Enterprise Ireland’s New Frontiers programme helps early-stage entrepreneurs to take the leap, offering a supportive yet challenging environment to help develop business ideas.
“Networking begins from day one. individuals selected to participate in the programme get the opportunity to meet with other entrepreneurs, experienced mentors and facilitators. These people often have networks and connections in a particular sector so networking is an invaluable part of the programme. People build strong, long-lasting relationships during their time on New Frontiers.” said Paula Carroll, New Frontiers National Programme Manager.
The programme is delivered on behalf of Enterprise Ireland by the Institutes of Technology and Technological Universities across 18 locations nationwide.
The programme is open nationwide and to all types of businesses ideas once it is innovative and with the potential to scale.
New Frontiers is designed for individuals who:
- Are early-stage entrepreneurs
- Have an innovative business idea with export and employment potential
- Have the drive and ambition required to commit fully to building a successful start-up
Having an idea is a start but executing it can be difficult without the right support or guidance. For hospitality expert and CEO of Great Visitor Experiences, Ivan Tuohy, turning his business idea into reality meant he had to believe in himself and take the daunting step of quitting his job. “It was a case of, I might have a good idea but how am I actually going to commercialise it and bring this to reality? I might take a chance on myself, but can I really do it?” he asked himself.
It was 2018 and new innovations in technology were transforming user experiences across various sectors, but tourism operators were still relying on traditional tools like audio guides, maps, leaflets, in-person tour guides and stand-alone signage to engage their visitors; even in the biggest tourist attractions in the world.
Ivan was working as a General Manager for the largest visitor attraction operator in Ireland. He was responsible for managing the business but also improving the customer experience. He had an interest in technology in particular from the point of view of making the operation more efficient and freeing up staff up to focus on the customer and to add value to that experience.
A key problem was how fragmented and individual each system was. "We had paper maps, audio guides, touch screens, and signage with some key information but we couldn’t put all our content into one place for every visitor to view. Many of them were really missing out on the unique stories and folklore that we had to offer because we simply couldn’t integrate other content. Everything was a stand-alone offering and I felt that attractions were really missing out in connecting with the visitor while on-site and helping them with their visit, not to mention upselling products and services to them," he said.
The other issue Ivan experienced was that every attraction and museum worked in isolation of each other, "no one really saw the value in the shared visitor economy. When I started searching for a product, I couldn’t find anything that was in my head and that’s is how it started."
The tentative steps towards founding Great Visitor Experiences and developing an interactive app that enables operators to engage with visitors, source data, tell their stories in a new and imaginative way and sell more, were underway. Coming from a family of entrepreneurs, Ivan felt that he had the relevant skills to make it as an entrepreneur.
Ivan sought support and applied to Enterprise Ireland’s New Frontiers programme. Once accepted, it all became very real for him, "The New Frontiers programme gives you that comfort blanket — the help and support is there. They can steer you but it's really down to how hard you want to work," said Ivan.
The programme put him on the path towards backing himself and his dream. “The New Frontiers programme was a fantastic first step. It really allowed me the time to focus on the idea, and to build some structure around it.” It also brought out his competitive spirit. “You’re in the room with up to 15 people, all with very good ideas and all addressing problems from different angles. That support, that peer-to-peer network is so important,” Ivan says. “And you’re dealing with 15 people who want to succeed. It’s fairly competitive. It was a case of, wanting to help others but also maximising the opportunity for my business.” As for the mentors, “they really challenge you, they challenge you in a way you wouldn’t challenge yourself”.
Since launching in 2018, Great Visitor Experiences has scooped major innovation awards, "We're trying to transform a sector that hadn't previously been transformed, its a niche area — we're trying to give this sector a shared platform with the independence. It's a holistic business approach."
National Programme Manager, Paula Carroll believes that a lot of people have an idea for starting a business but don’t know how to transform their idea into reality. “New Frontiers is a structured programme where participants are given the skills to develop their business. It also offers them practical knowledge and demystifies the route to entrepreneurship. They have a support structure of experienced facilitators and mentors around them— a benefit that they might not get trying to do it on their own,” said Paula. They also get the opportunity to meet with the investment community as well as practise their funding pitches to an investor panel.
There are many benefits to this programme including:
- A support package valued at €30,000 including €15,000 tax-free stipend in Phase 2
- No equity is taken in your business
- Personalised one-to-one mentoring offered by seasoned business mentors from the Enterprise Ireland Mentor network.
- Free co-working space (during Phase 2 and 3).
- Access to facilities and specialist expertise from within the Institutes of Technology/Technological Universities, including access to interns and graduates.
- Practitioner-led workshops in all areas of building a business.
- Regular milestone review meetings to monitor your progress.
For anyone thinking of taking the leap and following their dream, Ivan has some advice; “Don’t be afraid.” He adds, “No one is going to back you until you back yourself. So if you can back yourself, and be open to listening to people, go for it.”
To register your interest in the New Frontiers programme for developing entrepreneurs visit www.newfrontiers.ie