Access to funding remains a key consideration for virtually all SMEs. While there’s lots of help out there, trying to make sense of the various Government supports available to small businesses can be tricky.

BGE SME Hub AccountsA handy first port of call is the Local Enterprise Office website, which features an online guide showing the various SME supports available. The guide is interactive and starts out by asking the user to answer eight questions relating to their business. The portal uses these answers to identify the supports and funding options that are available to your business.

Users are asked to specify things like location, size of company, stage the business is at (i.e. startup, fast-growing etc.) and the type of supports required. A list is then generated of the relevant organisations that may be able to help your business. The names, email addresses and phone numbers of the best persons to contact are also shown – usefully, most of these are personalised too which means you’ll be able to direct your query to an actual human being as opposed to a generic ‘info@’ email address or switchboard number. For details of all the supports available to your company, contact the Local Enterprise Office in your area. There are 31 of them dotted around the country and you’ll find details of them all here.

On the LEO site you will find more than 80 funding options and subsidy opportunities available for firms in different sectors, including everything from crafts and fisheries to agriculture and food. Therefore, its well worth taking 10 minutes of your time to have a scan through what your company might be able to avail of. In terms of the more mainstream options available, below is an overview of some of the supports you may want to look into further:

Credit Review Office

Having a credit application turned down by your bank can be tough to take. If you feel your application has been rejected unfairly, be sure to contact the Credit Review Office who will review whether your application was properly assessed. It’s worth having it checked out too – around 50% of all application decisions are overturned.

Microfinance Ireland

For companies who don’t meet the risk criteria of the banks, loans of between €2,000 and €25,000 are available from the Government’s Microenterprise Loan Fund, which is delivered by not-for-profit lender Microfinance Ireland. The loans are available to commercially viable startups, and newly established or growing micro-enterprises.

SBCI

For bigger loans, the Strategic Banking Corporation of Ireland could be worth a look. The SBCI was set up in late 2014 to provide SMEs with access to long-term loans of up to €5m at a lower cost than traditional banks. SBCI loans are available to firms smaller than 250 staff and with a turnover of less than €50m per year. One of the holes that the SBCI is seeking to plug is the one left by the banks who have exited the Irish market in recent times – e.g. ACC Bank, Danske Bank, Lloyds/Bank of Scotland Ireland, Anglo Irish Bank etc. A special Agricultural Investment Loan is also available. SBCI loans are available through front line lending partners – currently AIB and Bank of Ireland.

JobsPlus

For small firms seeking to take on new staff, JobsPlus is an incentive which provides a payment of €7,500 over two years to an employer who recruits someone who has been unemployed for between 12 and 24 months. A payment of €10,000 is available if you recruit someone who has been out of work for more than 24 months. There are also incentives for firms to employ disabled people via the Wage Subsidy Scheme.

Enterprise Ireland

A whole article could be devoted the supports offered to SMEs by Enterprise Ireland. In order to be eligible for an EI grant or funding, the general pre-requisite is that your business must already be exporting or be likely to sell abroad in the near future. If that sounds like your company then it’s probably worth giving them a call to find what might be available. Some of the facilities worth looking out for include: The Competitive Start Fund, available to businesses looking to build a prototype product or explore a potential export market; The Competitive Feasibility Fund, for new startups or entrepreneurs seeking to investigate the viability of a new growth-orientated business proposition: and Innovation Vouchers, which are worth €5,000 and can be used by a company to explore a business opportunity or problem with a registered knowledge provider.

The Employment and Investment Incentive scheme

Formerly known as the BES scheme, the Employment and Investment Incentive scheme is a tax relief incentive scheme that provides 41% tax relief for people who invest in an SME. There are lots of stipulations, but the scheme can be a useful way to encourage friends, family and possible investors to put money into your company. The scheme is also useful for companies seeking to raise money in order to avail of matched funding opportunities from Enterprise Ireland.