Starting a business? Let your Local Enterprise Office make it happen
Sligo company Quickcrop, now a multi-million euro business, started with funding from their Local Enterprise Office
Andrew Davidson and Niall McAllister: “We went to our LEO and they were very quick to support us”
One of the most challenging aspects of starting your own business is knowing where to begin, and who to ask for good advice. There are 31 Local Enterprise Offices (LEOs) in Ireland offering a range of support for those just starting out in their business, or those who want to develop. All 31 are coming together for “Local Enterprise Week” which will run from March 4th to March 8th. It features more than 300 events in LEOs around the country. Local Enterprise Week, which is supported by Enterprise Ireland and the local authorities, is a celebration of local enterprise and businesses and the events are designed to help you plan, start or grow your business in 2019.
Local Enterprise Week
Oisin Geoghegan is head of enterprise at Local Enterprise Office Fingal and chair of the network of Local Enterprise Offices.
“There will be a wide range of events for Local Enterprise Week including things like business advice clinics and networking events. There are management development programmes and seminars on things like how to raise finance for your business, how to prepare for Brexit, how to use technology in business, how to exploit social media. Nearly all of the events are low cost or free of charge which makes it very accessible.”
Geoghegan said this week was important to each LEO as it is a celebration of what small businesses mean to the local and national economy, as well as what they mean to their communities.
“It’s shining a light on enterprise and the contribution small businesses make to our economy and to our society. It’s showing, in a very positive light, a lot of what’s going on in the country in terms of entrepreneurial activity, innovation and there is an awful lot of really good initiatives going on in Ireland. It’s also connecting people who are in business or setting up a business with the State agencies that are there to help and support them.”
The LEOs are the “first-stop shop” for business support. There are many support services that are available including funding and other financial supports for qualifying businesses. Then there are “soft-supports” like management development programmes, business mentoring services and networking opportunities.
“Specifically, each LEO provides a range of supports for entrepreneurs at any stage of business. From those who have an idea for a business and want to ascertain whether it’s going to be viable or not, to those with businesses who are actually in the process of getting started, through to existing businesses that are looking to grow and develop. They can all avail of support services from their LEO.”
One of the key things for anyone thinking about starting a business, said Geoghegan, is to be honest with yourself. “The first thing I would advise someone is to focus on yourself and identify your own strengths and weaknesses in driving this business.”
“If you have an idea for a business and you are looking to bring it to market you are really better off to take a step back and undertake a ‘start your own business course’ to enable you to upskill yourself with the requisite skills to run a business.
Niall McAllister runs Quickcrop with his business partner Andrew Davidson. It is a Sligo-based online garden supplies company that helps you grow home-grown produce, with little fuss. They received a lot of support from their LEO in Sligo and the company is now a multi-million euro business.
McAllister agrees with Geoghegan about being brutally honest with yourself from the outset of starting a new business.
“My business partner, Andrew, finance is not his forte, he is massively creative, he’s built a fantastic website, the look and feel of what we do is all based around him but I have a good financial head. He didn’t say: ‘Oh, I don’t have a good financial head, so I can’t run a business.’ He said: ‘That’s my weakness, I’ll find somebody who is strong in that area.’ And that’s what we did. So my weaknesses are his strengths and vice-versa, so you don’t have to have it all yourself.”
McAllister said their LEO in Sligo was a huge support to them at many stages on their start-up journey.
“I think we were about a year into the business when we were growing the plants which people put into their beds in our own small little polytunnels, and we realised if we were going to do this we were going to have to do it properly and put up a big tunnel which was about €9,000. We knew we couldn’t afford that. I had written a business plan and we went to our LEO and they were very quick to support us. I think they funded 50 per cent of that, which made a massive difference. We were then able to really start to build the business.”
As well as availing of the support of a business mentor, Quickcrop also received funding for various steps along the way with their LEO. “I have to say they were fantastic every time. We have a very good relationship with them and they understood very early on what Quickcrop was about, and the potential of it.”
“Local Enterprise Offices are incredibly supportive of businesses. They run a lot of really great courses about social media or how to manage your cash flow. If you’ve done your work and you have a plan and you’re prepared to invest in it yourself, time-wise and your own money, they are extremley supportive. Here in Sligo, they are absolutely excellent.” said McAllister.
If you’d like to grow your start-up, talk to your Local Enterprise Office. Together, we can make it happen.
To find your Local Enterprise Office, see localenterprise.ie/makingithappen
Funding for Local Enterprise Offices, which work in partnerhip with Enterprise Ireland and local authorities, is provided by the Government of Ireland through the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation.