Back for Business is a development programme, which was established to foster and support entrepreneurial activity among returned emigrants or those returning to live in Ireland. It addresses the challenges that all early stage entrepreneurs face, with a particular focus on the additional barriers and challenges faced by those who have been out of the country for some time.
Call for applications for new cycle now open
Those interested in learning more, can download a brochure and register their interest in receiving an application form by visiting www.backforbusiness.com
The closing date for applications is January 25, 2021 and while interest has been high this year, applications will be accepted up until that date. After the closing date, each application will be assessed by the panel of Lead Entrepreneurs to ensure that the places available go to the most deserving candidates.
Back for Business is in its fourth year and is funded by the Department of Foreign Affairs. The 2021 programme will run from February to July 2021 and there is no charge for those selected to participate. Forty places are on offer and an additional ten places are also being made available on a further development phase for those who completed a Back for Business cycle previously.
Back for Business 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.
Past participants on the first three years of the programme have recorded increased sales, created new jobs, and won export contracts. The combined turnover of the 2020 group tripled during the programme – despite the Covid pandemic.
Countering the challenges faced by returned emigrants
The number one challenge facing returning emigrants, who are starting businesses, is a lack of networks, professional contacts and local knowledge. These have weakened in the years that they have spent away from Ireland.
The peer support, which is at the heart of Back for Business, immediately address this challenge and helps participants to strengthen their network. At the same time, the participants get a better understanding of the changed entrepreneurial ecosystem and learn about the supports available for those establishing businesses here. They will also be offered a year’s free membership of the Irish International Business Network (IIBN) and have the opportunity to attend workshops presented by KPMG executives on financing, financial management and tax.
Those selected to join Back for Business will take part in round table sessions, focused on goals and milestones, and facilitated by voluntary Lead Entrepreneurs, who have experience of successfully starting and growing a business. The 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.
The design of the initiative takes into account the specific challenges that returning emigrants face, as well as the more general barriers that all early-stage entrepreneurs encounter. Those who participated on previous cycles are very enthusiastic about the benefits that they derived from taking part.
The Lead Entrepreneurs are the backbone of the programme and bring valuable and personal experience to the table. Several of them have returned to Ireland having lived abroad for a number of years before starting their own business.
The Lead Entrepreneurs believe strongly in the principle of entrepreneurs supporting entrepreneurs and are giving their time on a voluntary basis. Their open and full involvement gives the participants an opportunity to get to know and learn from successful role models and to benefit from their wide and varied entrepreneurial experience.
This year’s Lead Entrepreneurs are: Áine Denn, co-founder and formerly of Altify; Heather Reynolds, co-founder of Eishtec, which has been acquired by Infosys BPM; Nikki Evans, founder of PerfectCard, now part of EML Payments; Thomas Ennis, founder of the Thomas Ennis Group and Susan Spence, co-founder and President of SoftCo.
Reasons for returning to Ireland
Paula Fitzsimons, founder and managing director of Fitzsimons Consulting, who designed and is implementing the initiative, believes that the increase in interest this year is due to the twin issues of Brexit and Covid-19.
“Back for Business has been very popular since it started four years ago, and we generally saw an increase in applications over the Christmas period. However, this year, there was an unprecedented demand for the programme even before the call for applicants opened,” says Paula.
“We believe this is down to a number of factors, but in particular due to Brexit and the pandemic. People are realising that they can work remotely from wherever they want in the world and that where they are living right now is not as attractive as it used to be, due to various lockdowns. People want to come home and be close to their families. These major global events have put that desire into stark relief.”
Paula is encouraging returned and returning emigrants to consider starting a new business and to find out more about how Back for Business can help them by downloading a brochure at www.backforbusiness.com