Local corporate offices can contribute to sustainability, digitization and innovation
Challenges continue to arise for small businesses. After weathering a global pandemic and the impact of Brexit on trading conditions, businesses are now facing an energy and cost of living crisis that is expected to last until 2023. What small businesses have shown in recent years is that they are extremely agile. and can pivot and upgrade his skills quickly if needed. Thousands of small businesses had to adapt quickly when the pandemic hit in 2020, and while the changes required in the coming months may not be as dramatic, businesses will still need to evolve to stay competitive.
The Local corporate offices have been on the front lines with small businesses across the country for the past few years, providing financial support as well as training and mentorship in key areas. LEOs provided more than €24 million in grants to client companies in 2021 and trained more than 60,000 entrepreneurs and business leaders.
As companies look to the future, key themes are emerging that should inform their thinking, such as sustainability, digitalization and innovation. Local Enterprise Offices have worked closely with small businesses to enable them to take the first steps on these journeys with programs such as Digital start, green for Micro and the Agile Innovation Fund through Company Ireland.
A company that has initiated a sustainable approach when starting its business is the Tom Crean Brewery in Kerry, which took advantage of the Green for Microphone early-stage support with nearly 300 other small businesses in 2021. For Bill Sheppard, co-founder with his wife Aileen Crean O’Brien (pictured above), Tom Crean’s great-granddaughter, it’s was obvious. “We wanted to create a beer that didn’t cost the earth!” He recalls.
“When we were planning to build our premises in 2018, we opted for LEO because sustainability was important to us from the start,” says Bill. “With all the most important decisions we had to face, we asked ourselves what is the environmental impact? For example, our product is completely natural with only four ingredients and vegan. We have installed solar panels on our roof that power our coolers, our lights and our computer.
“When we brew, we use a green energy source. Each light is LED. We use ‘free air conditioning’ which is like an inverted bathroom extractor that draws in cool air at night and releases it during the day to keep our beer cool. We have built a poly tunnel at our house, importing a biodigester from America, which we can use for hop and yeast waste, as well as household waste. For any company seeking to improve its sustainability. LEO Green for Microphone is a good starting point.
MONKEY CUPS THRIVES WITH E-COMMERCE
The ability to maximize your business presence online has become essential for businesses during and since the pandemic. No more than for monkey mugs in Waterford. As they took off, the pandemic crippled them and they had to adapt to a new world.
Mailo Power, a former hotelier who noticed a gap in the market for barista-friendly reusable cups, launched Monkey Cups in the Local Enterprise section of Showcase in the RDS, where the stylish and colorful range was an immediate hit. Orders are pouring in from hotels and cafes, its target market. “Then Covid arrived, and in two weeks our market went from a full order book to zero. It was cancellation after cancellation,” says Mailo.
It was while running that Mailo noticed the number of vans delivering goods purchased online. This sparked an interest in e-commerce in her. She started researching the industry and discovered that personalization was a key driver of online sales. The young entrepreneur returned to her Local Enterprise Office and, with the help of a Online voucherhas transformed its existing brochure website into a direct-to-consumer e-commerce platform, with a special tool that allows people to choose their own Monkey Cup from 1,144 different color combinations.
It was an instant hit. Mailo sold more the weekend the website was launched than it had in the previous three months. Businesses have also loved it and purchased cups in bulk for staff working from home, and as corporate merchandise with their own branding and colors. Today, 70% of Money Cups requests come from the website. “The website saved the business,” says Mailo, who also launched a line of Monkey Bottles. “In many ways, LEO helps my business not only survive, but also thrive.”
INNOVATION FUNDING FOR PROTOTYPE
While digitization and sustainability are key pillars for new businesses, the ability to innovate will always ensure a business stays ahead of the curve. Brendan McGrath from Merris Engineering in Galway noticed that transporting tons of demolition waste offsite was not only a logistical headache, but also an environmental one. His innovation, the Krushtech Mobile Crusher, would crush waste on-site for reuse in roads, drainage and other construction projects, creating a circular economy.
Bringing a range of KrushTech machines to market required serious investment. LEO Galway helped, advising McGrath to apply for Agile Innovation Funding from Enterprise Ireland, which gives small businesses fast access to funding for research, development and innovation. This funding allowed Brendan to develop a prototype.
“With machines costing up to €150,000, developing a prototype is a huge undertaking,” he explains. Building to store is not yet an option, so the biggest challenge the company has faced so far is funding. “That’s why LEO’s fundraising assistance is so important,” says Brendan. “Once you’ve secured orders, you can take deposits, so it’s at this early stage that you need a boost.”
LEO AND ENTERPRISE IRELAND
Although LEOs have been around since 2104, they have really grown in importance in recent years as small businesses realize the depth of support and expertise they can tap into on their doorstep. Padraic McElwee, president of the network of Local Enterprise Offices, says it’s a relationship that’s growing stronger.
“LEOs have always been the first stop for small start-up or growing businesses. Over the past few years, working with our partners in the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment, Enterprise Ireland and local authorities, we have been able to significantly strengthen our small business offerings.
“We are now working more closely than ever with Enterprise Ireland to leverage their internationalization and export expertise for our clients. The LEO customer journey to Enterprise Ireland continues to produce fantastic businesses that have grown locally and are now ready to go global.
Padraic adds: “The challenges continue, we are always there for any small business that needs advice, support or training. By engaging in programs such as Lean for Micro, Digital start and Green for Microphone, businesses become more efficient, more competitive and also prepare their business for the future. So even if there are challenges ahead, we’ll be there to help them see the opportunities, whether it’s starting or growing a business. »
There are 31 local offices for businesses located in local authorities across the country, funded by the Department for Business, Trade and Employment through Enterprise Ireland.
To find the Local Enterprise Office nearest to you, go to LocalEnterprise.ie. #Make it happen