I had a great day last Wednesday. I was judging the SCCUL Awards in the Ballybane Enterprise Centre in Galway and, alongside my fellow Judges, we saw that the spirit of entrepreneurship is truly alive and well in Galway City and County.
Without going into too much detail, as the winner has not yet been announced, we saw wonderful energy, enthusiasm, hard work, commitment, and clever people with truly great ideas. All these companies are creating employment from one or two people up to many more in some cases. But what stood out was the enthusiasm, the can-do attitude in the middle of a recession, and the opportunities for them to grow and thrive.
They must be supported by the government, by local agencies and by mentors and business organisations. We who are involved in business organisations must ensure that these participants and all other entrepreneurs are nurtured and allowed to grow and go from strength to strength. These are the businesses that will stimulate growth and new prosperity as we emerge from this recession.
There are many funds and programmes there to assist start-up businesses but sometimes they are so tied up in red tape that accessing the information alone can be very difficult. In July of this year, Jobs Minister Richard Bruton announced the establishment by Enterprise Ireland of a €250,000 Competitive Feasibility Fund aimed at stimulating high potential business start-ups by female entrepreneurs. The fund is designed to assist female entrepreneurs to investigate the viability of a new growth orientated business that can succeed in global markets. The focus is on developing new businesses that can move beyond the domestic market and demonstrate real potential for internationalisation. This is replicated across the ICT sector, the biomedical sector to name but a few.
There are about 800 new businesses a month being set up, despite the onset of the recession, and Ireland remains very much an extremely entrepreneurial-focused society. Some of this growth comes about through community enterprises schemes and some come about through necessity.
According to the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor report (Gem) – widely perceived to be one of the key barometers of entrepreneurial activity worldwide – in 2010 32 per cent of entrepreneurs were motivated by “necessity” rather than by “opportunity”. Becoming an entrepreneur has always been difficult, especially around the initial capital required. Often this comes from personal resources, family loans and so on, but you need to find ways to fund your idea to take it someway down the road, until you can get financial resources. This can often be the biggest challenge. The next one then is to grow the business. Often there is so much effort gone into the initial funding, that a fear can develop of growing and an inability to scale up.
But the really encouraging thing is the self-confidence and spirit that is there amongst all ages. The experience of management is critical for these start-ups and the need to have a mentor to guide them through the maze of issues that arise and to act as a guide and sounding board.
I believe the supports do exist, I believe the spirit of entrepreneurship is very much alive, and I believe is it incumbent on all us who are established to ensure we can assist those starting off, by supporting their business, by mentoring, by advising, by showing them the way, by support.