Help­ing your Busi­ness Re­spond to COVID-19

Lo­cal En­ter­prise Of­fices can help your busi­ness re­spond to the Covid-19 pan­demic

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The net­work of Lo­cal En­ter­prise Of­fices (LEO) has been help­ing busi­nesses re­spond to the crit­i­cal chal­lenges pre­sented by the Covid-19 pan­demic.

Ac­cord­ing to Richard Mur­phy, Man­ager of the LEO Sup­port, Pol­icy and Co-or­di­na­tion Unit in En­ter­prise Ire­land: “Lo­cal En­ter­prise Of­fices in lo­cal au­thor­i­ties have been help­ing thousands of small busi­nesses re­spond to the cri­sis. The mea­sures an­nounced by Gov­ern­ment as part of the July Jobs Stim­u­lus will help LEOs sup­port many more small busi­nesses around the coun­try as part of Ire­land’s eco­nomic re­cov­ery.

“Sup­ports are also avail­able to help small busi­nesses get ready for Brexit and to pre­pare for cus­toms on 1 Jan­uary 2021. Our ad­vice is to talk to your Lo­cal En­ter­prise Of­fice to work to­gether on a tai­lored so­lu­tion for your busi­ness.”

Oisin Geoghe­gan, Chair of the Net­work of Lo­cal En­ter­prise Of­fices and Head of LEO Fin­gal, says the LEOs wel­come the ad­di­tional fund­ing pro­vided in the July Jobs Stim­u­lus pack­age, which is tar­geted specif­i­cally at mi­cro-en­ter­prises. “It is re­ally needed to en­able us to sup­port small busi­nesses through this cri­sis and max­imise their chances of re­cov­ery in the months ahead,” says Geoghe­gan.

De­tailed be­low are the range of com­ple­men­tary sup­ports avail­able to peo­ple who want to start or grow a busi­ness.

Trad­ing On­line Voucher Scheme

Un­der the Gov­ern­ment’s Na­tional Dig­i­tal Strat­egy, the ex­panded Trad­ing On­line Voucher Scheme helps small busi­nesses with up to 10 em­ploy­ees to trade more on­line, boost sales and reach new mar­kets. There is up to €2,500 avail­able through the Lo­cal En­ter­prise Of­fices, with co-fund­ing of 10% from the busi­ness. The com­pet­i­tive scheme is open to busi­nesses that have been trad­ing for at least six months. Busi­nesses that have al­ready re­ceived a Trad­ing On­line Voucher can now ap­ply for a sec­ond voucher, where up­grades are re­quired.

Fund­ing can be used towards adding pay­ment fa­cil­i­ties or book­ing sys­tems to your web­site or de­vel­op­ing new apps for your cus­tomers. The voucher can also be used towards sub­scrip­tions to low-cost on­line re­tail plat­form so­lu­tions, to help com­pa­nies quickly es­tab­lish a re­tail­ing pres­ence on­line.

“Ad­di­tional fund­ing pro­vided in the July Jobs Stim­u­lus pack­age means that LEOs are well funded to con­tinue to of­fer Trad­ing On­line Vouch­ers,” Geoghe­gan ex­plains. “If you have re­ceived a voucher be­fore, you can reap­ply — per­haps to in­crease the ap­peal of your web­site or for mar­ket­ing in­vest­ment.”

COVID-19 Busi­ness Loans

The Covid-19 Busi­ness Loan from Mi­cro­fi­nance Ire­land (MFI), in part­ner­ship with Lo­cal En­ter­prise Of­fices, is de­signed for mi­cro-en­ter­prises that are hav­ing dif­fi­culty ac­cess­ing bank fi­nance and im­pacted neg­a­tively by Covid-19, re­sult­ing in a re­duc­tion in turnover or profit.

Busi­ness Loans of up to €50,000 are avail­able for el­i­gi­ble mi­cro-en­ter­prises with less than 10 em­ploy­ees and up to €2m an­nual turnover that are cur­rently trad­ing. Loans may be used for work­ing cap­i­tal and re­quired busi­ness changes as a re­sult of Covid-19. There’s a lower in­ter­est rate if submitted through your Lo­cal En­ter­prise Of­fice, and loan terms are typ­i­cally up to three years. There is also an in­ter­est-free and re­pay­ment-free pe­riod at the start of the loan.

Ac­cord­ing to Oisin Geoghe­gan: “The Lo­cal En­ter­prise Of­fice will ap­point some­body to pro­vide guid­ance on MFI loan ap­pli­ca­tions. You will want to make sure that you are ap­ply­ing for the right pack­age and the right type of fund­ing for your busi­ness. Busi­nesses that are re-open­ing need to re­stock and re­hire peo­ple. If the busi­ness is in a po­si­tion to res­tart and grow, it may need a cash in­jec­tion to do that.”

LEO Fi­nan­cial Sup­ports

For ex­ist­ing com­pa­nies and po­ten­tial start-ups that meet el­i­gi­bil­ity cri­te­ria, LEOs also of­fer Busi­ness Prim­ing Grants, Busi­ness Ex­pan­sion Grants, Fea­si­bil­ity Study Grants, and Tech­ni­cal As­sis­tance for Mi­cro-Ex­porters Grant. “A lot of prim­ing grant ap­provals are com­ing about re­cently so hope­fully that is a pos­i­tive sign,” says Geoghe­gan. “Fea­si­bil­ity ap­pli­ca­tions have been quite con­sis­tent too, in­di­cat­ing that the en­tre­pre­neur­ial spirit is for­mi­da­ble.”

LEAN for Mi­cro

LEAN for Mi­cro is avail­able to LEO clients to help build re­silience. Clients can avail of con­sul­tancy sup­port with a qual­i­fied LEAN prac­ti­tioner who will work with the com­pany to un­der­take a spe­cific-cost sav­ings project and as­sist the com­pany in bench­mark­ing its per­for­mance. LEAN for Mi­cro can also be used to help im­ple­ment new re­mote work­ing and phys­i­cal dis­tanc­ing guide­lines.

Train­ing and We­bi­nars

Lo­cal En­ter­prise Of­fices have moved train­ing pro­grammes, work­shops and net­work­ing meet-ups on­line. Ac­cord­ing to Geoghe­gan: “When the pan­demic started we re­fash­ioned the train­ing with more of a cri­sis man­age­ment fo­cus. More re­cently there has been strong up­take again in start your own busi­ness and man­age­ment pro­grammes.

“It’s all de­liv­ered on­line now and over 30,000 peo­ple have taken part in train­ing pro­grammes through their Lo­cal En­ter­prise Of­fice since the start of the pan­demic. Lots of firms that we never dealt with be­fore are en­gag­ing with our pro­grammes now. On­line de­liv­ery has worked very suc­cess­fully when you look at the value of it for the clients.”

Men­tor­ing

Un­der the LEO Men­tor pro­gramme, clients work with an ex­pe­ri­enced men­tor to iden­tify so­lu­tions to ar­eas of ex­po­sure within their busi­ness. Clients de­velop strate­gies that are more ro­bust, and they ex­plore po­ten­tial op­por­tu­ni­ties. Men­tor­ing ser­vices are now free of charge un­til the end of 2020.

Geoghe­gan ex­plains: “When clients ap­proach their Lo­cal En­ter­prise Of­fice they will of­ten be as­signed a men­tor in the first in­stance. The men­tor will ex­am­ine their spe­cific re­quire­ments in de­tail. That first port of call is ex­tremely im­por­tant be­cause it can be chal­leng­ing to nav­i­gate the var­i­ous pro­grammes and sup­ports. The men­tor will ad­vise on how the client can ad­dress prob­lems on is­sues such as busi­ness strat­egy, mar­ket­ing, fi­nance and HR. Due to the pan­demic, LEOs are waiv­ing men­tor­ing fees un­til the end of 2020.”

Oisin Geoghe­gan, Chair of the Net­work of Lo­cal En­ter­prise Of­fices

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