Whether you dream of starting your own business, or have a business and dream of growth, you won’t want to miss this year’s Local Enterprise Week.
It’s the flagship event organised by Local Enterprise Offices each year, supported by Enterprise Ireland and the local authorities. This year it takes place from Monday, March 6th to Friday March 10th inclusive.
During this time hundreds of events will be held, in person and online, at locations across the country making many literally on your doorstep These include training programmes and networking opportunities run by the 31 Local Enterprise Offices (LEOs) all designed for small business owners and budding entrepreneurs.
The Local Enterprise Week website lists all that is happening in your area. This includes easy-to-access online talks such as its five National Spotlight discussions. One of these seminars, called First Steps to Export Success, is designed with early stage or first-time exporters in mind.
Its You’re The Business session is made up of three online training programmes. These will be livestreamed from Google’s Dublin headquarters, to help businesses at all stages of their digital journey to Get Online, Grow Online or Go Global.
There’s a Green Panel Spotlight event designed to show owner managers how green technologies, processes and products can help their business become more competitive.
Find out how to Drive Cost Savings with Lean, an event designed to boost productivity, while Innovate for Business Success, will inspire you drive innovation into your business.
In addition to the five Spotlight online events, all of which are free and open to all small businesses, each of the 31 LEO offices will be running of local events too.
Well-known names taking part include RTÉ broadcaster Richard Curran, former Irish international Packie Bonner, and entrepreneur and TV presenter Sonya Lennon. Brian Cody, the former Kilkenny manager will focus on how SMEs can build and sustain a winning team.
John Magee, chair of the network of Local Enterprise Offices, is encouraging existing small business owners, as well as those with ideas for a startup, to take full advantage of all the free expertise that will be on offer.
“Local Enterprise Week is about giving business owners an opportunity to take stock of trends in their sector, spot opportunities for growth and innovation, and find out about the supports available to help them,” says John.
LEO supports range from general advice and guidance to specialist mentoring and technical support, training and skills development, as well as financial supports.
All events taking place during this year’s Local Enterprise Week all support key Local Enterprise Office themes of innovation and competitiveness, market diversification and export development, digitisation, and sustainability.
“Local Enterprise Week is about getting owners to look up and scan the horizon. It’s about taking time out from working in their business, to working on it. It’s about seeing where the opportunities are and equally, seeing the supports available too,” he says. Last year over 11,000 businesses availed of Local Enterprise Office mentoring support, for example, while over 42,000 received LEO training and capacity development supports. Thousands availed of its Trading Online Vouchers, while hundreds took part in programmes such as Lean for Micro, to boost efficiencies.
That’s on top of financial supports available such as Business Priming and Business Expansion grants.
“Because of our geographical coverage, Local Enterprise Offices provide hyper local, accessible services and Local Enterprise Week is a snapshot of what we offer,” he adds
Seany McCleary is the founder of Blasta Street Kitchen, a gourmet food truck business. Thanks to help from Local Enterprise Office Monaghan, last year he developed a new business, Streat School, which helps other people develop their own street food business.
Today he manufactures street food trucks and develops innovative new brands for vendors, overseeing everything from menus to logos and staff uniforms.
“Initially we were importing food trucks but now, thanks to grant aid from LEO Monaghan, we are manufacturing them here in Glaslough,” says Seany.
Last year Streat School won a LEO National Enterprise Award, the publicity from which helped generate “loads of great business,” says McCleary. This year he is urging his fellow small business owners to register for events during Local Enterprise Week.
“There are hundreds on offer so take a look and see what would suit where you are with your business, and take advantage of all that expertise,” he says.
“Then go and talk to your local business advisor at LEO. I don’t think people understand the amount of money that is available to help them, including Priming Grants and Business Expansion Grants.”
He’s about to go to an international catering exhibition, for example, and received a LEO Tame Grant worth €2,500 to help towards the cost. “Some small business owners might not know such supports are available,” he says.
Caitriona Cullen of Cullen Nurseries in Hacketstown, Co Carlow has already signed up for a number of Local Enterprise Week events.
Cullen Nurseries grew out of her husband Robert’s landscaping business, and today specialises in native Irish trees and hedges for homes, farms and businesses.
One of the first things Caitriona did when she left her former corporate role to join the business in 2020 was get in touch with Local Enterprise Office Carlow.
She has since availed of a number of supports, including a marketing mentor and a Lean for Micro programme which helped her undertake online marketing in a more cost-effective manner.
She took part in a Green for Micro programme and secured a Business Expansion Grant for new equipment, including a new labelling machine and a new rainwater harvesting system.
A LEO mentor helped her make the company’s first eTenders application, to supply a public contract. Though the business didn’t win the contract, the company that did win it subcontracted part of the work to it, “so it was a win-win for us”, says Caitriona.
“I’m very conscious of keeping an eye on what’s going on in the Local Enterprise Offices. I want to learn things that will make my life easier. Right now I’m doing a graphic design course which is subsidised by LEO Carlow. I’ve also signed up for an online Kanban training course from LEO Clare.
She too is urging small business owners to get involved in Local Enterprise Week.
“I pick and choose what I need to improve my skillset and boost our productivity,” she says.
“I recommend the Local Enterprise Offices to all small business owners because they want to support businesses all over Ireland, including rural businesses like mine.”
See how Local Enterprise Week can give your business a boost by attending one of the many hundred events listed at LocalEnterprise.ie/Week