Enterprise Ireland female entrepreneurship manager, Sarita Johnston, said that since the introduction in 2013 of measures targetting women, the number of them who are setting up their own businesses has grown year-on-year.
“In 2012, just eight out of 97 high-potential start-ups were female-led. In 2014, this had increased to 18 out of 102, which was 17% and, in 2015, the figure will exceed 20%,” says Ms Johnston, who has yet to finalise the exact number for this year.
Female-led companies participating in this year’s HPSU programme included EVB Sport, a manufacturer of sports shorts. During Christmas, it shipped its first export order to Australia.
Founded by Yvonne Brady, the company employs three people and is aiming to break into both the UK and the US markets in 2016.
The first company in Ireland to launch canned craft beer, Metalman, in Waterford, was co-founded by another of this year’s HPSU participants, Grainne Walsh.
Exporting to the UK and Italy, Metalman employs seven people and is planning for expansion in 2016.
During 2015, Enterprise Ireland also provided €50,000 each to 34 female entrepreneurs who applied for a Competitive Start Funding round, including a call specifically aimed at females.
Ms Johnston says this is a significant increase on last year’s figure of 25.
Companies who received CSF support this year include Creeper Crawlers, which produces development clothes for babies, and KonnectAgain.
The year ended with the launch of a further CSF funding round for females, designed for companies that show the capacity to become high-potential start-up companies.
Ten of the 130 companies that applied in November are now being selected and will be notified in the new year.
Ms Johnston says that the number of female participants in all levels of start-up activity has been growing and that plans are being put in place to provide even greater support in 2016.
“This year, 60 participants took part in the Going for Growth programme for women, 10 in the Exxcel STEM programme, at the Rubicon, in Cork, and 12 participated in the DCU Ryan Academy Female Propeller programme,” she says.
Next year, the Ryan Academy will be running two programmes, instead of the single programme this year, and the NDRC, in Dublin, will also be running a programme for ten women who have high-tech business ideas, she says.
This will bring the number of supported companies to 100.
Enterprise Ireland will also be increasing the level of funding being provided to female entrepreneurs next year, by offering two Competitive Start Funding rounds specifically for women, one in June and another in November.
Ms Johnston says that the increased number of females involved in starting new businesses shows that the range of programmes which specifically target female entrepreneurs is working effectively.
She also says that as female entrepreneurs becoming more established they are setting up businesses in a much wider range of areas than previously.
In the past, many female start-ups were companies in the service area.
“Now, we are seeing them set up software companies and technology companies,” says Ms Johnston.
Work has already started on recruiting a new crop of female entrepreneurs for 2016.
In November, Going for Growth, a Dublin-based organisation that provides peer support to women entrepreneurs, advertised for 60 applicants for a programme starting in the new year.
Meanwhile, the Rubicon, in Cork, also announced that it was commencing a new programme in November.
Female entrepreneurs with thoughts of seeking support next year have until January 13 to apply to participate in the first Female High Fliers Programme, at the UCD Ryan Academy, which starts in February.
For those who aren’t ready to apply early in the year, there will be a second chance to apply for a programme starting in September.