to reinforce entrepreneurship in the education system as a critical element in the future development of small business in Ireland. A number of initiatives are run by the LEOs at both primary and secondary level with the flagship programme the Student Enterprise Programme. The 2019/2020 LEO Second Level Student Enterprise participation in Kildare was 21 schools with 1,504 students participating.
Encouraging and promoting an enterprise culture is an important area of activity for Local Enterprise Offices, as it is critical that young people from all backgrounds see enterprise as a viable career choice. Our young people need to be open to the idea of creating a new job rather than looking for one. For all of these reasons the Local Enterprise Offices have strategically focused much of their endeavours in the field of entrepreneurship development on the education sector.
Enterprise Ireland also have a number of start-up supports available to younger persons such as:
New Frontiers: New Frontiers is the National Programme designed to develop entrepreneurs and delivered on behalf of Enterprise Ireland by Institutes of Technology and Universities nationwide. The programme takes place over three phases and consists of practical and interactive workshops, personalised one-to-one mentoring, financial support and co-working space.
Competitive Start Fund: €50,000 equity investment designed to accelerate the development of high potential start-up companies by supporting them to achieve commercial and technical milestones such as evaluating international market opportunities or building a prototype.
Student Entrepreneur Awards: An annual event led and managed by Enterprise Ireland with a number of co-sponsors, including Grant Thornton, Cruickshank, Local Enterprise Office. The competition is open to full time registered third level students attending college on the island of Ireland. Students get the opportunity to turn their entrepreneurial ideas into commercial businesses. There is €35,000 total prize money for an overall winner (€10,000) and specific category winners. These winners are also given access to mentoring supports from Enterprise Ireland and the programme sponsors.
For more in-depth information on all business supports available to all entrepreneurs, please see this departments website www.Enterprise.gov.ie.