Small businesses benefit as shoppers ‘look local’

Big uptake of grants which enable small businesses to set up an online presence

Co Founders of Cloud Picker Coffee Frank Kavanagh and Peter Sztal at their industrial unit in Castleforbes Business Park, Sheriff St. Photograph: Alan Betson / The Irish Times

Co Founders of Cloud Picker Coffee Frank Kavanagh and Peter Sztal at their industrial unit in Castleforbes Business Park, Sheriff St. Photograph: Alan Betson / The Irish Times

 

The increased importance of shopping locally has not gone unnoticed by local enterprise authorities across the country and this summer its people around the country have been focusing at least some of their time and energy on working out ways to support communities and the businesses embedded in them.

It recently launched a Look for Local campaign which is encouraging Irish people to make a conscious effort to pick up Irish products or spend money on Irish services or experiences as they staycation once again in the summer of 2021.

The campaign aims to reinforce knowledge of the domino effect that local spending has throughout their community. Every €10 spent locally on Irish products generates more than €40 of benefit to the local community in terms of employment.

If you spend a tenner with your local butcher who spends the tenner with his accountant who spends the tenner with the local florist who then sponsors the local GAA team is, obviously much more beneficial for the local economy than if you spend the same tenner on an overseas website which gives the money to a billionaire who spends it on a space ship or some such.

The campaign was launched by the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment Leo Varadkar. “It’s more important than ever to look for local and support the small businesses in your community,” he said. “Whether you’re thinking of buying a gift, new clothes, a service of some sort – whatever it is, your local business would be delighted with your custom.”

He noted that over one million people are employed by a small business in Ireland, more than the public sector and multinationals combined.

Online trading

“Since the onset of Covid-19, the local enterprise offices have been working closely with small businesses across the country to help sustain them with financial supports, training, mentoring and consultancy for all areas of their business,” said the chairman of the network of local enterprise offices, Pádraic McElwee.

“Now it’s our turn as consumers to Look for Local with the economy reopening. Every euro you spend with a local business is an investment in the community around it,” he added. “Not only that but it makes a positive environmental, economic and societal impact.

Last year local enterprise offices approved over 13,000 trading online vouchers which enabled small businesses to set up an online trading presence, an increase of just under 1,000 per cent on 2019. That helped small businesses keep trading virtually when their physical shops were shut.

Among those who have been supported by the local enterprise office is Aoife McNamara who established the clothing brand Aoife Ireland in February 2019 and quickly made a name for herself for clothes which have been described as both “striking yet wearable.”

Sustainability is central to the brand with at least half of her most recent collection styled eco-friendly and made from sustainable fabrics. Her clothes are made with Irish wools and tweeds and the manufacturing takes place here too.

She recently used a local enterprise business expansion grant to renovate and open her first store in a thatched cottage in Adare, Co Limerick. A thatched cottage selling wooly jumpers? It can’t get more Irish than that, really.

Then there’s Sam agus Nessa, a furniture and product design company in Co

Kildare. The couple behind the brand met in the UK while working in the furniture industry.

In 2015, they moved home to set up on their own. In the lead up to that first Christmas back in Ireland, they made their gifts from the offcuts of the Irish timber they had left over from furniture projects.

They decided to make a few extra bits and pieces and try their luck at a Christmas craft fair, where they caught the attention of some local retailers. Now six years later, Sam agus Nessa are stocked in over 40 retail outlets across the country, including Kilkenny Design, Meadows and Byrne, and Designist.

During Covid-19, the couple contacted their local enterprise office for support and availed of the trading online voucher to set up their website and have since grown their sales from 3.5 per cent to 10 per cent of their total.

Coffee

Cloud Picker Coffee was set by Peter Sztal and Frank Kavanagh in February 2013 on Sheriff Street in Dublin 1. The partners – in business and in life – set about creating a sustainable coffee roastery. Cloud Picker Coffee imports, roasts and packages coffees and sold. commercial espresso equipment as well as domestic coffee brewing equipment.

Then Covid came along. Cloud Picker Coffee had to quickly change direction, a move which saw a dramatic but positive increase in sale of coffee for the domestic market.

Their online retail sales grew by a staggering 953 per cent against 2019 and the business was awarded funding by Dublin city local enterprise office for the creation of three new jobs.

Belle Femme Lingerie is owned by Bridget Kearney. She identified a gap in the market for a service offering bra fittings without the use of a measuring tape and set up a retail unit on Kieran Street in Kilkenny over 10 years ago.

In Covid times, she introduced a virtual bra fitting service where she used this technique and offered bra fittings to clients remotely. The demand increased significantly and the business is now open for both fittings and purchases online. Like the others, she was supported by her local enterprise office and received a trading online voucher which allowed her to update her online store.

The local enterprise campaign, aimed at shining a spotlight on these and other local businesses across the country will run throughout the summer with people encouraged to use the hashtag #LookforLocal on social media to help support the campaign and find businesses involved.