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Visa opens grant programme for women entrepreneurs in Ireland

Women business owners are encouraged to apply for one of five €5,000 grants from Visa Ireland, which also come with a year’s mentorship.

Visa has announced a new grant programme for women-owned small businesses in Ireland. The financial services firm today (28 September) launched its ‘She’s Next, Empowered by Visa’ programme, which aims to support women entrepreneurs.

Ireland is the first European country to avail of this global initiative. Women business owners can apply for one of five €5,000 grants. Winning businesses will also receive one year’s mentorship and support from funding and start-up advice body IFundWomen.

Applications are invited under five different categories. The micro-business category focuses on sole proprietorships or micro-businesses with no more than two employees. The early-stage business category focuses on businesses founded and incorporated within the last 24 months. The small business category is aimed at companies with less than 50 employees.

There are two additional special categories for innovation and social impact. The innovation category is directed at businesses in STEM that are focused on developing new technologies. The social impact category is for small businesses and not-for-profit organisations that have made a positive impact on their communities.

“Visa wants to spotlight and address the challenges faced by women and the gender imbalance that still exists in early entrepreneurship. Small businesses are the backbone of the economy in Ireland, and we all have a role to play in supporting them as they get back on their feet,” said Visa Ireland’s country manager, Dominic White.

“The pandemic has impacted all small businesses across the country, but women business-owners have been disproportionately affected. To ensure they get the support needed, we are committed to providing the tools, resources, insights and networking opportunities that can help them grow their businesses,” he added.

According to the latest Startup Funding Review by TechIreland, Irish tech start-ups raised a record €932m in the first half of this year from venture capital, debt finance, grants and crowdfunding. However, it said that funding for companies with women founders declined from 11pc of the total to just 6pc.

Several Irish women entrepreneurs have endorsed the She’s Next programme, including the designers behind the Irish creative brand Jill & Gill and former The Apprentice runner-up Pamela Laird.

Laird said the grants and coaching opportunity could “make all the difference to a business in its early stages, or one in need of a boost”, whether it goes towards a website, social media, branding, marketing or research.

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