Here are 11 steps to follow if you want to start a business in Ireland.

1. Start with an idea and validate it

Ideas are oxygen to entrepreneurs, but many a good idea rarely sees light of day or if it does, fails because it is poorly executed. Market research is the best way to start to figure out if your business has legs. Bounce ideas off friends and family too. But as your idea takes shape, create a minimal viable product (MVP) to give customers and backers a sense of what the product or service is all about but also as a way to gather feedback and better hone your idea. Sometimes an MVP can be tested by ringing or reaching out to target customers or even conducting research on the street.

2. Do you have what it takes to be an entrepreneur?

Woman in stripy shirt standing in office.

Starting a business is not for everyone. It is a combination of luck, timing but fundamentally hard work. If it goes well, it will be one of the most rewarding things you have ever done. But if it goes wrong because you failed to do the groundwork, it could be a costly mistake in time, resources and moral. To learn more about whether you have what it takes to be an entrepreneur click here 

3. Write a compelling business plan

Woman entrepreneur working on a business plan.

The writing of a business plan should actually go before you build your MVP as it not only helps you to crystalise the idea, it is fundamental for potential investors, lenders or state bodies.

Your business plan should cover objectives, sales, strategies, marketing and financial forecasts, over a short to long-term period.

It is useful to remember that using a business plan can help you to hone your business idea, as well as set goals and track your progress. To learn more about writing a business plan click here 

4. Register your business

It is important to register your new company name as quickly as possible through the Companies Registration Office.

This not only formalises the foundation of your business, but it is also a good way to ensure you aren’t creating a business name that someone already has or that sounds similar.

Next you would need to register your business’s domain name through bodies like IE Domain Registry or the myriad of hosting providers that exist or reputable web hosting companies like Blacknight.

If all of that sounds a lot, organisations like the Company Bureau serve as a one-stop-shop for everything you need to start a business from registering it, finding a domain name to even building a website.

5. Decide whether you are going to be a sole trader, a partnership or a limited company

People working on laptops.

Many people jump into business out of pure passion for a product or service, not realising the sheer amount of administration that comes in its wake. If you are starting up a business in Ireland, the first decision you will make is how the business will be structured and, more often than not, the choice will be between operating as a sole trader (or in a partnership), or registering as a limited company.

For example, as a sole trader you will be legally inseparable from the business you run and you could have unlimited liability for debts the business incurs.

If you set up as a limited company, you could achieve generous tax breaks for directors on pensions and liability is limited to the amount paid for shares. However, bureaucracy and compliance rules are strict.

To read a good article about the merits of registering as a sole trader or a limited company click here

To learn more about structuring your business click here

6. Find resources you may be entitled to and contact your local LEO

Ireland has many generous schemes and grants for start-up businesses. For example, Enterprise Ireland has a range of funding supports available for particular sectors as well as for encouraging more women to become entrepreneurs.

Ireland’s network of Local Enterprise Offices (LEOs) are a valuable and useful resource to set you in the direction of starting-up. LEOs offer a range of financial and business supports as well as a range of training and events to equip you with the knowledge and skills you might need. To find your Local Enterprise Office, click here

There are programmes run by Government Departments such as ACORNS, which is focused on accelerating start-ups in rural areas led by women founders. There is also the hugely successful Going for Growth programme sponsored by Enterprise Ireland and KPMG.

7. Open a business bank account

People doing accounts.

It is very important from day one to separate your personal finances from your business finances. Many business owners fail to make this distinction, but it is worth getting this right from the start. Open a business bank account when you’re ready to start accepting or spending money as your business. Not only does this help you to stay legally compliant and protected, it also benefits customers and future employees in the long run. To learn more click here

Bank of Ireland has created a Business Startup Package that includes a business current account. To learn more click here

8. Evaluate your funding options

There are many different ways to fund a business, and every one of them has advantages and disadvantages. Your business plan should serve as an indicator of the kind of investment you will need to start a business.

You may have money on hand from savings or from a redundancy, but you could also start with a small business loan.

Borrowing from a bank is a form of debt finance. There are several different types of finance, and which type you use will depend on whether the finance is for a short-term or a long-term use. The “golden rule” is to match the type of finance (short-term or long-term) to the intended business need (short-term or long-term). To learn more click here

Other forms of funding that exist include equity (venture capital), angel investment and crowdfunding where you can use online platforms to get the public to pledge support your idea in return for a sample or first dibs. To learn more about venture capital in Ireland visit the Irish Venture Capital Association. And to learn more about angel investment in Ireland, check out the Halo Business Angel Network

The Local Enterprise Offices also provide grans such as feasibility study grants, priming grants and innovation grants.

Enterprise Ireland has a High Potential Start-up (HPSU) Programme as well as various funds in areas from agriculture and food to technology and manufacturing.

SURE is a tax refund calculator for potential entrepreneurs and the Supporting SMEs Online Guide is an interactive guide that lists cross-government supports for businesses.

9. Decide where you want to work from

There are many businesses that began life at a kitchen table or from a garage. If not working from home, many start-ups opt to work from co-working hubs and serviced offices such as Glandore, Tcube, Dogpatch Labs or WeWork or they join accelerator programmes such as UCC’s IGNITE.

Ireland is also chock-full of co-working hubs in every county where you can either rent a desk and form part of a community, or be mentored in accelerators to the point where your business is making sales. Many of these have remained open through the pandemic and while space may be tight due to social-distancing restrictions, you can find out if there are any nearby by visiting National Association of Community Enterprise Centres.

10. Develop a dream team

A team of women rowers.

Whether you have co-founders or you are taking on your first employees, having people to bounce ideas off is crucial and remember, these people can often be closer to customers and day-to-day operations than you are. Culture is key. 

The reality of these Covid-19 times is that you and your co-founders will also be working remotely and most likely your first hires will be working remotely. To both source remote staff and to learn about harnessing the right culture of a remote workforce, Grow Remote is an Irish-founded organisation that has many of the resources and insights you need.

To learn more about building a great start-up team, click here

11. Find a business mentor

A mentor is someone who can offer experienced insight, a fresh point of view, dedicated expertise and support. Any business can benefit from having a mentor, from the newest of startups to long-established businesses that need a shot in the arm.

To learn more about finding a business mentor, click here

By John Kennedy (john.kennedy3@boi.com)

Published: 8 December, 2020

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