Over the past few weeks, large numbers of SMEs have contacted Cork City’s Local Enterprise Office, which is located at Cork City Hall and works in conjunction with Cork City Council. The LEO has been a central component in the Government’s and Council’s response to the needs of small business in dealing with the repercussions of Covid-19.
At last week’s online City Council Covid-19 briefing Independent Cllr Kieran McCarthy has praised the efforts of the LEO office and called for even more supports to be put in place to meet the large interest in the Trading Online Voucher Scheme and mentoring programmes. Cllr McCarthy noted: “As the economy moves into restart phase, the local enterprise office is continuing to adapt its training, advice and guidance to respond to the needs of business. The LEO continues to manage its existing and very positive business support programmes to mass interest”.
Under the Government’s National Digital Strategy, the expanded Trading Online Voucher Scheme helps small businesses with up to 10 employees to trade more online, boost sales and reach new markets. There is up to €2,500 available through the Local Enterprise Offices with co-funding of 10% from the business. Training and further business supports are also provided by Local Enterprise Offices, and businesses that have already received a Trading Online Voucher can now apply for a second voucher, where upgrades are required. Funding can be used towards adding payment facilities or booking systems to your website or developing new apps for your customers. The voucher can also be used towards subscriptions to low cost online retail platform solutions, to help companies quickly establish a retailing presence online.
Under the Local Enterprise Office Mentor Programme, clients work with an experienced mentor to identify solutions to areas of exposure within their business. With advice and guidance from their mentor, clients develop strategies that are more robust, which address issues and maximise potential opportunities when the COVID-19 crisis comes to an end. Mentoring services are now free of charge. Weekly free business advice clinics are now being held by telephone or through video conferencing e.g. Skype/Zoom.
The COVID-19 Business Loan from Microfinance Ireland (MFI), in partnership with Local Enterprise Offices, is a Government-funded initiative to support small businesses through the current period of uncertainty. It is designed for micro-enterprises that are a) having difficulty accessing Bank finance and b) impacted, or may be impacted negatively, by COVID-19 resulting in a reduction of 15% or more in turnover or profit.
The Business Continuity Voucher, available through Local Enterprise Offices, is designed for businesses across every sector that employ up to 50 people. The voucher is worth up to €2,500 in third party consultancy costs and can be used by companies and sole traders to develop short-term and long-term strategies to respond to the Covid-19 pandemic. The goal is to help companies make informed decisions about what immediate measures and remedial actions should be taken, to protect staff and sales. Further information on the above can be viewed at https://www.localenterprise.ie/CorkCity/