Thursday, 15 October 2020
Department of Trade, Enterprise and Employment
Enterprise Support Services
The Local Enterprise Offices (LEOs) are the “first-stop-shop” for providing advice and guidance, financial assistance and other supports to anyone wishing to start or grow their own business. In the first instance, the Local Enterprise Offices provide a ‘signposting’ service in relation to all relevant State supports available through agencies such as Revenue, the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection, Education and Training Boards, the Credit Review Office and Microfinance Ireland. The LEOs can also offer advice and guidance in areas such as Local Authority Rates, Public Procurement and other regulations affecting business. Throughout the COVID-19 Pandemic the 31 LEOs nationwide have continued to provide their services to local business communities.
The LEOs can offer direct grant aid to microenterprises (10 employees or fewer) in the manufacturing and internationally traded services sectors which, over time, have the potential to develop into strong export entities. Subject to certain eligibility criteria, the LEOs can provide financial assistance within three main categories:
- Priming grants for businesses within the first 18 months of start-up;
- Business Expansion grants for expansion projects designed to assist the business in its growth phase after the initial 18-month start-up period;
- Feasibility/Innovation grants to support the researching of market demand for a product or service and examining its sustainability;
However, it should be noted that the LEOs do not provide direct grant-aid to areas such as retail, personal services, local professional services, construction/local building services, as it may give rise to the displacement of existing businesses.
The ‘Supporting SMEs’ Online Tool is a cross-governmental initiative to help start-ups navigate the range of Government business supports for which they could be eligible. The tool is available at www.supportingsmes.ie and by answering the eight questions in the Online Tool, a small business will be able to discover which Government business supports are available to them from any Government Department that offers them. They can obtain information on the assistance available for accessing finance and credit and it will direct them to their nearest Local Enterprise Office for further queries and applications.
For Start-ups or expanding businesses, the LEOs offer ‘soft’ support in the form of training, such as the "Start Your Own Business" programme which guides clients through the various aspects of business and business planning. The objective is to assist clients in assessing their idea, its viability and to decide if they should proceed or take a step back. Modules include:
- Starting up / getting started
- Identifying, understanding and researching your target market
- Tax, law and insurance
- Financial planning (pricing, costing)
- Sources of funding
- Promoting your business
- Sales and service
- Basic bookkeeping
- Developing your Business Plan
They can also enrol in the"Mentor Programme" which is designed to match up the knowledge, skills, insights and entrepreneurial capability of experienced business practitioners with small business owner/ managers who need practical and strategic one to one advice and guidance.
Anyone with a viable business proposal can also use their Local Enterprise Office to make an application to Microfinance Ireland, which offers support in the form of loans of up to €25,000 to start-ups with viable business propositions that do not meet the conventional risk criteria applied by the banks.