LEO Funding for Startups

If you’ve been following our mini-series of posts on funding for start-ups, you’ll know that we’ve already looked at digital funding and angel investing. Another source of funding you need to explore if you are looking at setting up a business is your Local Enterprise Office. LEO funding is a great support to help you set up and grow.

“The Local Enterprise Office welcomes solid business proposals with strong planned potential for growth and sustainable job creation for our county. These can include local growing businesses and individuals seeking to expand their business into Co. Kerry,” says Tomás Hayes, Head of Local Enterprise, Kerry County Council.

Here are some of the LEO grants available:

Feasibility Study Grants

Maybe you haven’t even set up your business yet. Then a Feasibility Study Grant could be for you. It is designed to help newly launched companies or individual entrepreneurs to research their proposed business or new business idea to determine whether it is viable and sustainable. The types of things such a grant could fund include:

  • Market research
  • Consultancy costs
  • Salary/own labour research (up to €400 a week)
  • Miscellaneous costs such as the cost of a phone, mileage (€0.26 per kilometre), subsistence and overnight costs, and air travel. The maximum grant payable is half of your eligible expenditure (60% if you are in the BMW region) or €15,000 – whichever is less.

Priming Grants

Microbusinesses that are less than 18 months old can apply to their local LEO for a Priming Grant of up to 50% of a business start-up investment or €150,000, whichever is less. Only businesses that clearly show potential to graduate to Enterprise Ireland can be awarded grants of between €80,000 and €150,000.

Business Expansion Grants

If your business is more than 18 months old, you can apply for a Business Expansion Grant to help you grow the enterprise.

Technical Assistance for Micro Exporters (TAME)

The TAME grant part-finances the cost of researching export markets. This could involve exhibiting at trade fairs, creating marketing materials, or building websites specifically designed for overseas markets. The grant covers 50% of eligible costs (net of VAT) to a limit of €2,500 annually. You need to apply for funding before you pay for anything, and you should also investigate using an Enterprise Ireland Mentor to develop an export/ marketing plan.

New Agile Innovation Fund

The LEO’s Agile Innovation Fund finances up to half the cost of innovation projects with a total maximum cost of €300,000 (i.e. the grant requested is less than €150,000), and approval is fast tracked. You can use it if you operate in a sector with rapid design cycles and wish to retain your advantage by offering an online application and Fast-Track-Approval process. You need to be able to show adequate cash resources to implement the proposed RD&I project

Brexit Supports for your Small Business

The Brexit Loan Scheme offers affordable financing to businesses if your business will be affected by Brexit. The scheme is delivered by the Strategic Banking Corporation of Ireland (SBCI) through commercial lenders and provides access to €300 million to eligible businesses with up to 499 employees at an interest rate of 4% or less.

In addition, InterTradeIreland offers 100% financial support up to £2,000/€2,250 (inclusive of VAT) to fund professional advice on Brexit issues. You can use this support to get advice on particular issues such as movement of labour, goods, services and currency management.

Trading Online Voucher Scheme

The Trading Online Voucher Scheme encourages small businesses to raise their online trading profile to increase their sales and target new markets. Matched funding of up to €2,500 is provided, with training and further supports provided by Local Enterprise Offices. Eligible costs you can use the funding for include e-commerce websites, app development, and digital marketing.

Criteria for availing of funding:

As you can see, your local LEO offers quite a comprehensive selection of funding supports. Bear in mind that the function of these supports is to nurture businesses with a good chance of success. Before you apply, you should review their criteria for providing funding. Your business must:  include:

  • Have the potential to be commercially viable.
  • Employ no more than 10 people
  • Be established, registered, and operate within the area of the Local Enterprise Office
  • Operate in the commercial field
  • Demonstrate that there is a market for your product or service
  • Have the potential for expansion either in Ireland or overseas
  • Have the potential to employ people

As well as these criteria, there are other conditions to be aware of. Preference is given to certain enterprises, including:

  • Manufacturing businesses or internationally traded services that have the potential to grow into strong export entities and proceed to Enterprise Ireland
  • Unique tourism services that focus on generating revenue from overseas visitors, without taking business from other existing players or funding projects that would have gone ahead anyway.

Businesses that are ineligible for LEO grant aid include:

  • Retail enterprises
  • Personal services (such as hairdressers, gardeners, and creches)
  • Professional services (such as accountants, solicitors)
  • Construction and local building services

Furthermore, you may not apply for grant aid for costs you have incurred already, nor can you receive more than €150,000 in grant aid over a three-year period. are not eligible for grant aid. Any costs incurred before you apply are not eligible for grant support. Your payment depends on your business reaching the agreed business targets in your business plan and fulfilling the conditions of the Letter of Offer you receive from your LEO.

Where to next?

Contact your local LEO office to see just what supports are available. As well as funding, they provide mentorship, advice, and a wide range of supports to get your business off the ground and growing.

As Tomas Hayes points out “Our county has a good network of business support.”