Organico: Turning online retail into a healthy business during Covid-19

Online trading has become a lifeline for retail businesses that have had to close during the recent Covid-19 lockdowns.

Even when things eventually get back to normal, it’s widely predicted that the gains in online business will continue as consumers become accustomed to this way of shopping. Enterprise Ireland’s Online Retail Scheme is designed to help smaller Irish retailers develop their online offering – and those who availed of it pre- and during the pandemic have been reaping the rewards that a good ecommerce site can offer during difficult times.

One such business is Organico, a West Cork family-run healthfood business, which was founded in 1992 by Alan Dare and currently run by his daughters, Hannah and Rachel. The original bricks and mortar store was joined over time by a café and a bakery, and about a decade ago, by an online shop too.

“In West Cork there’s always been a strong interest in health, as a lot of people would have relocated here because they wanted to escape the mainstream,” explains Hannah. “As a result, we had a good customer base from the start. However, even though our customer base is spread out over all of West Cork and in the summer we would have benefited from the tourist trade, it’s still a limited market. So going online was an obvious move for us to expand our business.

“We first went online about ten years ago, when we had to choose between another bricks and mortar store and a website.

“We started out with just niche products on a WordPress site; now we have around 3,000 live products, and possibly another 1,000 products that either come and go or are in the pipeline to be added.” says Hannah

 

Expanding the business

For Organico, an online shop was a challenge as they offer such a wide range of products. Building this kind of ecommerce shop requires a lot of expertise, technology and funding, as a system needs to be put in place with such sophisticated functions as integrated stock levels to make order fulfilment as easy as possible for the company and for the business to be viable with less manual work. So before the company enhanced their online offering, Hannah and Rachel applied for funding from Enterprise Ireland’s Online Retail Scheme.

“We’ve had two rounds of the Online Retail Scheme, and Enterprise Ireland has been incredibly helpful,” says Hannah. “We received the first funding last year, and we applied because we wanted to upgrade the online shop software – which is a huge investment. 

“For us, the funding was hugely helpful, as to get the expertise and the work of good ecommerce specialists would be out of our budget otherwise.

“We also work with a digital marketing company who specialise in helping smaller companies. When you’re a small business it’s all about word of mouth; online was a completely different experience for us and you’re using a whole load of platforms you’re not familiar with. The scheme helped us access the right support for marketing our online offerings.

“The scheme has allowed us to access support companies, and I believe that is the scheme’s big benefit – to lift smaller retailers and allow them to compete with bigger companies.”

 

Overcoming Covid-19 and Brexit issues

For Organico, the funding couldn’t have come at a better time. “We were incredibly lucky because the funding came in before Covid-19 hit. We had a very busy Christmas with hampers in 2019, and we had to ramp up our production as a result. Then we had a little breather before the lockdown came in. But, by then, our new online shop was ready and we were able to take advantage of the opportunities afforded by lockdown to build our online business.”

As Organico is considered an essential retailer, their shop is still trading – that said, online is currently playing a massive role in the company’s operations. “Right now, it’s nearly 50/50 between online and the main business because of lockdown. During the last lockdown we got so busy that we had to temporarily turn the website off; this lockdown, we’ve built that online business even further. This time we’ve also had local people buying online, which is new for us.”

Any boost is welcome for businesses in these tricky times, especially for retail businesses like Organico, who also have Brexit to deal with. “We’ve had time to prepare for Brexit, to source products directly from Europe,” says Hannah. “There has been a lot of improvements in labelling over the last few years, which has allowed us look for goods from places like Holland. That said, because of the nature of the deal, our preparations didn’t translate into a smooth transition and we’ve had a couple of issues, such as organic certification and foods of animal origin, which affects even supplements containing fish oil.”

Alongside dealing with these issues, Hannah is keep to set up the right structure to service their clients even better post-lockdown. “Right now, we’re hiring to strengthen our online team, and we’re having to expand the physical space too, to cope with the online business. We’ve decided not to reopen the café as it’s a big space and although we’d be busy in the summer, it’s too big a space for most of the year. We’re currently using it as a warehouse for online, but our long-term plan is to expand the shop to make it safer for shoppers post-lockdown, and to make it more efficient for picking up online orders. Good service for both online and in-person customers is important for success in the future.”

Learn how the Covid-19 Online Retail Scheme can support your retail business online growth.

Greenes Shoes: Putting their best foot forward in online retail

Fashion online retail is a fiercely competitive area; here, an Irish retailer might find themselves fighting for business alongside stores from all over the world, not to mention giants such as Amazon, ASOS, Shein, Littlewoods and more. But for Greenes Shoes, with seven shops in Letterkenny, Galway and Limerick, an improved online presence meant opening their market up beyond their geographical area, and most importantly, providing insurance during the unprecedented effects of Covid-19 lockdowns.

Recognising that the retail environment was changing rapidly, Orla McFadden, general manager and director at Greenes Shoes, applied to Enterprise Ireland’s Online Retail Scheme  to improve their website, a move that was to pay off immensely in 2020. “We began our website about ten years ago, as we knew that online was going to be a big part of the future for retail. We started off small, with only our bestsellers and just one image per shoe, and it’s only really in the last couple of years that we’ve really concentrated on it.

“I think you also have to remember that a website is not just about selling online; a lot of people do their research online before coming into the shop to buy. So we felt that having a presence online was vital for our business. The main challenge online is competition, but there’s also the challenge of showcasing our brand to a wider audience amidst all of that competition and driving more traffic to the website.”

But rather than being put off by the intensely competitive nature of online fashion retail, Orla and her team decided to go for it, applying for the scheme to update their website’s platform. “Our previous platform was quite old and when online activity increased during the first lockdown, I realised how much manual work was involved in fulfilling orders. So I used the money to move to a platform that was integrated with our stock system and with our couriers.”

 

Lifeline during lockdown

Orla was already planning the new site, and when lockdown hit and Greenes had been accepted for the scheme, she was able to give the project her complete attention and get the new site up and running as soon as possible – which she achieved in mid-April 2020. “The timing was ideal as I was able to concentrate on it 100%, and obviously when trading stopped, so did our cash flow, so knowing we have that funding there for the job really was a godsend.

“It was harder for people who had no online presence at all because it was a lifeline during lockdown. The updated website allowed us to do a lot more ourselves, such as putting certain products at the front of the site, rather than having to ring a company to do it for us. For instance, at the start of the lockdowns, sales of healthcare workplace shoes, such as nurses’ shoes, just went through the roof, and we were able to promote these and put them to the front of the site so easily. The customer journey was so much easier too. Really, it was like chalk and cheese between the old and the new website.”

With the bricks and mortar shops closed for a third of 2020, the increased online business was a lifeline for the company and showed Orla and her team that just because the shops were shut, this didn’t mean that people did not want to shop for shoes. “About ten days after the shops shut, online picked up and rapidly increased after that. You could see then that people still had the appetite for buying shoes and if they couldn’t come into the shop, they’d go online instead. And in a way, I think the crisis changed people’s buying habits. 

“Our online business plateaued and levelled when we reopened, but they stayed at a much higher rate than before the lockdown.” says Orla

 

Going a step further

Orla now believes that their website is the perfect accompaniment to their seven shops, especially as consumers have now adapted to shopping online. “I think online really is the way of the future,” she explains. “You don’t know what’s coming down the line, so it’s good to have that part of the business developed. I think people have changed their habits too, maybe discovered how handy online shopping is. Plus it opens up our business to the entire country and beyond.

“I can’t open a shop in every county in Ireland but by going online, I can sell to every county. We also have customers in the UK and Europe, and this is something we’d like to develop further.” 

And with Brexit causing issues for Irish shoppers on UK sites, Greenes is in a great position to increase their business both online and in-store. “I think we will benefit from Brexit; added charges and longer shipping times might encourage Irish people to order from Irish retailers instead. Also, I think the Covid-19 pandemic has made Irish people more inclined to buy Irish and support local retailers, and Brexit has just intensified that.”

For now, as she awaits the signal that their shops can reopen, Orla is concentrating on improving the website even further. “This time, we’ll invest in adding extra functionality to the site, such as store locators, giftwrapping, a virtual shopper to show you more styles that you might like in the same category or brand. These functions will make the site even smarter and more user friendly, and really establish Greenes as a strong online retailer.”

Learn how the Covid-19 Online Retail Scheme can support your retail business online growth.

Middle East Aviation: Ready to soar once again in the post-pandemic future

The Covid-19 pandemic has hit few sectors harder than the aviation industry, with severe restrictions on travel and closed borders resulting in a dramatic decline in passenger volumes globally. Airports around the world have had their resilience tested to the limit as they faced the initial paralysis of the skies, followed by the ongoing waves of the pandemic. However, there is a glimmer of light on the horizon driven by the rollout of the global vaccination programme in the majority of countries, albeit at different levels of implementation.

 

Predicted growth

Despite the significantly curtailed demand globally and regionally due to Covid-19, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) predicts the Middle East will see a 4.4 percent growth in passenger journeys over the period through to 2039. “With the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) home to some of the most advanced airports in the world and often exceling in passenger service, they are on the front foot to ensure restored confidence in flying once again,” said Alan O’ Mahony, Market Advisor for the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region at Enterprise Ireland.

“Airport operators and airlines are monitoring the situation closely and continue to adapt to the evolving situation. They are now faced with the challenge of balancing additional health and safety requirements with providing a good passenger experience as they seek to restore confidence in air travel. Innovation and technology across the Middle East will play a key role in unlocking improvements for passenger experience and safety whilst also igniting the recovery for the sector. Ireland has forged a strong reputation for delivering world-leading innovative solutions that are used every day by the largest airlines in the world and across the wider aviation sector. We need this innovation now more than ever to power the industry’s recovery and Irish companies will continue to shape this new age for air travel.”

Pandemic-era air travel

Technology has advanced swiftly over the course of the pandemic in reaction to the ever-changing environment, and a new focus on health considerations in technology and process transformation has emerged.

“One trend that will become more widespread is the adoption of contactless technology in order to minimise the spread of viruses and reduce interaction between staff and passengers throughout the entire journey,” explained Alan. “A good case in point is Irish company IO Systems which operates the automated baggage return tray systems in Dubai International Airport. The company has adapted its latest models to include blue light cleansing technology to ensure their trays are actively cleaned as they automatically return through the baggage system. Airports can ensure additional safety measures are applied whilst still ensuring a good passenger experience is delivered through the introduction of these type of innovative solutions.”

 

Taking flight

“The hot topic in the industry right now is the digital health certification to capture the completed vaccination process or Covid-19 status of people intending to fly,” said Alan. “Irish biometric identity assurance specialist Daon is leading the way by creating the world’s first widely adopted mobile health passport to help those eligible to travel to navigate the changing entry requirements associated with Covid-19. The company’s new VeriFLY app, which has already been adopted by American Airlines, British Airways, Iberia Airlines and Aer Lingus, is designed to offer peace of mind before travel by ensuring passengers meet the entry requirements of their destination.”

VeriFLY provides digital health document verification, confirms eligibility, and allows people to combine necessary travel documents, such as Covid-19 test results, in one place, allowing travellers to ensure they are fully compliant with all the departure and arrival requirements before leaving home. Certified customers will be fast-tracked through the airport where specially designated desks are available for check in.

“The ingenuity, ambition, and adaptability that Daon and their partners have demonstrated throughout the pandemic are making a significant contribution to restoring traveller confidence and ensuring a positive passenger experience. It’s just one example of how innovation from Ireland, one of the major travel tech hubs in the world, is playing a leading role in the recovery for the sector.”

 

Advanced technologies

Responses to Covid-19 have accelerated the adoption of digital technologies across almost all sectors, and it’s thought that many of these changes will have a lasting impact. “With the global smart airports market to top $22.6 billion (USD) by 2025, the requirement for advanced technologies – especially as part of the immediate recovery – will continue to be an important market for the vast array of Irish companies operating in the sector. We are likely to see new entrants into the airport space across technologies such as biometrics, robotics, cloud technologies and IoT.”

“There is no doubt that the Covid-19 crisis has had a devastating impact on the air travel industry and the recovery for the industry is still some distance away. With that said, recent trends offer reasons for cautious optimism. While it’s certain that air travel will never look the same again, these innovative solutions will help to ensure international airline travel is, once more, cleared for take-off.”

 

One Planet. One Health – Danone and GreenPlus

“The health of people and the planet are intertwined.  You can’t have one without the other”, states Mark Stafford, Nature and Sustainability Manager at Danone, Wexford.

Danone’s mission is to bring health through food to as many people as possible with high quality products contributing to all life stages. This is where sustainability and the environment comes in and it is one of the four key pillars at the company – they have now adopted ‘nature’ as a business fundamental for all supply points and sustainability roadmaps for their brands.

The company used Enterprise Ireland’s GreenPlus scheme to empower line management and teams to manage and improve energy performance at basic unit level and they have now achieved certification to the prestigious ISO 50001 International Energy Management Standard.  This standard aims to help organisations to continually reduce their energy use and therefore their energy costs and their greenhouse gas emissions.

Through their work with GreenPlus, the Energy Management System (EnMS) at Danone has now been implemented successfully across the site, system accreditation has taken place and a number of energy saving opportunities have been identified. This has enabled the company to implement solutions and their annual energy savings are now measured and verified.

So how was their journey with Enterprise Ireland’s GreenPlus and what were their main challenges? Peter Pearson, Nature Co-ordinator explains: “We started looking at the gaps and found the biggest gap was metering.  Data monitoring and reporting systems presented a challenge as the metering available on-site did not satisfy our requirements with regard to reporting detail and frequency”.

“Going down the ISO 50001 route focused our minds on the areas we needed to tackle. It raised awareness within the company.  It identified savings and improved our knowledge on the use of energy onsite.  We found the process easy to navigate and it was fairly straightforward. It was great to have the support of Enterprise Ireland and it was very helpful.”

Danone aims to become carbon zero across their value chain by 2050 and to do that all elements of the business need to become carbon neutral. “Our plant in Co. Wexford has become the first infant formula production site in the world to be certified as carbon neutral.”

“Our net zero carbon rating has been certified by the Carbon Trust, an independent global climate change and sustainability consultancy,”  said Stafford

Explaining the benefits across Danone of engaging with GreenPlus, he pointed out that “We needed buy in from management which we quickly achieved and it was also important to make all employees aware of where we needed to get to and our ambitions. We weren’t surprised that through the GreenPlus process we identified many opportunities – we knew they were there but just didn’t have visibility of them.  The process helped us to pinpoint exactly where we needed to make improvements”.

“As part of our roadmap for the project there was also a huge focus on energy reduction and efficiencies and implementation of the ISO 50001 was crucial to that journey”.

From a business perspective, Mark Stafford and Peter Pearson point out that consumers and customers are looking for sustainability more and more and all the research backs this up.  The expectation is there and that goes for all activities within a company.

“The feedback is that people want more sustainably produced products and environmentally friendly products.” 

“All employees are now aware of where we need to get to.  We have nature champions across our business units and they are now bringing in their own ideas in relation to sustainability and the environment for our brands.  There are a lot of projects now going on in the company. This includes our intention for all of our supply points and business units to be BCorp certified. We know where we are and where we need to get to and what we want to achieve.  We are very focused.”

 To get your business ready for a green future visit Climate Enterprise Action Fund or contact the Climate Action Team

Ground-Breaking BidX1: Building GHG Strategy with GreenStart

Fast-moving digital property company BidX1 is changing the way property is bought and sold, making the process more transparent, efficient and convenient for users.

The firm has developed an innovative digital platform, tailored specifically for real estate transactions, and has sold over 10,000 properties to date, raising more than €2bn.

This rapidly expanding company, which is transforming the property landscape through technology has also taken a forward-thinking approach to climate action and sustainability.  BidX1 embarked on the Enterprise Ireland GreenStart programme to help them develop a GHG Emissions and Carbon Strategy – with the goal of ensuring that environmental principles are embedded in their business model.

The company, which is headquartered in Dublin and has operations in the UK, Spain, South Africa and Cyprus, was founded on an inherently sustainable ethos.  “We knew we were doing well from a sustainability perspective, but we didn’t have precise metrics to work with because we have been in such a high-growth phase for the past few years.”

“We’ve now established a Carbon strategy and have calculated our emissions across every market, identifying hotspots and key areas for improvement” explains Nicole Pomeroy, Head of Communications. 

While 2020 and the global pandemic was a watershed for traditional real estate agents, it was not a significant transition for BidX1 who pioneered a fully digital model in 2015.

“We have developed a digital platform which connects users across the globe with property investment opportunities in 5 markets – and enables them to complete the entire transaction online. We wanted to match that level of innovation and ambition in our environmental policies, putting climate action at the forefront of our decisions as we expand existing operations and also enter new markets”, she explained.

Passion for sustainability

Recommending the Enterprise Ireland GreenStart process she said: “All that is needed to start the process is somebody who is passionate and committed – and who is willing to bring that passion throughout the company” referring to her colleague Eanna Glynn who is part of the finance team and the Head of Sustainability at BidX1.

Eanna is passionate about sustainability and environmental issues and has led the charge within BidX1 with the full support of CEO Stephen McCarthy and the management team.  “We looked specifically at greenhouse gas emissions for the GreenStart process. I wanted to aim for carbon neutrality and when I spoke to the management team, they encouraged me to figure out what that journey would look like for us. We kickstarted that with a carbon assessment. It did seem daunting at first but once we had connected with our advisors via GreenStart, who are experts in this field, the process became quite seamless,” he explained.

“We have set up a dedicated sustainability team within the company with a sustainability lead in each of our markets as we had to think globally. GreenStart with Enterprise Ireland was the starting point for that.  We have been focussed internally so far but we will now be assessing more of our suppliers to encourage change externally too”.

They have been blown away by the enthusiasm within BidX1.  “It has had a snowball effect – it’s not just us driving this – it’s everybody.  We always thought we would be pushing a rock up a hill but for us the rock is already at the top of that hill! There is such support and enthusiasm internally – and while we have said that we can’t do everything all at once when it comes to sustainability – that enthusiasm is a good problem to have!”

The advice from BidX1 to other companies starting out on their green transformation journey is: “Don’t be afraid. Get started, with the right advice and assistance from Enterprise Ireland. Don’t think that because you are a professional services company or office-based firm that it’s not for you and it’s not relevant. It is. Until you start measuring and are clear on your own figures and targets, you cannot effect meaningful change.  It’s not just manufacturing companies that have to race to achieve the 2050 goals – it’s everybody.”

 

To get your business ready for a green future visit Climate Enterprise Action Fund or contact the Climate Action Team

 

 

Plenty to celebrate stateside this St Patrick’s Day

St Patrick’s Day offers an unrivalled opportunity to showcase Irish business innovation to a US audience.

The traditional meeting between the Taoiseach and US President is taking place virtually this year, leveraging our important ties and connectivity with our trans-Atlantic neighbour more than ever.  

The USA remains the world’s largest consumer market, a $22 trillion dollar economy. It grew by 4% in Q4 last year and early projections for 2021 indicate further growth of 3.2%, a strong performance for a developed economy.

Increasingly Irish companies succeed here by recognising that the USA is no more one market than Europe is, and that to penetrate it they must go in state by state. California’s economy is, after all, approximately the same size as that of the UK. New York’s is approximately the same size as South Korea.

 

The Pandemic Pivot

The Covid-19 pandemic has had a significant impact, with unemployment currently at 6.9%, up from 3.5% prior to Covid, which was a 50-year low. Lockdowns vary by state but as a whole the US is a market where the pivot happened fast, and the return will too.

One of the biggest trends we see is how major US multinationals, such as Facebook, Microsoft, and many others are embracing the lessons learned. They have ‘leaned in’ to the opportunities that remote working, accelerated technology adoption and virtual collaboration have presented.

Interestingly, this has also led to a level of economic migration and mobility not seen in generations as more and more people also take advantage of operating remotely and move to less dense population centres.

The crossing of the digital Rubicon has also led to accelerated growth in sectors that were once described as emerging, these include ecommerce, cybersecurity, and digital health. There has also been a marked increase in the demand for content driven by the rapid growth in usage and choice across stream platforms. These relatively sudden supply and demand shifts always result in direct and tangential opportunities, and threats.

As people live more online, those providing back end solutions, such as data management (provision and support products and services) and security, are seeing potential for robust growth.

 

Building Back Better

Further bolstering the optimism for strong 2021 GDP growth is the economic stimulus plan put forth by President Biden, further supplemented by significant planned investment in infrastructure and the green economy. At time of writing the $1.9 Trillion stimulus plan has moved back to the US House of Representatives for final ratification, this is expected to provide significant economic stimulus across the US.

Other sectors are of course challenged. International student numbers from the US to Ireland have fallen for obvious reasons. Consumer retail, for those that have not embraced ecommerce, is struggling, and other sectors that have historically relied on a tactile or physical element to the sales process, e.g. machinery, will naturally struggle more in a virtual environment.

A big question affecting businesses, and unknown in terms of our ‘new normal’, is what airline travel will look like. Capacity is certainly not what it was pre-Covid and there are complex variables that impact this supply and demand dynamic, not least of which are staff and equipment availability. Thankfully we continue to be relatively well served on the trans-Atlantic route.

Over the past 12 months Enterprise Ireland has also leaned in to supporting our clients to stabilise, reset and recover. Supports such as the Sustaining Enterprise Fund, Online Retail Scheme, Virtual Selling programme, Competitive Start, our many management training programmes and others have enabled companies not just to cope with the challenges of selling into the US and globally, but to compete for and capture the opportunities that now exist in our new normal.

 

Virtual St Patrick’s Day Celebrations

Enterprise Ireland is walking this walk too in our traditional St Patricks Day events, having taken the traditional week-long programme of events for St Patrick’s Day and working with our Team Ireland colleagues migrating it online. Where Team Ireland would normally have the Taoiseach, Ministers, and a programme of economic, political, social and cultural events from coast to coast and border to border, we have pivoted entirely and will instead be hosting a multi-faceted programme including a series of in-depth sectoral webinars.

We are running high profile mainstream media and social campaigns this week too, to maximise the impact of St Patrick’s Day, raising the profile of Irish companies and of the Irish Advantage.

None of us knows what the new normal will look like. We do know that it will not be a simple snapping back into the old ways. Over the past 12 months we have crossed the digital Rubicon. It is now up to all of us to embrace the digital opportunities on the other side. As Henry Ford said, “Whether you think you can, or whether you think you cannot, you are right”. We can.

 

Join Enterprise Ireland USA for the ‘Ireland and the US: On Track to Getting Back’ virtual event on 16th March where senior business leaders from both sides of the Atlantic will discuss learnings from 2020, and powering growth in 2021. Register here.

 

Getting There: Strategies to promote gender diversity in business

At Enterprise Ireland, we have long since recognised that one of the keys to optimising our start-up sector in Ireland is to boost gender equality in business.

Diversity in business is vital to reflect our modern, global economy and create growing, sustainable companies. Extensive international research has shown that diversity increases innovation and creativity, while research from McKinsey & Co revealed that gender diversity leads to improved productivity and increased profitability.

However, promoting gender diversity takes work. “Back in 2011, only 7% of our High-Potential Start-Ups (HPSUs) included a woman on the founding team,” says Sheelagh Daly, Entrepreneurship Manager at Enterprise Ireland. “Seeing this, we put in place specific goals and plans to increase this, and now, in 2020, 24% of our HPSUs have a woman founder.”

While Enterprise Ireland is well known for its entrepreneurship supports for women, increasing gender diversity in business leadership is a relatively new objective. Towards the end of 2018, Enterprise Ireland embarked on research to look at the broader issue of women in business to assess the current situation in Ireland and to see what could be done to improve the situation. The research revealed some unsettling statistics: that less than 20% of CEOs were women, falling to 9% in larger companies; that Ireland had the highest gender gap in self-employment in the EU; and that less than 10% of venture capital funding was going to companies with female founders. The research led to the publication of the Enterprise Ireland 2020 Action Plan for Women in Business.

“The plan has four objectives,” explains Sheelagh. “To increase the number of women becoming entrepreneurs, to increase the number of women founders in HPSUs, to increase the number of women-led companies growing internationally, and to increase the number of women in senior leadership positions in companies in Ireland. All these objectives are inter-connected, so to achieve one of them you need to achieve all of them.

“We’ve set ambitious targets for ourselves – we’d like to double the number of women-led companies in the export market by 2025.” says Daly.

Promoting female entrepreneurs

While the figures have improved immensely over the past few years, it’s clear there are still some physical and psychological barriers that pose more of a challenge for women in business. For instance, women still bear the brunt of unpaid work in Ireland; in 2019, the ‘Caring and Unpaid Work in Ireland Report’ from the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission and the Economic and Social Research Institute revealed that 45% of women provide care for children and older adults on a daily basis, compared with only 29% of men. Networking opportunities, mentors and the visibility of women leaders in enterprise have also been identified as important for women in business.

“One of the initiatives we developed to address the barriers to funding for women founders is a women-specific call for the Competitive Start Fund (CSF), a fund for early-stage start-ups with the potential to turn into HPSUs, with specific CSF calls for women entrepreneurs. In 2020, 42% of the CSF projects awarded were led by female founders.” says Daly.

“We also offer the ‘Innovate’ accelerator programme for women entrepreneurs which provides mentoring and a chance for women entrepreneurs to network and learn from each other.

This is also what is done in Going for Growth, an initiative supported by Enterprise Ireland to offer peer support along with the mentoring piece from successful women entrepreneurs through interactive round table sessions.”

“Another important initiative is the Part-time Key Manager Grant, which we introduced last year to facilitate the recruitment of part-time senior managers. The grant is available for both men and women, but aims to attract more women to senior management roles.”

 

Accessible help

While the specific female entrepreneur supports outlined above give gender equality a significant boost, a key aim at Enterprise Ireland is to make every programme accessible for all. For instance, the first stop for most entrepreneurs is Ireland’s network of Local Enterprise Offices (LEOs), with 31 offices in the country. The New Frontiers programme is delivered on behalf of Enterprise Ireland by Third Level Institutes in 16 locations around Ireland and helps entrepreneurs develop their business in readiness for further investment without significant financial risk.

“We see really strong companies led by women at every stage of their journey,” says Sheelagh. “The supports are there, and we are really keen for more women to avail of those supports. I do believe that there are a lot of women with great ideas and the ability to put them into action; it’s then about the confidence to take that leap and use supports like the New Frontiers programme and aids from the LEOs. Those supports are there and can lessen the risk for both men and women when developing a new business.”

“Through these initiatives, Enterprise Ireland seeks to address the challenges facing women in business and to inspire and accelerate the growth of Irish businesses by advancing gender diversity in leadership teams and excellence in our start-up sector.”

Start-Up Showcase class of 2020: Proving again the ambition and resilience of Ireland’s entrepreneurs

Starting a business is a difficult process at any time, but in 2020, it proved especially challenging, thanks to the uncertainty and difficulties created by the Covid-19 pandemic. But Irish entrepreneurs are nothing if not brave and ambitious, and 2020 was merely a year to show just how resilient and resourceful they are.

In fact, despite having to overcome issues such as remote working and lockdowns, many new start-ups found opportunity within the Covid-19 crisis, either by pivoting their business or finding solutions to problems faced by people and countries dealing with the pandemic. To support their level of bravery and true global ambition, Enterprise Ireland approved more than €48 million in funding for new start-up companies and other start-up projects impacted by the pandemic in 2020. This figure included investment in 125 founding teams, supporting 80 companies through its High Potential Start-Up (HPSU) fund and 45 through its Competitive Start Fund (CSF) programme.

The achievements of these start-ups were celebrated at this year’s Start-Up Showcase, which took place virtually on Wednesday 24th February and was officially launched by An Taoiseach Michéal Martin. Participants at the event included all of the HPSU and the CSF companies and a representative from each of the 13 New Frontiers programmes supported by Enterprise Ireland.

“Most of the 125 companies at Showcase came through over the last 11 months, so the message is that we’re very much still open for business,” says Jenny Melia, Enterprise Ireland Divisional Manager, HPSU. 

“The four main areas that we see are ICT, life sciences, fintech and food. In the last year we have adjusted to working remotely and living remotely, and many companies have been finding solutions to aid our new living and working needs, or pivoting their existing offerings to cater for this new need.”

Funding proved difficult for new start-ups in 2020; recognising this, Enterprise Ireland provided support to existing start-up projects through the Sustainable Enterprise Fund for HPSUs, and invested earlier into some new start-ups. “There is risk involved, but we decided to go in earlier into some projects and help them deliver on their technical and commercial milestones,” explains Jenny. “Because of Covid-19, we might see that a company has had its clinical trials postponed or perhaps a company trialling a software product had to put the test on the long finger. In these cases, if the ingredients were right, we might invest a little earlier than usual. Another important aspect for us was to keep founding teams together because companies have had to work so hard to get the right talent in place and the last thing you want is to see those teams start to fragment.”

 

Stand-out projects

Every company featured at Showcase is fulfilling a very real need, and has the potential to globally impact their sector. “One of the most exciting is a company called Novus Diagnostics,” says Jenny. “The two founders came through DCU and have developed a rapid test for sepsis – about 11 million people die worldwide every year from sepsis, and every hour that’s missed in the diagnosis pushed up the mortality rate. As well as securing HPSU funding, the team has won EU funding, which is very competitive.

“Another interesting company that has come through is Iamus Technologies, which has developed a smart robot for chicken breeding houses. The robot moves through the houses and measures the environment, the temperature, noting if any of the chicks are sick and alerting anything suspicious in real time. If anything goes wrong, it can spread very quickly in these environments, so having that alert in real time is really valuable. I think this is a great example of the strength we have in the agritech sector.”

 

Supporting female and regional entrepreneurs

Of particular interest is the promotion of women in business, and in 2020, almost 24% of the 80 new HPSUs supported by Enterprise Ireland are led by female entrepreneurs. And, 42% of the CSF projects awarded last year were led by female founders in sectors as diverse as climate change, fintech and edtech – proving that female entrepreneurship is incredibly strong in Ireland.

Our experience over the years has shown us that it’s not just about the funding but it’s also about the networking and capability development,”

“Alongside our female focus in the CSF, we set up a development programme called Innovate, where the female founders are networking and learning from each other, as well as learning from female entrepreneurs that have gone before them. We have found that this programme, alongside the funding and any other mentoring, has helped us to help the companies become investment-ready faster.”

Another area of interest is to promote regional development by ensuring entrepreneurs all over the country receive the support their need. “We work closely with the four business incubation centres around Ireland and the Local Enterprise Offices (LEOs) to ensure the companies from around Ireland are not just getting the funding support but they’re also getting the hands-on support in terms of building out the company. Balanced regional development is one of the key priorities for us at Enterprise Ireland.”

Jenny says that the intensity of this engagement is paying off; this is reflected in 2020’s figures, with a 50/50 split between new projects based in and outside Dublin in 2020. This reflects higher numbers in the West than in 2019, and more than double the numbers in the South.

 

Support from start to finish

Representatives from the New Frontiers national entrepreneurship programme also took part in the Showcase, reflecting the highly connective nature of Ireland’s start-up scene. Some companies complete New Frontiers and progress to CSF or directly to HPSU; others might be growing more slowly and will engage with our colleagues in the LEOs as they begin to build out their business,” says Jenny.

Both the CSF and the HPSU maintain strong links with Ireland’s network of LEOs and the New Frontiers programme to recognise new companies with great ideas as they emerge, getting ready to support them as they grow their idea into an innovative and thriving business. For entrepreneurs, knowing that this support is available from start to finish is encouraging, especially as we continue to navigate through the difficult economic environment created by Covid-19 and Brexit in 2021.

 

Transport & Logistics Industry Update – Webinar


The Covid-19 pandemic, Brexit and the re-shaping of transport routes brought a very turbulent start to 2021. Logistics and transportation companies involved in the movement, storage and flow of goods have been directly impacted and had to rapidly adapt to changing business landscape. Irish companies exporting their products or importing components or raw materials need to follow and understand these trends to stay competitive.

This Enterprise Ireland webinar identifies these challenges and examines current developments with a panel of industry experts.

The webinar is chaired by Enterprise Ireland’s Director UK & Northern Europe Marina Donohoe with insights from:

 • Gopal R, Global Leader, Supply Chain & Logistics, Frost & Sullivan

• John Ward, Managing Director, Maurice Ward & Co. Ltd Ireland

• Richard Nolan, CEO, Nolan Transport – Nolan Group

 

Register now to attend the webinar.

New Frontiers: Turning great ideas into promising businesses

Great ideas are in the Irish DNA, but turning these ideas into viable businesses takes time, ambition, hard work and support.

To help entrepreneurs turn their ideas into promising businesses, Ireland has built up a solid network of supports for early stage start-ups, with a high level of connectivity to ensure that businesses can access the right support at the right time.

Many entrepreneurs begin their business journey at the Local Enterprise Office (LEO), which offers a wide range of experience, skills and services.

Typical supports offered by the LEOs include training and mentoring programmes, access to financial support and microfinance loans, general business advice and help with business planning.  and with 31 LEOs nationwide, entrepreneurs don’t have to travel far to find business support.

The LEOs are also the front door into other support services such as the local authorities, Enterprise Ireland and State agencies, including the Department of Social Protection, Skillnets, Education and Training Boards, Microfinance Ireland, Revenue and Fáilte Ireland.

The beauty of the structure is that it’s inter-connected,” explains Teri Smith, manager at Enterprise Ireland’s High Potential Start-Up (HPSU) division. 

“At the HPSU, we would communicate with the LEOs and other starter programmes like New Frontiers, so a suitable business can very readily come onto our radar if they’re going through those channels, which allows us to transition them at the right time.” 

“From an Enterprise Ireland point of view, a lot of entrepreneurs would have started out with LEO supports or New Frontiers; when they have their business plan, their prototype and their market opportunities mapped out, and ready to raise seed investment, that’s generally when they transition to Enterprise Ireland.”

 

New Frontiers

The highly regarded New Frontiers programme is a popular starting point for many entrepreneurs. Like the LEO supports, New Frontiers is available nationwide and is delivered on behalf of Enterprise Ireland by Institutes of Technology and Technological Universities in 16 locations around Ireland. Since Enterprise Ireland began managing the programme in 2012, 4,700 individuals have participated in New Frontiers, with 1,430 going on to the immersive Phase 2 of the programme.

“New Frontiers is a good starting point,” says Teri. “Phase 1 can be done while you’re still in your day job, so you don’t have to go ‘all in’ to progress your idea and see if it has the potential to turn into a business.” 

The programme is aimed at early-stage entrepreneurs with business ideas from across all sectors including food & consumer products; information & communication technology; engineering & electronics; medical devices; biotechnology; pharma, digital media; cleantech/renewable energy;

They could also be developing new solutions that would have export potential, or an innovative alternative to what is mainstream in the marketplace. Entrepreneurs would have to have qualified that there is market potential for their product in order to be eligible for a place on the programme.

New Frontiers is delivered in three phases. Currently offered online due to the ongoing Covid-19 situation, Phase I consists of weekend and evening workshops to research and test the market potential of the idea. By the end of this phase, participants should have a good idea as to whether their idea can become a viable business – and be confident enough to leave their job or take a career break to immerse themselves in their fledgling business.

Entrepreneurs who have successfully completed Phase 1 can apply for Phase 2, which is a full-time intensive programme that focuses on developing and validating the business proposition. Participants are supported throughout this phase with workshops, mentoring, regular milestone reviews, a free co-working space and guidance from the programme team.

In addition, a tax-free stipend of €15,000 is paid directly to the entrepreneur over a six-month period, along with web hosting and support worth $15,000 from Amazon.  No equity is taken in your business in exchange for this support package.

Upon successful completed of Phase 2, participants can also apply For Phase 3, which focuses on bringing the product/service to market and preparing to acquire further funding.

Many New Frontiers participants have progressed on to Enterprise Ireland supports such as the Competitive Start Fund and the High Potential Start-Up Fund; these include Wellola, Video Sherpa, Swyft Energy, Snapfix, Examfly, LiveCosts, Positive Carbon and Safecility. And from there, great things can be achieved.

For instance, Immersive VR Education in Waterford, one of the 2016 participants, raised €6.75 million following a successful IPO in 2018. In 2020, Cork ed-tech company and New Frontiers graduate TeachKloud raised €750,000, with investment led by Frontline Ventures and ed-tech investor Sean Tai. And in terms of creating employment, 2017 participants Xerotech has established an R&D centre in Claregalway with space for 40 engineers.

The highly connected nature of Ireland’s supports for early-stage entrepreneurs means that the sky really is the limit for ambitious innovators. Great ideas with huge potential are quickly identified and given the right support to bring them as far as possible, furthering our island’s reputation as a hotbed of promising start-ups.

For more information on New Frontiers, including a calendar of starting dates across the country, visit www.newfrontiers.ie

The New UK – Succeeding in a Changing Market

The UK Market is evolving. Irish companies are demonstrating incredible resilience in adapting to a changing landscape and are now looking to the future. Join our webinar on February 11th at 9am ‘The New UK: Succeeding in a Changing Market’.

During this webinar we will be joined by a panel of guests to explore changes underway in the UK and Ireland’s unique relationship with this major market on our doorstep. Panellists include:

  • Julie Sinnamon, CEO Enterprise Ireland
  • Adrian O’Neill, Ambassador of Ireland to the United Kingdom
  • Andy Burnham, Mayor of Greater Manchester
  • Steve Rotheram, Mayor of the Liverpool City Region

The CEO of Simon-Kucher & Partners, a leading global consultancy specialising in top-line growth strategies, will share his insights on how to succeed in this new world and profit levers to consider.

The webinar will also see CEOs from a range of Irish companies including Dublin AerospaceEI ElectronicsVRAIEPS, and Gifts Direct/The Irish Store, sharing their UK growth strategies – inspiring others with growth ambition.

Register to view our on-demand webinar.

Supporting Regional Development Critical To Future Jobs Growth

 

Resilience is a word we became used to in 2020 and it is an apt term to describe how Irish business responded to the dual challenges of the Covid-19 pandemic and the end of the Brexit transition period.

For thousands of businesses across Ireland, and their staff, it has been a tough, challenging year marked by disruption and uncertainty. But what has been remarkable is how Irish businesses have responded to the impact of Covid-19 and Brexit.

At Enterprise Ireland we work closely with the Irish manufacturing, export and internationally traded services sector.  We invest in established companies and start-ups, we assist companies to begin exporting or expand into new markets and we back research and development projects creating future jobs.

This week we launched our annual review for 2020.  The good news is that the companies we are proud to support employ more than 220,000 in Ireland.  Despite the challenges faced in last year, nearly 16,500 new jobs were created, closely mirroring the 2019 outturn.

However, job losses were significantly higher than in previous years, resulting in a net reduction of 872 jobs across the companies we support.

There is no sugar coating the fact that it was a tough year for business.  However, behind these statistics are individual stories of companies taking brave decisions to change their business model, reimagine their product offering and find new ways of doing business and connecting with customers to trade through the impact of Covid-19 and Brexit.

Enterprise Ireland has worked with these companies throughout the year to ensure viable companies have the liquidity, supports and advice they need to trade, and importantly, to sustain jobs.

Enterprise Ireland supported companies have a key role in the Irish economy.  65% of employment is outside the Dublin region and these indigenous Irish companies, many of which are world leaders in their field, are critical to delivering balanced regional economic development.

Powering the Regions is Enterprise Ireland’s strategy for regional development.  It outlines specific plans for each region in the country, drawing on their existing enterprise base, their connections with third level institutions and their unique potential for growth.

The strategy is backed significant funding.  This time last year more than €40m was allocated, in a competitive call, to 26 projects fostering regional entrepreneurship and job creation.

These included the Future Mobility Campus Ireland, based in Clare, which explores the potential of autonomous, connected and electric vehicles, UCDNova’s Ag Tech innovation centre in Kildare and the Clermont Hub in Wicklow which focuses on content creation and draws on the region’s established film and audio/visual track record.  The 26 projects were supported under the Regional Enterprise Development Fund, which has seen €100m invested in similar projects since 2017.

Given the potential impact of Brexit, particularly in the Border region, 11 similar projects designed to cluster expertise and innovation were supported with €17m in support under the Border Enterprise Development Fund in 2020.

These were strategic initiatives, closely linked to government regional policy, with a medium to long-term focus on supporting regional enterprise.

However, due to Covid-19, Enterprise Ireland moved last year to provide more agile interventions to regional businesses assist them to reset and recover.

Ensuring that viable companies had the access to finance was an important necessity.  Through the government-backed ‘Sustaining Enterprise Scheme’ Enterprise Ireland allocated €124m last year to support more than 400 companies employing more than 10,000 people.  The majority of this funding went to regionally based companies.

Similarly, €8.2m in funding for 95 enterprise centres, which are critical to the start-up ecosystem and future job growth regionally, was made available in September.

Retail business across Ireland also benefitted from the Online Retail Scheme which saw 330 retailers allocated €11.8m in funding to enhance their online offering, reach new customers and increase sales.

Through a mix of strategic funding aimed at long-term enterprise development and more agile funding supports Enterprise Ireland has helped to sustain jobs throughout Ireland in 2020.  We’ve also supported those sectors, such as cleantech, construction and life sciences which continued to grow and create jobs last year.

The pandemic will have lasting effects including how we work and where we work.  Many of these long-term changes can complement strong local and regional economies.  A key element of the Powering The Regions strategy was the potential of remote working and co-working hubs that Enterprise Ireland is committed to developing with our partners.  That potential has been accelerated by the changing work patterns evidenced in the past year. Now, more than ever, having a strategic approach to enterprise development is vital, and Enterprise Ireland looks forward to the role it can play as we recover and build for the future.

By Mark Christal, Manager, Regions and Entrepreneurship at Enterprise Ireland.