Your Local Enterprise Office (LEO) is a place to go if you need advice, information, support and grants to start, develop or grow a business in Ireland.
In this blog, you’ll learn:
- Where to find your Local Enterprise Office
- What does your Local Enterprise Office do?
- The different types of Local Enterprise Office business grants and supports available to early stage entrepreneurs and small businesses in Ireland
- How to choose the best support for your new business
Where to find your Local Enterprise Office
Each county in Ireland has a LEO that supports the needs of small Irish businesses and early stage companies.
You should contact the LEO where your business trades. So, if you’re living in Wexford, but your business trades in Dublin, you should visit a Dublin-based LEO.
You can check out the LEO map here: https://www.localenterprise.ie/Find-Your-Local-Enterprise-Office/
What does your Local Enterprise Office do?
Your LEO provides support, mentoring, and grants to entrepreneurs at every stage from small businesses setting up to businesses planning for growth.
You can go to LEO while you’re trading or pre-trading and it’s a good idea to talk to someone at your LEO so they can learn more about your business and suggest the best small business grants, training, and supports for you.
They support a broad range of small businesses from athleisure, online apps, food, manufacturing and technology, and more. Each business on the LEO portfolio is considered on a case-by-case basis and is assessed on viability and sustainability.
As your business grows, your LEO can also connect you to Enterprise Ireland (EI) and other organisations, so you can benefit from even more grants and support. You may even go back and forth between LEO and Enterprise Ireland depending on your business so it’s a good idea to start building your business network during its early stages.
About Dublin City LEO
We recently hosted a Business Growth Webinar with Ross Curley, Business Advisor from Dublin City LEO who spoke about the types of businesses/clients usually attracted to the LEO in Dublin City.
He explained that they usually help with employment/job creation and therefore, many of their clients are interested in their Priming Grant (more on this later).
Other networks may prioritise getting equipment for your business or helping you get your business plan finalised. Some clients of Dublin City LEO include Strong Roots, Patient M Power and Gym+Coffee.
Here’s a summary of the different types of supports available to entrepreneurs in Ireland.
- MicroFinance Covid-19 Business Loan
- Covid-19 Restart Grant
- Trading Online Voucher (TOV)
- Feasibility, Priming, Expansion Grants
- Online training
- 1-2-1 mentoring
- Technical Assistance for Micro Exporters
- Innovation Voucher
- Agile Innovation Fund
MicroFinance Covid-19 Business Loan
Businesses can apply for business loans from €5,000 to €50,000 from their LEO. These loans are administered through MicroFinance Ireland and there are no interest payments for the first 6 months. Once the interest-free period is over, LEO clients benefit from a reduced interest rate of 4.5%.
It’s good to note that before you apply for this loan, you need a business plan, so it’s good to work with your accountant to ensure your cash flow projections and management accounts are up to date. There are also certain business criteria you need to meet before you apply. For example, you need to have less than 10 employees, less than €2m turnover, supply bank statements, and an Irish Credit Bureau Report.
In general, you will receive a response within 72 hours and sometimes even quicker if you need urgent help. If you need help applying, LEO has dedicated staff to support entrepreneurs through this application process.
Covid-19 Restart Grant
This grant is administered through your own Local Authority. Business can apply for reimbursement of up to €10,000, depending on how much you paid in rates in 2019.
Applications are being prioritised based on the government’s opening procedure so it’s important to keep an eye on the updates regarding this grant.
In general, this grant can be used to support the costs of taking staff back on, putting in precautions, for example, screens and social distancing signs, or buying stock.
Trading Online Voucher (TOV)
This business grant is for €2,500 and goes towards implementing an e-commerce element to your business’ website. This voucher can’t be used to enhance your website content, for example, improving the “About Us” page, as it needs to include an e-commerce approach. For instance, offering online orders or booking appointments.
You also need to match 10% of the funding. So, if you get the €2,500 voucher, you need to invest €250 of your own money, which means you have €2,750 to spend on your online trading activities.
Before you can get this business grant, you need to be operating for at least 6 months and attend a training workshop. Once you’ve attended a workshop, you need to avail of the voucher within 6 months.
Since the Covid-19 outbreak, LEO has allowed businesses that have already availed of the TOV to apply for a second voucher. This has meant that there has been a huge uptake in this voucher and may cause some delays in receiving the voucher and/or training workshop slots.
If you can’t get access to the Trading Online Voucher (TOV), Ross Curley, Business Advisor from Dublin City LEO suggests contacting your LEO to discuss other support options, such as engaging with a mentor.
A mentor can investigate your digital strategy, talk about branding, digital marketing and ads, etc, depending on your needs. Since there is a delay in receiving a response about the TOV, you can always seek out other options within your LEO and continue to keep an eye on the TOV events.
Do you have a business idea that needs to be explored with experts?
You can apply for a feasibility grant from your LEO which offers 50% of the investment or €15,000, whichever is lesser to assist with researching the sustainability of your product or service.
Before you apply, you need to meet with a LEO Business Advisor to discuss your application. These meetings can be carried out online, so you don’t need to go to their office.
As a reminder, find your LEO here: https://www.localenterprise.ie/Find-Your-Local-Enterprise-Office/
The Priming Grant is a Startup business grant for businesses that have been operating for less than 18 months and it’s used to help you hire staff.
Sole Traders, Limited Companies and Partnerships can apply for this grant. You can receive up to €15,000 to help financially support your employees. There is no repayment required for this business grant so it can be a huge support for eligible businesses.
The amount you receive will depend on the wages you are offering and it’s good to note that this grant can be used to take an employee from part-time to full-time.
Usually, it’s paid in two batches, at 6 months and 12 months. If you successfully receive this grant, LEO will look for payslips and records of payments, so you may consider outsourcing your payroll to a professional service.
The Expansion Grant is for businesses that have been operating for more than 18 months and is also support for creating jobs.
Sole Traders, Limited Companies and Partnerships can apply for this grant and can receive up to €150,000.
Again, you need to contact your LEO Business Advisor to discuss your application.
Technical Assistance for Micro Exporters
Do you need help exploring and developing in new markets? The Technical Assistance for Micro Exporters (TAME) grant part-funds the costs of investigating and researching export markets. The grant will cover 50% of eligible costs up to a maximum of €2,500 per year.
Eligible costs include participating in a trade exhibition, translating costs, developing an export-related website and more. As this is an export-led grant, you may be introduced to an Enterprise Ireland mentor.
For more information on this business grant, talk to your Local Enterprise Office about your needs and they’ll talk you through the next steps.
Innovation Vouchers are for small Limited Companies in Ireland that need help building links between Ireland’s public knowledge providers (i.e. higher education institutes, public research bodies) and small businesses.
Charities, trade associations, sports clubs or any other non-commercial bodies are not eligible for this voucher.
Innovation vouchers are up to the value of €5,000 and there are two ways of applying online. You don’t have to be a client of Enterprise Ireland to apply but check out the details on their website.
Agile Innovation Fund
The Agile Innovation Fund offers up to 50% in support of innovation projects with a total cost of up to €300,000. This business grant is for LEO and EI clients only, so get in touch with your local office now to discuss your business.
This business grant supports the development of new or substantially improved products, services or processes and so, the level of support depends on the size of your business.
GradStart is an Enterprise Ireland business grant designed to support the recruitment and retention of graduates within its client companies and it’s open to LEO clients and HPSU’s.
This fund offers financial support of €30,000 (€15,000 per year) or 50% of individual graduate salary costs (whichever is the lesser).
LEO clients are limited to 1 graduate on a 2-year contract at any one time and must have a minimum of 5 full-time employees to qualify for support. There are also graduate and company criteria that must be met before being eligible for this business grant. Find out more by talking to your LEO Business Advisor or visiting the Enterprise Ireland website.
Who decides the successful applicants?
An independent evaluation committee comprised of experienced businesspeople decides which applications are successful.
LEO Business Advisors help business owners with their presentation to ensure they’re ready to present in front of the committee.
Each LEO has weekly online events that are generally free, 2-hours long and available to book your place online.
The best way to find these online training sessions is to type the name of your LEO and “Online Bookings” into Google. For example, “Dublin City LEO Online Bookings”: https://www.localenterprise.ie/DublinCity/Training-Events/Online-Bookings/
Your LEO also offers a one-to-one mentoring service, which is free during the Coronavirus pandemic. Usually, there is a nominal charge of €50 per mentor meeting, which usually lasts 2-3 hours. You can also choose between 3, 6 or 9 hours assignments to discuss any area you need assistance.
This can include branding, marketing, exports and more. There is a significant mentoring panel with up to date learning and skills and are available to be objective about your business.
Engaging with a mentor is a great place to start your relationship with LEO.
Your Local Enterprise Office can also provide training to help you on your business journey. You should reach out to your nearest LEO office to discover the programmes they offer. Common LEO programmes include:
Start Your Own Business Programme
The Start Your Own Business (SYOB) programme is offered by LEOs across the country to help anyone thinking of setting up a business get started. It is aimed at anyone with a business idea they want to develop, anyone considering self-employment as a career option, or anyone who has recently started their own business. This course covers issues such as:
- Is your business idea viable?
- Can you develop a competitive and sustainable enterprise from this business idea?
- Are you prepared to take the risks of owning and running a business?
- What skills do you require to run your business?
Get in touch with your local LEO to see when the next SYOB Programme starts.
Green for Micro
The Green for Micro programme, run by the Local Enterprise Office is a new initiative for companies with up to 10 employees to help them become more sustainable and environmentally friendly. Benefits of improving your business’ sustainability include:
- Increased cost savings
- Improved resource efficiency (for example: using less energy, water, and materials)
- Reduced environmental footprint and greenhouse gas emissions
- Increased access to customers as customers become more environmentally conscious
- Improved corporate image
- Increased resilience to climate change impacts
LEAN for Micro
Are you familiar with the Lean Principles for business?
LEAN strategy focuses on implementing tools and techniques in your business to help remove costs while achieving the same quality.
The Local Enterprise Offices provide training aimed at business owners/managers, leaders, and key staff members who want to learn how to run their small businesses more effectively and efficiently. This training shows them how LEAN practices can help improve efficiency.
- Visit your LEO website. The first thing you should do is visit your LEO website. You can find your closest LEO here: https://www.localenterprise.ie/Find-Your-Local-Enterprise-Office/. Explore the website and sign up for their newsletter.
- Mentor support. If you have specific queries about setting up or developing your business, consider applying for mentoring support. You should give as much information as possible, such as your background and what support you need.
Your LEO will match you with the best person to talk you through the supports and business grants and give you more information about the timeframes for applications. In general, you’re connected to an LEO mentor within a couple of days.
- Join a workshop. If you’re not ready to commit to a mentoring programme, join an online event to get clarity on the types of supports available from your LEO. There are different types of events happening such as Starting A Own Business courses, Management Development programmes and Mentoring meetings.
- Use the government SME tool. There is an online tool that helps you find what supports are suitable for your industry, size and business stage. You can use this tool on the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation website here: https://supportingsmes.gov.ie/sme-search/
- Talk to your accountant. Many of the grant applications require you to have a business plan, cash flow projections, and management accounts. Talk to your accountant about getting these reports so you can bring them with you to LEO.
The Local Enterprise Offices are a great place to get support and grants for your business. You can go to them while you are trading or pre-trading so you can get in touch with them at any stage.
The first thing to do is find your nearest LEO and visit their website here: https://www.localenterprise.ie/Find-Your-Local-Enterprise-Office/
Join a free online event and discover what support is the most suitable for you. You can speak to a Business Advisor who will give you more insight into what LEO does and the best supports for your business.
If you need a direct contact now, connect on LinkedIn with Ross Curley, Business Advisor from Dublin City LEO.
If you don’t have an accountant to help you with your cash flow or management accounts, feel free to talk to our Client Services Team. We’re always happy to talk to you about our accountancy services.
Kelly is the Marketing Manager at Accountant Online. Kelly is passionate about making the complexities around running a business simple to understand and accessible to the every-day person. Kelly holds a Bachelor of Science (BSc) in Marketing from Dublin Institute of Technology.