Back for Business: Empowering the returned Irish

Returning to Ireland is the dream of many an emigrant who will bring with them knowledge and expertise, but the biggest hurdle is often the network gap and awareness of supports and resources.

This week it emerged deadline for applications for returned emigrant entrepreneurs wishing to avail of the Irish Government’s Back for Business programme has been extended to 22 January.

The initiative – which aims to bridge the knowledge and network gap for potential entrepreneurs returning to Ireland from abroad – originally had a deadline of 7 January.

“These returning Irish are experts in their field, they know what great looks like and they have the talent and drive to achieve success in the new Irish companies they have started”

The reason for the extension is to allow people who might have heard about the programme while home for Christmas to prepare their applications.

The 2020 programme will run from February to July 2020. There is no charge for those selected to participate, and those interested in learning more can register their interest at

“Global Irish – Ireland’s Diaspora Policy, supports the successful return to Ireland of our Diaspora,” said Minister for State for Diaspora and International Development, Ciarán Cannon, TD.

“Back for Business is a practical measure to implement this commitment. This programme can make a real difference to returned and returning emigrants, who want to establish new businesses in Ireland. The successful delivery of this programme will enable these entrepreneurs to build new businesses and contribute to our economy and society.”

Last year, the 38 participants on the second year of the programme reported positive results, including:

Turnover for all participants combined increased by over 70pc during the six months of the programme to a total of €1.3m

A total of 48 new jobs were created by the participants who now employ 89 people between them

92pc said they felt nearer to achieving their ambitions having participated

Expertise and experience

Dark-haired man with beard and glasses, smiling.

Colin Brett, Suir Analysis, Waterford.

“Potential entrepreneurs returning home can often bring significant advantages such as a strong network of international contacts, proficiency in foreign languages and a greater understanding of export markets,” explained Paula Fitzsimons, founder and managing director of Fitzsimons Consulting.

“However, they can also have gaps in their knowledge of the supports and the well-developed entrepreneurial ecosystem available to early stage entrepreneurs. Their professional and personal networks in Ireland have been adversely affected given the years that they have spent out of the country. Back for Business is designed to bridge these gaps, while also addressing the general challenges that all entrepreneurs face when establishing a business.”

Among recent graduates of the programme is Tracy Armstrong of KO Kombucha (pictured at top), an Offaly-based producer of fermented tea drinks that are beneficial for the gut.

“We were just back from London, so didn’t have a network or contacts,” said Armstrong. “Back for Business helped us build our business back in Ireland and offered the structure needed to make sure we were asking the right questions as a start-up business. It also gave us access to mentorship and a peer group of people with a shared experience.”

Colin Brett of Suir Analysis, a Waterford-based provider of market-leading League of Ireland player performance data for football clubs, media companies and football intermediaries, also participated in the programme.

“Back for Business has been a lifesaver. I was desperately looking for advice, assistance and support but was unable to find any. I am now aware of many supports available to me through various State bodies, what is expected with regards to taxation and received very helpful legal advice on key elements of my business.” (see Colin’s full profile attached)

Áine Denn of Altify, which was recently acquired by US technology company Upland Software, is a lead entrepreneur on Back for Business. She said: “It was a pleasure to lead diverse groups of ambitious returning Irish emigrants – men and women with a focus on B2B and B2C and all at different stages of their entrepreneurial journey. I have been really impressed with their experience, learned working in world-class organisations across the world. These returning Irish are experts in their field, they know what great looks like and they have the talent and drive to achieve success in the new Irish companies they have started.”

Pictured at top: Tracy Armstrong, founder of KO Kombacha

Written by John Kennedy (

Published: 7 January, 2020