The Department engages with relevant agencies/organisations to offer supports to businesses at all stages of their business cycle. In relation to accessing credit, the banks are, and will continue to be, the first port of call for finance for small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs). However, a number of Government initiatives have been introduced in order to ensure that SMEs obtain appropriate finance in order to sustain and grow their businesses. The Credit Guarantee Scheme which was first launched in 2012 has been designed to address three barriers to lending; inadequate collateral, novel business market, sector or technology which is perceived by finance providers as higher risk under current credit risk evaluation practices and/or a need for refinancing caused by the exit of an SMEs lender from the Irish market. More information on the scheme can be obtained at on the Departments website.
Businesses with up to 10 employees can make an application to Microfinance Ireland (MFI), which offers support in the form of loans of up to €25,000 to start-ups, newly established or growing businesses that do not meet the conventional risk criteria applied by the banks. Further information on Microfinance Ireland is available at www.microfinanceireland.ie.
The Local Enterprise Offices (LEOs) are the ‘first-stop-shop’ for providing advice and guidance, financial assistance and other supports to those wishing to start or grow their own business. In the first instance, they provide a ‘signposting’ service in relation to all relevant state supports available, offer advice and guidance in different areas, e.g. local authority rates, public procurement and other regulations affecting business. They can also offer direct grant aid to microenterprises (with 10 employees or fewer) which is subject to eligibility criteria.
Additionally, there is the Supporting SMEs website which contains over 100 possible supports (financial and non-financial) which may be available to a particular SME. Further information is available at https://www.supportingsmes.ie/BusinessDetails.aspx. Further information on possible business supports is available from https://dbei.gov.ie/en/What-We-Do/Supports-for-SMEs/Which-support -is-for-you/ which includes a comprehensive spreadsheet mapping of supports. This a good first point of contact in order to establish the potential supports that may be available.