| AIB’s Jim McLaughlin, DLDC chair Jim Slevin and winner Michael Conway.
Ann Styles reports
Entrepreneurs in Donegal have access to a wealth of information and support from their Local Development Company (LDC).
From Start Your Own Business (SYOB) courses to mentoring and workshops, the company provides a comprehensive support system for people, many of who have been long-term unemployed, with a desire to set up their own business. The LDC has two full time project officers who co-ordinate the service which has supported over 1900 people to date.
Donegal LDC Enterprise Officer, Louise Brogan said that, since 2009, Donegal LDC has supported 476 people in setting up new businesses with current trends in areas such as sports and leisure, driving instruction and graphic design. Of the 476 businesses, Louise estimates that at least 60% are still in business.
Louise and her colleagues believe that the future for many people lies in self-employment and that one-to-one support is key regardless of the person’s background.
One man who would agree is Enterprise Award winner Michael Conway: “Without their support I wouldn’t be here, they helped me immensely.”
Michael began with window cleaning and has expanded to include light DIY, painting and decorating, and exterior cleaning.
The supports offered to budding entrepreneurs include a SYOB course, one-to-one appointments, preparation of a business plan and cash-flow projections, mentoring and a bookkeeping course.
The mentoring provided by the enterprise scheme was a vital part of the supports offered said Michael as it prevented you from feeling isolated and gave you the assurance that someone was there to hear your concerns.
The enterprise scheme also provides workshops to improve awareness of, for instance: Sales techniques, marketing strategies, and how to prepare a health and safety statement.
“These courses and workshops save people money by helping them to do it on their own.” said Louise.
Michael agreed, adding that he went to every workshop on offer and found them highly informative, allowing him to garner knowledge in many relevant topics such as tax returns and Internet use.
Returning to work was important to Michael, who had been out of the workplace for some time while battling cancer. He felt it was necessary to alter people’s perception of him as ‘ill’ and instead be seen as capable of contributing to the work sphere. He first contacted Donegal LDC in 2008 and four years on he employs two people, has completed training-for-trainers and regularly passes on work to other self-employed people in his area. He is also the winner of the Donegal LDC Enterprise Award for 2011.
Donegal LDC faces a number of challenges in delivering this service. The catchment area is vast and predominantly rural which limits employment opportunities in the county.
Another challenge is the high volume of prospective clients, coupled with a wide range of educational backgrounds and life-experiences and there are also issues with viability and displacement due to overlaps in business ideas.
In response, Donegal LDC are putting new structures in place to reach a wider number of people, they’re redesigning the business start-ups course and they’re running an ideas generation workshop.
Michael encourages people to “look outside the box” and to give Donegal LDC a call.
For more info, contact Louise Brogan on 086-812-4250. E: firstname.lastname@example.org