Funding for risktaking
A new fund established by the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment, along with Enterprise Ireland, this week seeks to encourage more female entrepreneurs by offering feasibility studies on their businesses. Peter Horgan explores the new fund to see whether it really can have an effect
The Female Entrepreneurship Competitive Feasibility fund, worth €250,000 nationally, but limited to a maximum of €25,000 per applicant, seeks to allow women entrepreneurs with companies under three years old to examine ways they can further expand and grow – with growth on exports a major factor under consideration.
The initiative is part of the Government’s Action Plan for Jobs, but in reality, is a rebrand of funds and studies already in place by Enterprise Ireland for industry.
“A lot of Enterprise Ireland client companies in the country are not led by females,” explains Gillian Slattery, Regional Development Executive with Enterprise Ireland.
“Only between seven and nine per cent of companies in Enterprise Ireland are female led over the last three years. There has also been a shortfall of females involved in technology firms and this fund is designed to look at that.”
The fund is not designed to exclude anyone according to Slattery, but there is more focus on women in industry in order to make them more aware of the funding on offer.
“It is centered around growth orientation and is an initiative under the Action Plan for Jobs,” she explains.
“We have feasibility studies and funding for both male and female entrepreneurs but this is designed to make women aware of what is on offer to grow their export market, and by extension, the Irish export market.”
Network Cork President, Rebecca Birchall, welcomes the announcement but is disappointed that the funding does not extend beyond companies in the manufacturing sector.
“Enterprise Ireland simply don’t fund beyond manufacturing,” says Birchall.
“The City and County Enterprise Boards engage with companies of all sectors through teaching and mentoring but they are restricted on funding. While our membership in Network Cork does contain people from the manufacturing industry, we do have a sizable portion from the other more services based sectors who are less likely to have overseas exports.”
However, she is keen to stress that funding of every nature is welcome in the current climate, and that a focus on female entrepreneurs is to be welcome.
“Any funding that given to businesses is welcome, however I would like to see the Department expand their view beyond the manufacturing,” says Birchall.
“I do see their point as they are focused on growing exports in the country but the majority of new businesses in Ireland are not engaged in exports.”
“Women do need a bit more encouragement than their male counterparts, especially in term of risk taking,” says Rebecca, who is the Managing Director of clothing company, Fishers of Newtownmountkennedy.
“That’s why this fund is to be welcomed as it allows entrepreneurs to see the benefits of taking a risk after completing the feasibility check. It is just a pity all Enterprise Ireland funding is aimed at manufacturing.”
To find out more about the Female Entrepreneurship Competitive Feasibility Fund visit www.enterprise-ireland.com/femaleentrepreneurship. The closing date for applications is 4 September 2012.