Ireland invests over €20m in female entrepreneurs to boost UK exports

Enterprise Ireland, the Irish government agency and the third largest seed investor in Europe, has invested over €20m over the last five years to accelerate the UK growth of female-led start-up companies. With 75% of Enterprise Ireland’s female-led clients targeting the UK export market[1], the Female Entrepreneurship Unit helps ambitious women grow scalable businesses through sponsorship opportunities and development programmes.

Enterprise Ireland has so far invested over €8.7m since 2012 in female entrepreneurs, as part of its Competitive Start Fund (CSF) programme, equating to a pre-seed investment of €50K for 10% equity. The CSF aims to accelerate the growth of female-led start-ups that have the potential to employ more than 10 people and achieve €1 million in export sales within three years.

The fund is designed to enable those companies reach key commercial and technical milestones which will ensure delivery of their product or service to an international audience. In addition, High Potential female-led start-ups exporting to the UK have so far received approximately €14.4m in investment since 2011, an equity investment on a matched funding basis.

With over 400 mentors available to clients and on-the-ground UK personnel and support, Enterprise Ireland aims to address key challenges impacting on the growth of female-led business opportunities. To help female entrepreneurs launch and succeed in the UK market, several leading investor-ready training programmes are currently available.

Going for Growth, for example, is an initiative designed to support women who are serious about growing their businesses and are the owner manager of a business which has been trading for at least two years.

Similarly, Enterprise Ireland operates a ’Female High Fliers Accelerator“ programme in conjunction with the DCU Ryan Academy for Entrepreneurs. The programme supports the best early stage start-ups, specifically addressing the challenges facing female entrepreneurs. Support is also available through several other partner organisations, including the Dublin Business Innovation Centre and the Cork Institute of Technology.

Enterprise Ireland also runs the only accelerator programme in conjunction with CSF investment for Female. This is The Innovate Programme run in conjunction with DBIC (Dublin Business Innovation Centre), providing an intensive 12-week training, development, peer-to-peer and shared working space learning accelerator. The purpose of the programme is to accelerate female-led CSF companies to get to investment ready faster by being better prepared.

Female entrepreneurs are encouraged to attend ‘Excel at Export Selling’ workshops, developed to help experts upskill for export growth. Sarita Johnston, Female Entrepreneurship Manager, Enterprise Ireland, said: “The research[2] commissioned in 2016 indicates that lack of role models, low self-confidence, lack of technical expertise, lower levels of risk-taking and limited access to appropriate networking opportunities continue to be the main challenges facing female entrepreneurs in 2017. Increased collaboration is key in tacking these issues. We will continue to help and support female entrepreneurs who currently export or plan to export to the UK, which is a first-point trade partner for us and the majority of small businesses we support.”

[1] Source – independent research by GM Innovations (2016) commissioned by Enterprise Ireland
[2] Source – independent research by GM Innovations (2016) commissioned by Enterprise Ireland

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