Working on a scheme
The Cork City Partnership (CCP) offers people in Cork a wide range of services, from education to enterprise. Peter Horgan met with Tony O’Regan, Enterprise Officer at the CCP to see what they offer potential new self-employers
“We have established 54 start up companies already this year,” says Tony, who took over the role earlier this year.
“While some of them may find it difficult but there will be a percentage of them that will progress on and will develop into very sustainable businesses. Many of them are sole traders, doing something completely different than what they did before.”
The CCP works with the Department of Social Protection in encouraging people on the Live Register to examine potentials for creating and developing their own business. The Back to Work scheme allows participants to keep 100 per cent of their benefits in the first year, and 75 per cent in the second year. If their business is sustainable then they then come off the social welfare scheme and can continue with the business.
While the Department makes the final call on whether the applicant will be included in the scheme, the CCP teases out the plans and helps with the entry level stages of beginning a company, through documentation support, mentoring and training advice.
“We do group information sessions on a Wednesday and at that point we give them the business template, which helps to see the business planned out. Then we go through the business plan and idea with them – pick the logistics, the feasibility of the business, what extra training they want etc.”
Mr Regan meets with every applicant who is directed into his office, either by referral or through the local employment offices and has met with over 220 potential new business owners already in 2012.
“Some of the ideas we get are really thought out, whereas some are a bit half thought through. If we arrive at a situation where the business is not going to work, for one reason or another the business plan template actually teases that out – they realise that before they even come into me, whether there isn't enough money being invested or the money returned from the business isn’t worth it. The person is probably trying to look for an employment opportunity and thinks self employment could be for them but the plan may not fully work out.
“However, the companies that have been set up include cafes, organic food markets, renovations, plumping and landscape design.”
One of the businesses that has bloomed from the help given by the CCP is the Bookshelf Coffee House on South Mall.
Owned and run by Paul O’Carroll, the scheme has allowed him to keep his benefits, which in turn meant the café was able to hire someone else and expand.
“I got the idea about 18 months ago,” says Paul, who had been unemployed for a year before getting involved in the scheme.
“I just felt Cork city needed a coffee shop where people could relax with a cup of tea of coffee and chat, rather than get in, get out. We have so far exceeded expectations, and the response from the public has been great – especially for our coffee.”
“The business plan really filled in a few gaps that would have been there. It looked long term rather than short term, for instance, where I would like to be in five years times. The CCP were a big help in mentoring and teasing out the ideas.”
Paul urges potential business owners to stay dedicated to their ideas, adding that hard work pointed in the right direction can only have a positive outcome.
The next meeting with the enterprise section of the CCP is Wednesday 15 August. To book your place contact Heron House on 021-4302310.