Your Local Enterprise Office (LEO) is a place to go if you need advice, information, support and grants to start or develop a business in Ireland.

Local Enterprise Office: What Do They Do?

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 entrepreneurs in Ireland
  • How to choose the best support for your business

Where to find your Local Enterprise Office

Each county in Ireland has a LEO that supports the needs of your business.

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 set-up to business 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 support for you.

They support a broad range of 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) so you can benefit from even more grants and support. You may even go back and forth between LEO and EI depending on your business so it’s great to start building your network during its early stages.

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.

Ross Curley, Business Advisor from Dublin City LEO

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.

MicroFinance Covid-19 Business Loan

Businesses can apply for business loans from €5,000 to €50,000 from your 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 your 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 have 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 such as 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 you need to talk to your LEO 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.

Ross Curley, Business Advisor from Dublin City LEO

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.

Feasibility Grant

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/

Priming Grant

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 and 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.

Expansion Grant

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.

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.

Online training

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/

1-2-1 mentoring

Your LEO also offers a 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.

Events – LEAN for Micro

Are you familiar with the Lean Principles for business?

It’s about implementing tools and techniques in your business to help remove costs while achieving the same quality.

This is a LEO event aimed at business owners/managers, leaders, and key staff members who want to learn how to run your business more effectively and efficiently, how to build resilience and reduce costs.

Each LEO hosts their own events so you should check out the LEO in your area to see their upcoming events.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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/
  3. 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.

In summary…

Your Local Enterprise Office is 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.

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