New scheme to help returning emigrants start businesses

Call End Penalties Returned Irish
Photo : Sam Boal/Photocall Ireland

The Irish government is calling for returning emigrants to come home to start and develop their own businesses.

Back for Business is a new initiative specifically designed for recently returned emigrants – who have either lived abroad for at least a year and have returned in the last three years – or those who plan to return in the near future.

There are also no restrictions on the sector in which the new business is focused.

The entrepreneurship mentoring programme, funded by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, runs over five months next year and is free of charge.

A pilot programme, recommended by all of its participants, was run last year to support entrepreneurial activity among those recently returned or planning to return to live and set up business in Ireland.

“More and more Irish emigrants are returning home to Ireland to live and to work and as we have seen in the pilot, this is an initiative that can make a real difference to returned and returning emigrants who have a keen desire and ambition to be entrepreneurs,” said Minister of State for the Diaspora and International Development Ciarán Cannon.

“It is designed to support them to go beyond just creating a job for themselves and to aim higher and create a thriving business that can provide employment for others and value added in their local community.”

Potential entrepreneurs returning home, according to the Department of Foreign Affairs, can often bring with them significant advantages of starting a business such as “a strong network of international contacts,” “proficiency in foreign languages,” and a “greater understanding of export markets”.

Such entrepreneurs may also have gaps in their local knowledge such as a contact base. Back for Business, the department said, is designed to “bridge these gaps” while also addressing the “general challenges” of establishing a business.

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Last year, 38 participants experienced the pilot programme. They all reported positive results on the programme.

Overall turnover across the 38 businesses almost doubled during the six months of the programme, a survey indicated.

It was also found that 27 new jobs were created by the participants while six of the company owners started exporting within the six months pilot. Every participant said they would recommend the programme to others, the survey added.

“Back for Business provided the focus and experience necessary to get my business off the ground. It is a great programme,” said Aidan Mehigan, owner of Gortinore Distillery, of the pilot.

Another participant – Clare O’Connor – said that the programme was helpful in “giving her focus” and in “creating goals to bring it to the next level”.

“I am now trading with a luxury product on the market,” O’Connor added.

Those selected to join Back for Business will take part in roundtable sessions, focused on goals and milestones and facilitated by voluntary Lead Entrepreneurs, a selection of successful business owners.

These high-profile business leaders will volunteer their time to encourage participants to set and achieve personalised goals and milestones to address the opportunities and challenges they face in starting and developing their businesses.

The programme’s Lead Entrepreneurs include Áine Deen, co-founder of Altify; Julie Currid, co-founder of Initiafy; technology entrepreneur and angel investor Mary McKenna; Micheal Hoyne, founder of Merlyn Bathrooms; Niiki Evans, founder of PerfectCard; and Thomas Ennis, founder of the Thomas Ennis Group.

Julie Currid, one of the Lead Entrepreneurs who worked in London before returning to Ireland to cofound Initiafy with her business partner, commented: “Working abroad opened my eyes to the size of potential markets for an Irish headquartered business.”

Julie Currid

Back for Business has been designed and is being implemented by Fitzsimons Consulting, who specialise in areas related to entrepreneurship and growth.

Paula Fitzsimons, founder and managing director of Fitzsimons Consulting, said: “Those who have had experience abroad and are returning to live in Ireland are extremely well placed to become an entrepreneur by either starting a new business or by acquiring a business already established.

Back for Business is about helping them to achieve their entrepreneurial ambitions. I am delighted that the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade has made this possible.”

Applicants must, under the scheme’s criteria, have either recently started a new business in Ireland – either on their own or with another business partner – or will be well advanced in their plans to start a business and have moved well beyond the concept stage.

Applicants will also be accepted if they intend to or already have become entrepreneurs through the acquisition of an existing business.

If the business is newly established, it will not have generated sales before the end of October 2016, the department added. If acquired, it will not have been acquired before this date.

According to the Central Statistics Office, of the 90,300 people of all nationalities who moved to Ireland in the 12 months to April 2018, 28,400 were returning Irish, up 1,000 on the previous year.

The deadline for completed applications for Back to Business is 25th January 2019. For more information or to register your interest in receiving an application form, please see

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