There is considerable entrepreneurial potential among Irish nationals who have spent time abroad and are returning to live in Ireland. Recognising this latent talent, Colm Brophy T.D.  Minister of State for Overseas Development Aid and Diaspora has just opened a call for applicants for Back for Business, a peer support development programme, specially tailored to the needs of early stage entrepreneurs among returned emigrants or those wishing to return to Ireland in the near future.

Funded through the Government of Ireland’s Emigrant Support Programme and coordinated by the Department of Foreign Affairs, this is the fifth year of Back for Business, which is aimed at those who have lived abroad for at least a year and have returned in the last three years or are planning to return to live in Ireland in the near future.

There is no charge for those selected to participate in Back for Business, which will run from February to June 2022.   Up to 50 places will be made available.

Those interested in learning more, can download a brochure and register their interest in receiving an application form by visiting . The deadline for the return of completed applications is Tuesday, February 15th.

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

Participants on last year’s programme more than tripled their combined workforce and more than doubled their turnover during the six-month cycle of the programme – despite the restrictions placed on businesses as a result of the Covid pandemic.


Back for Business addresses the challenges that all early-stage entrepreneurs encounter, with a particular focus on the additional barriers and challenges faced by those who have been out of the country for some time. Their personal and professional networks in Ireland have weakened since they have been abroad and their knowledge of the entrepreneurial eco system is not well developed.

In recognition of this situation, the Department of Foreign Affairs, through Back for Business, makes available membership of the Irish International Business Network (IIBN) for a year to each of those selected. Those selected will also have the opportunity to participate in a support workshop, in which the development agencies will outline the supports available to early stage entrepreneurs like themselves.


Recently returned or returning Irish emigrants who have recently started a new business in Ireland, either on their own or with another business partner; (ii) are at an advanced stage of setting up a business and expect to generate sales in the next 12 months; or (iii) are becoming/have become entrepreneurs through the acquisition of an existing business.

If the business is newly established, it will not have generated for more than three years. If

acquired, it will not have been acquired more than three years previously. In respect of the business whether new or acquired, the returned or returning emigrant will be a major shareholder and key decision maker in the venture. Furthermore, they will have the ambition and expectation of becoming an employer of others within three years. There is no restriction on the sector in which the new business is focussed.


Back for Business is based on peer support – entrepreneurs supporting entrepreneurs. This approach is well proven as being effective in bringing about increased motivation and confidence among entrepreneurs and in having a positive impact on the development of their new business.

The applied learning model involves a series of round table interactive sessions that are facilitated by volunteer Lead Entrepreneurs, who have experience of successfully starting and growing a business. The sessions are focused on the achievement of goals and milestones and the exploration of relevant themes.

The Lead Entrepreneurs who facilitate the round table sessions are the backbone of the Back for Business initiative. They are not, and cannot be, experts in every area of business, but they bring valuable personal experience of starting and growing a business. Several of them have returned to Ireland having lived abroad for a number of years before starting or acquiring their own business. They believe strongly in the principle of entrepreneurs supporting entrepreneurs and are giving their time on a voluntary basis.

This year’s Lead Entrepreneurs are: Áine Denn, co-founder and formerly of Altify; Heather Reynolds, co-founder and formerly of Eishtec; Paul Duggan of The Gardiner Group; Seamus Reilly, co- founder and formerly of Critical Healthcare; and Thomas Ennis, founder of the Thomas Ennis Group.

 The Lead Entrepreneurs each work with a group of participants in a series of round table sessions, supporting them to address the challenges they face in starting, developing, and positioning their business for sustainability and growth.

This strong network of peers and role models, from whom to draw inspiration and guidance, reduces the sense of isolation that is felt by a lot of entrepreneurs, especially those who have returned from abroad.

A Back for Business Community is also being established for previous participants to continue their developmental growth and to facilitate them networking with each other.

APPLY NOW …or help spread the word of the opportunity

Those interested in participating in the next Back for Business cycle are encouraged to register their interest on  in the first instance and they will be sent a link to the application form by email.

Remember the deadline for the return of completed applications is Tuesday, February 15th.


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