23 Feb 2018 | 11.54 am
Interview: Sheelagh Daly, Local Enterprise Offices
LEOs urging firms to be Brexit ready
23 Feb 2018 | 11.54 am
The 31 Local Enterprise Offices around Ireland are an important port of call for first-time entrepreneurs and micro enterprises. The LEO network provides supports such as advice, training and mentoring, as well as direct grant aid to eligible projects. Funding includes feasibility study grants, business expansion grants and vouchers of up to €2,500 to help businesses trade online.
Sheelagh Daly chairs the LEO network and is head of enterprise in LEO Wicklow. She acknowledges that time pressures can distract entrepreneurs from developing clear business strategies, which can result in them missing out on available supports.
“The LEOs would like to see more engagement by micro enterprises in assessing the potential impact of Brexit on their business,” says Sheelagh. “To start, they can complete the Brexit Scorecard that is available online through each LEO website.”
Regarding e-commerce, LEO client companies are aware of its benefits and their interest has been prompted in part by the availability of the trading online vouchers. “Across the country, thousands of businesses take part in the wide range of digital marketing training available through their local LEO. The Trading Online Voucher Scheme is a great scheme, as the eligibility criteria is very broad. Most micro enterprises can qualify for a €2,500 grant towards developing their e-commerce activities.”
Mentoring provision is another popular service provided to entrepreneurs through LEOs, says Sheelagh. “Most micro enterprises do not have the type of management structures typically found in larger SMEs, so it is critical for them to be able to engage with a trusted, confidential and objective adviser.
“The LEO mentor scheme can be used to develop business strategy or to address specific business issues or opportunities that arise. In the LEO network, we are particularly keen to encourage businesses to engage with us on assessing their exposure to Brexit and putting in place plans to address it.”
Despite the spectre of Brexit, LEO client companies are optimistic and ambitious regarding 2018, Sheelagh adds. “We are seeing increased levels of investment in business development and expansion, including taking on employees, and an outward-looking approach to increasing sales and exploring new markets.”