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Local Enterprise Week goes virtual to better benefit Irish small businesses

Organised by Local Enterprise Offices nationwide, 200-plus events will take place online from March 1st - 5th and are aimed at those looking to start, grow or pivot a business

Local Enterprise Week, the country's flagship entrepreneurial event, is back with a virtual bang this year. It is running from Monday, March 1st to Friday, March 5th, under the theme of 'Making It Happen', and the entire programme of events - including over 200 seminars, workshops and master classes - is going online.

That makes it easier than ever to attend and, given the challenging times we are in, more important too.

Themes covered this year include starting a business, diversification, sustainability, resilience and the green economy. Events will also focus on competitiveness, internationalisation, digitalisation, and our new trading relationship with the UK.

For anyone looking to start, grow or – increasingly - pivot a business, there is no better way to find out how to turbo charge your progress.

Get the lean advantage

Attendance at a Local Enterprise Week presentation last year helped transform Barry Flanagan's business, Kildare Brewing Company.

He attended a talk about a LEO initiative called Lean for Micro, given by a local businessman. “At Local Enterprise Week you hear case studies from the actual businesspeople and after hearing what was said about Lean, I thought I would give it a go myself,” says Flanagan.

He set up his brewery in 2017 and today it supplies pubs, supermarkets and a two-Michelin starred restaurant, all within Kildare. The 1,000l microbrewery grew out of the success of his craft beer pub next door, Lock13, in Sallins.

We used to think we were great to get 1,500 bottles filled, capped and packed onto pallets in a day. By just moving things around we can now do 8,000 a day

LEO Kildare provided Kildare Brewing Company with a dedicated Lean mentor to help him find ways to boost efficiency. The mentor worked via Zoom and, when Covid restrictions allowed, in person.

It provided Flanagan with a fresh pair of eyes with which to assess the systems and processes that had built up in the business, which employs four people.

“Our Lean mentor pointed out that the customer only pays for the liquid in the bottle, so we must make sure there is absolutely no waste in anything we do or anything we use,” says Flanagan.

A simple adjustment to the positioning of its production and packing line boosted productivity. “We used to think we were great to get 1,500 bottles filled, capped and packed onto pallets in a day. By just moving things around we can now do 8,000 a day,” says Flanagan.

Optimising production has freed up time for more activities that add value, hugely important to a business that has already successfully launched an entirely new product, ProKulture Organic Kombucha, which it sells through Aldi.

Efficiency is a key enabler of growth. “Lean for Micro has given us processes where, before, everything was very ad hoc,” he explains.

“All staff are included in it. We now have a whiteboard that we use to raise issues and look for solutions and we’ve cleared time each week for what we call “Fermented Fridays”, where we come up with new ideas and new product development,” says Flanagan.

As a publican, he knows first-hand the importance of innovation in finding ways to cope in the most difficult of trading conditions. “It’s adapt or die,” he says.

Video supplied by Local Enterprise Office

What’s in it for you?

So evangelical is Barry Flanagan about the experience that this year he is talking about Lean for Micro at a Spotlight event organised by LEO Kildare on March 2nd. The event is open to all businesses and takes place during Local Enterprise Week. It will set out the many supports available, as well as an introduction to Lean thinking.

It is just one of over 200 such events taking place this year, which also features 10 Spotlight events. All Spotlight events are free and all are open to businesses across the country:

  • LEO Donegal is hosting Spring Back & Step Forward on March 1st: Building Leadership and Resilience, focused on developing leadership and resilience to adapt to the challenges and opportunities facing businesses today
  • LEO Galway is running Building the New, on March 2nd, focusing on innovation and opportunity, and featuring a selection of new businesses including some which began because of Covid and others which have had to innovate
  • LEO South Cork is offering AgriTech Revolution in Farming and Food on March 3rd, looking at how agri-technology is transforming farming and where export opportunities now lie
  • LEO Carlow has Creative Connections: Enabling your B2B Online Opportunities on March 3rd, aimed at entrepreneurs in creative sectors
  • LEO Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown is running Engage for Growth with TV presenter David Meade on March 4th, an interactive session on the psychology of leadership
  • LEO Clare is running S.M.A.R.Tech for Start-ups on March 4th, looking at digital transformation technologies such as Internet of Things and Industry 4.0, robotics and data analysis
  • LEO Wexford is providing a Masterclass on business health and financial health on March 4th, with management expert Blaise Brosnan
  • LEO Fingal is hosting a Trading Online Voucher information webinar showcasing what it can do for your business on March 5th. Worth up to €2,500, or 50 per cent of eligible expenditure, the voucher can be used towards developing a new ecommerce website, or upgrading an existing one.

This year sees the launch of a new LEO support too, called Green for Micro.

LEO Dublin City is running a Spotlight event to showcase it, entitled Benefits of Green for Your Business on March 1st, featuring Emmet Bosonnet, founder of Kopper Kreation, a fast-growing industrial homewares business.

Get the green advantage too

Bosonnet, a qualified engineer, had the idea for Kopper Kreation when he saw the vast quantities of waste materials such as iron, brass and copper off-cuts, generated by the heating and plumbing industry.

“Tonnes of it are thrown out every month,” says Bosonnet, whose research showed him just how much energy was used to have it shipped to the Far East and smelted down.

He uses metal waste to create beautiful homewares, from lamps to bookstands and decorative items, selling them online and from his retail space in Dublin’s Chocolate Factory too.

Apart from their intrinsic beauty, the fact that they are made from recycled goods is a huge part of their success, says Bosonnet.

He started the business in 2018 but only got in touch with his Local Enterprise Office, LEO Dublin City, a year later. “I just felt I didn’t need their help. It is a big mistake I made. I wish now I had, because it is really challenging to run your own business,” he says.

His business is not just about crafting beautiful artefacts, it’s about all the back office administration, sales and marketing too. “You have to be a jack of all trades as well as a master of one,” says Bosonnet.

He received a Business Priming Grant, which helped support the cost of a salary while he was developing his product and sales pipelines.

He also participated in the Showcase tradeshow with LEO, which introduced him to international buyers, and received LEO training which helped him with issues such as pricing and margin, areas he found tricky to figure when starting out.

Local Enterprise Offices were established in 2014 as the “first stop shop” for all these kinds of enterprise support, based in local authority areas. Local Enterprise Week, which is a Local Enterprise Office Initiative supported by Enterprise Ireland, local authorities and the Government of Ireland, is the perfect place to find out how these supports can help your business.

“I’d advise anyone starting off to make contact with your Local Enterprise Office,” says Bosonnet, who is looking forward to sharing his insights about the value of sustainability in business at this year’s Local Enterprise Week.

“People are more conscious now about what they are buying and where it comes from,” he says. “I’m offering recycled and sustainable handmade goods – and I’m getting a lot of repeat business as a result.”

Find out what programmes and supports are the best fit for your business in 2021. Book your place at a Local Enterprise Week event today - localenterprise.ie/week.

Together, we can make it happen.