Funding a business idea or sourcing finance for a business expansion can be a tricky path to negotiate. A squeeze on credit from financial institutions means that many businesses have been refused loans or overdraft extensions. If that road is closed off, finding an investor for your business is another alternative, but you need to be aware that you are allowing an external individual, often a stranger, access to a portion of your company. Of course, with proper background checks and the right framework in place, it can be a great way to fund a new product or service idea or give your business the boost it needs to grow to the next stage.
There are other ways to find the investment you need – these are usually in the form of grants or short-term loans from agencies like the City and County Enterprise Boards or Enterprise Ireland.
Whichever route you feel suits your company best next year, be aware that there is a lot of red tape and paperwork involved. Also, finding funding can be a long and often frustrating process. However, if you have your paperwork prepared, a viable business plan and an interesting idea that will grab attention, you’ll find that there is money out there that you can gain access to.
We’ve broken down some of the avenues for you to explore.
City and County Enterprise Boards have been set up to support ‘micro businesses’ with 10 employees or less. They make ‘priming grants’ available to establish suitable sole traders, partnerships or limited companies when the principal is a female returning to the workforce or unemployed. The board will match a principal’s investment or offer a maximum of €150,000 (whichever is lower), but grants of over €80,000 are only given in exceptional circumstances. As a general rule, they’ll offer €15,000 per full-time job created. Business expansion grants – giving the same levels of funding – are available for businesses seeking to grow, and feasibility grants offer up to €20,000 or 50% of an investment, whichever is lower. This rises to 60% for the border, midland and western regions. As a general rule, all the businesses that get Enterprise Board support need to be domestically traded but have the potential to trade internationally.
Getting an investor to fund your business can be a long process and can go badly wrong if you choose the wrong partner. That’s why many businesspeople choose to tap into their direct and indirect professional network when they’re looking for a potential investor. When you are talking to would-be investors, it’s important to be direct and up-front about every aspect of the business: financial projections need to be detailed and realistic, you need to have a sense of the potential pitfalls the business can face, and you need a clear idea of the funding requirements before the business starts turning a profit. They’ll naturally want to know exactly what the money will be used for, and will be wary of vagueness or wild promises. An independently-drafted legal agreement between yourself and the external investor, which includes dates for receiving thetranches of funding, as well as their share in the venture, is also essential. Investor money comes with fewer overheads than other forms of credit, but there are far more strings attached.
When you talk to a bank, you will quickly pick up whether your business will be considered a viable candidate for credit. It’s best to approach the bank with, once again, a clear picture of what the money you need will be used for, and realistic projections about what the business’ financials will be like in years one, two and three. The more visible research that goes into this, the better. If you’re looking simply for a small ‘fighting fund’ to cover day-to-day issues that may arise and ensure you can pay suppliers, an overdraft is probably the simplest solution, though it is easy to become too dependent on it if you’re not careful. For larger working capital, most lenders will be more comfortable giving a business loan, so you need to ensure the repayment plan can realistically be covered with cash-flow.
Enterprise Ireland have funding available for start-ups, High Potential Start-Ups, established SMEs with less than 10 employees, and for larger companies with up to 250 staff. Obviously the category you fall into will depend on the size of your business and the stage that it’s at in its life cycle. In most cases the decision for funding will be based on the need for financial support, the sales and job creation potential of the company, its location and if any funding has been made previously available. Once you become a client of Enterprise Ireland, you’ll be assigned a development adviser who will be a dedicated point of contact when engaging with the organisation and will help out with applications for funding and other development supports.
Business Angel Networks
Angel networks are groups of individuals with the means to invest in businesses. They’re brought together and vetted, usually by an organisation such as the Halo Business Angel Partnership, which is run by the Dublin Business Innovation Centre. The advantage of having an Angel Investor on board is two-fold: generally they’ll have invested in businesses before and the organisation that they are a part of will match a specific investor who has proven experience in a certain sector with a company seeking investment in that industry. However, the amount of equity that a company has to give up as part of the deal varies depending on the level of input the investor has. Many of the business angel networks host seminars and events that anyone can attend to get a better understanding of what’s on offer and how to get involved. See our list below for some of the Angel Networks operating in Ireland today.
DCA Accountants and Business Advisors