THERE HAS BEEN a huge increase in the number of women seeking start-up funding from Enterprise Ireland in the last year-and-a-half.
An action plan to highlight he agency’s female-only funding programmes was set up at the start of last year after it was found that only around 8 per cent of applications for grants were from women.
Since then, that figure has grown to 15 per cent in the category of equity funding, with significant increases also recorded in other areas.
According to Jean O’Sullivan, Manager of Female Entrepreneurship at Enterprise Ireland: “We carried out our own research which found there were a number of specific challenges women faced — in particular a lack of role models, less access to finance, lower risk-taking, fewer networking opportunities and a lower level of technical knowledge”.
O’Sullivan says a number of awareness initiatives carried out in tandem with the launches of two funds last year helped generate further interest amongst women. “We also reviewed a lot of the language and imagery being used in our promotional material”.
Of the 20 applicants that received funding under our first female-only feasibility grant, 14 already have products in the market, while the remaining six are in advanced testing.
A quarter of a million euro has just been released by Enterprise Ireland in the latest round of funding, aimed at high potential, export oriented businesses.
To qualify, a business must have a woman as part of the founding team, and it must operate in one of several manufacturing and high tech tech areas specified by the agency.
The funding is being made available in individual grants of €25,000 for activities like market research and prototyping, and O’Sullivan is encouraging anyone interested to apply for that full amount:
What we’ve noticed in the past is that 90 per cent of women are applying only for amounts between €10,000 and €15,000. When we asked why, the responses showed they didn’t want to be perceived as money-grabbing, they felt they should just apply for enough to scrape by on. So the one message I would want to get across is that the funding is there and that the full amount is there.
The majority of entrepreneurs who applied for funding under previous female-only schemes were in areas like eHealth, life sciences, consumer products, medical devices, food, and tech services.
Jobs Minister Richard Bruton says the scheme is a key part of the Government’s plan for jobs and growth, and that the funding will ensure more women “get involved in starting businesses, get into exports and create jobs”.
Full details of the current scheme are online at the Enterprise Ireland web site, and the closing date is Tuesday 10 September.