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Three Ireland grant scheme giving small businesses vital help

Grants for Small Businesses programme funds 10 small businesses and awards each of them a share of a €100,000 bursary

Small businesses have until midnight on Sunday, October 2nd, to apply for Three Ireland’s Grants for Small Businesses programme. The grant programme, funded by Three Ireland and managed by the small business network and support provider Enterprise Nation, funds 10 small businesses and awards each of them a share of a €100,000 bursary. The bursary is made up of a mix of cash, advice, support and connectivity solutions from Three Ireland’s expert business advisers.

This is the second year for Three Ireland to offer the grants programme. “We ran it last year for the first time and it proved to be very successful,” says Three head of SME Padraig Sheerin. “We are delighted to be back with year two. The quality of the applicants last year was exceptional. And the 20 finalists came from a very diverse range of business types, backgrounds and ideas. It has been great to see so many of the winners go from strength to strength in the relatively short period of time since the competition was held. We have had an opportunity to work with all 10 winners during that time and it has been fantastic to see them grow and succeed.”

Three commissioned market research company Behaviour & Attitudes to carry out sentiment research among Irish businesses to coincide with the launch of this year’s grants programme. The research revealed that more than two-thirds (69 per cent) of SMEs do not believe they are supported enough as a business to grow further.

With the cost of living steadily rising, the support SMEs require for day-to-day costs is evident — with 29 per cent of businesses surveyed stating that cost-of-living support would be the most beneficial business support for growth. The research also outlined that government grants or funding for business (24 per cent) and tax incentives (24 per cent) were the next most beneficial support for business growth.


“The research results emphasise the need for grant programmes like this,” says Sheerin. “The fact that 69 per cent of businesses don’t feel supported jumped off the page when we saw the results. The importance of grants was highlighted, as was the importance of tax incentives but that’s not within our control, unfortunately. We can offer some grants, however. Small businesses are having to deal with increases in cost of materials, the cost of doing business and staff costs. The grants will help to alleviate at least some pressures that small businesses are facing.”

The grants programme will adopt last year’s successful format, with 20 applicants being shortlisted to go in front of the judging panel which will select the 10 winners. Each of the winners will receive €5,000 in cash along with €5,000 in solutions and services from Three Ireland.

The judges for this year’s programme are Siobhán Finn, national hub network manager for the Community Enterprise Association of Ireland; Marine André, head of performance at Enterprise Nation; Michael O’Dea, senior development adviser, high potential start-ups with Enterprise Ireland; Sonya Lennon, entrepreneur and advocate for workplace equality; and Padraig Sheerin.

“I am delighted to come on board as a judge for Three’s Grants for Small Businesses programme, and to see the development of so many exciting companies who are thriving with the support of Three,” says Lennon. “Seeing how the small businesses from this programme have developed and grown their teams over the course of the past year is inspirational. It serves as a reminder of what we can achieve when we are given the proper fuel. I have been involved with various small businesses throughout my career, and know the hard work, dedication and perseverance it takes to build something from the ground up.

“Last year’s winners, including ByoWave, AgriGuardian and HerSport, really inspire me,” she adds. “Their extraordinary teams are shaping our future, enacting real change and altering the landscape of their respective fields. What Three Ireland has done with this programme is powering such positive change. These businesses won’t be small for long.”

The advisory component of the grants is very important, according to Sheerin. “There are lots of grant programmes but ours is different. We have our own experts available across different aspects of technology. AgriGuardian was very interested in IoT, for example. Others were looking at office connectivity or equipping mobile staff with tablets. It was very insightful for our technology teams to hear the winners’ stories and learn about the challenges they are facing while coming up with solutions for them.”

The Three Grants for Small Businesses programme is open to businesses in the Republic of Ireland with fewer than 10 employees and which have been trading for at least six months. Judging starts on October 27th and the winners will be announced in November.