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Where to start with the Enterprise Agencies when starting a business?

Are you considering starting a business in Ireland? Have you wondered where you should begin when seeking support from the State Enterprise Agencies. When you look at the graphic below you might be overwhelmed by all the organisations involved in assisting startups but it worth taking some time to familiarise yourself with the type of businesses which they support. This blogposts sets out 5 good places to start.

Supports for my startup business

The first step is to build a relationship with a contact in your local and/or sectoral organisation. I would suggest meeting them in advance of making any application for support so that they become familiar with your project.  The same applies to your local financial institution.

#.1 Short Term Enterprise Allowance

gives support to people who have lost their job and want to start their own business. The Short-Term Enterprise Allowance is paid instead of your Jobseeker’s Benefit for a maximum of 1 year. More details are available on the Citizens Information Website.

#.2 Enterprise Boards

Your local Enterprise Board supports manufacturing and internationally traded service micro-enterprises (employing less than 10 people). Full details of these Financial Supports is available on the National Enterprise Board website:

  • Priming Grant – business within first 18 months in business … 50% of the investment or €80,000 whichever is the lesser. Grants over €80,000 and up to €150,000 shall only apply in the case of projects that clearly demonstrate a potential to graduate to Enterprise Ireland and/or to export internationally. Subject to the 50% limit, a maximum grant of €15,000 per full time job created shall apply in respect of any employment support granted.
  • Business Expansion Grant – business trading at least 18 months … same thresholds as per priming grant. The cumulative level of grants to a micro enterprise must not exceed €150,000 over a three year period.
  • Feasibility … maximum Feasibility / Innovation Grant payable in the S&E Region shall be 50% of the investment or €20,000 whichever is the lesser. (60% applies in BMW Region).

You will need to contact y0ur local Enterprise Board – list of contacts available here – to confirm application deadlines and any other conditions that may apply. For instance Limerick County Enterprise Board website states that ‘to be eligible for a Feasibility/Innovation Grant, you must have applied to Enterprise Ireland for an Innovation Voucher. A letter or email from Enterprise Ireland indicating refusal of Innovation Voucher is required with the application’. 

All about Innovation Vouchers (must be a company to apply) from Innovation

The Enterprise Boards are keen to emphasise that they provide services to businesses who may not qualify for financial supports. The soft supports provided by Enterprise Boards include: Networking; and training to include Start Your Own Business, Finance, and Marketing.

If you are looking for premises for your startup, a Community Enterprise Centre could be a good option – full nationwide list here. Most centres offer a range of services beyond shared facilities.

NOTE re Local Enterprise Offices (LEOs)

The 2012 Action Plan for Jobs refers to the creation of Local Enterprise Offices (LEOs) in each local authority to replace the Enterprise Boards. The 2013 Action Plan for Jobs refers on Page 53 to the newly established entities. But for the moment the contact point remains with your local Enterprise Boards which this year will mark twenty years since their foundation in 1993 . This statement by the CEO of Dublin City Enterprise Board in February 2012, explains that the Enterprise Boards have to be legally dissolved before the new structures are put in place. My understanding is that the change will be made in time for the Local Elections in 2014.


organisations support individuals, rural business and farm families. You can find your local LEADER on the National Rural Network website.

  • Capital and other projects to include tourist accommodation – funding of up to 75% is available for eligible projects, with a maximum of up to €150,000.
  • Analysis and development projects may receive 75% with a maximum grant of €30,000.
  • Training – 100%

The Galway Rural Development Company Ltd website has a particularly good section outlining the conditions that apply.

#.4 Enterprise Ireland

Is the premier Enterprise Support agency in Ireland. However, their services are primarily available only to clients. They are focused (rightly so) on assisting startup businesses and promoters with international growth potential – startups that EI invest in are referred to as HPSUs (High Potential Start Up).

This page on the Enterprise Ireland website outlines the process followed when they meet a potential new client. The first step is to meet with a Startup Advisor in their offices for a introductory meeting. Enterprise Ireland have developed a suite of Startup Development programmes. New Frontiers is worth a special mention if you have a startup project with growth potential. New Frontiers programmes are delivered by the Institutes of Technology Campus Incubation Centres.  Key contacts in the IoTs are listed on the EI website – feel free to approach to discuss your business concept directly.

#.5 Mentoring

is provided by both Enterprise Ireland and the Enterprise Boards. It is also available via Small Business while the SCCUL mentors based in Galway is another great mentoring initiative for small business.

Local Networking initiatives such as Open Coffee are also worth checking out.

To conclude:

Small Business Can author, Helena Deane wrote a wonderful post outlining the ten commandments of grant applications. I would add that you will need to take time to find out what grant schemes you may be eligible for and the criteria that apply. There is no such thing as free money and your application will require anywhere from a few hours to several days or even weeks for the bigger schemes.
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2 Responses to Where to start with the Enterprise Agencies when starting a business?

  1. Martin Power March 25, 2015 at 11:36 am #

    Hi Donncha,

    I’m currently in the process of starting up a small business in a rural area of connemara dealing with arts and crafts, outdoor activity equipment, fishing gear and more products along the same lines, I was wondering what grants I should be looking into to get it off the ground? Any help would be greatly appreciated.




  1. What ‘grants’ and other supports apply to my startup business?Blog of Donncha Hughes - March 23, 2013

    […] If you have ever wondered what supports that you and your startup business could and should apply for, read on: This blogpost was first written in 2011. The accompanying presentation has been updated in February 2013, when I also wrote a related blogpost for Small Business Can that lists 5 starting points for help from the Enterprise Agencies when you are starting a business. […]

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