Visa brings back She’s Next programme for Irish women entrepreneurs

Visa has invited Irish small business owners to apply for the chance to receive one of five €10,000 grants and one year coaching from IFundWomen to help them grow their business.

Visa has confirmed the return of the She’s Next programme to support women entrepreneurs in Ireland.

The programme aims to help close the entrepreneurship gap in Ireland as new research reveals women entrepreneurs are less confident and optimistic than male peers.

“While important progress has been made, there’s still more to be done to address the challenges and obstacles that women-led businesses face”

New categories open up the grant programme to Changemakers and Innovation and Technology entrants as the programme enters its third year

Paving the way for women entrepreneurs

While Ireland now has the third-highest rate for early-stage female entrepreneurs in Europe, in 2022 only 37% of high potential start-ups were women-led. The disparity extends to the issue of confidence with a new Visa study with 250 Irish small business owners finding that 93% of men surveyed feel very or completely confident when it comes to evolving their business against 71% of women surveyed.

Similarly, 87% of Irish women small business owners surveyed said they were optimistic about the future of their business compared to 98% of men.

“It is encouraging to see Ireland helping pave the way for female entrepreneurs,” said Mandy Lamb, managing director at Visa Ireland and UK.

“Women business leaders are absolutely integral to the future of entrepreneurship, and while important progress has been made, there’s still more to be done to address the challenges and obstacles that women-led businesses face.

“That’s why we are taking action, and we’re proud to be bringing She’s Next to Ireland for a third year. With this programme, we want to empower women by providing funding, expertise and coaching so they can achieve their growth aspirations and make a difference to society.

“We had such a positive reaction to the programme so far, with over 60% more entries last year. Our ten grant winners to date have been incredibly inspiring and it’s fantastic to see the emerging entrepreneurial talent in Ireland today.”

The programme will offer women small business owners the chance to receive one of five grants of €10,000 and one year of coaching with international business experts through IFundWomen, the go-to funding marketplace for women-owned businesses.

“The funding and coaching really helped us take the next step in our business and get in front of more customers,” said Meredeith Davis, co-founder of ReFunk UpCycling. “In addition, the coaching sessions on topics such as branding and team dynamics proved invaluable. At ReFunk, we are all about empowering and enabling other women to start and grow their own businesses.

“We are very happy to get behind ‘She’s Next’ this year and hopefully our success in being selected will encourage others to enter. This is the extra support that women in business need right now in Ireland, and it is very straightforward to enter.”

Women business leaders in Republic of Ireland are invited to apply for the chance to receive one of five grants of €10,000 and the coaching with IFundWomen. Due to the success of the previous years, two new categories are being introduced in 2023: in addition to awards for micro, small and early-stage businesses, the newly introduced categories are Changemakers and Innovation & Technology.

“It’s an honour to partner with Visa on the third She’s Next Grant Programme in Ireland,” said Karen Cahn, founder and CEO at IFund Women. “It was encouraging to see the significant growth in applications in last year’s programme and we’re confident that with continued funding and resources, each woman-led business will be able to take the steps to grow with confidence.”

The Changemakers category is open to women that have set up a business to help address societal or economic challenges such as supporting communities or promoting sustainability practices, whilst the Innovation and Technology category will recognise fintechs, technology driven businesses and companies that have used technology to grow their business.

How to apply

The She’s Next Grant Programme, in partnership with IFundWomen, is open to small businesses and organisations in Republic of Ireland that are majority owned by women, operating across all industries and sectors, through a simple application process. It is designed to be an inclusive programme to appeal to a diverse range of applicants from different backgrounds. Applicants in previous years who were not selected as winners are invited to reapply.

To enter, applicants are asked to submit details about their business and online presence here. The closing date is 21 July 2023. Terms and conditions apply.

Applications are invited under five different categories:

  • General awards for:
    • Micro business: Sole proprietorships or microbusinesses with no more than two employees
    • Early-stage business: Businesses founded and incorporated within the last 24 months (must have been operating for at least 6 months)
    • Small business: Any small business with fewer than 50 employees
  • Additional two categories for:
    • Changemakers: Social enterprises or community-based enterprises or businesses that show recognisable achievements in sustainability efforts e.g. sustainable energy, climate resilience, environmental and social best practice, environmental and social innovation, and gender and economic inclusion.
    • Innovation and technology: Businesses in science, fintech, technology, engineering or medicine or a business that has used technology to grow.

Main image at top: One of the 2022 She’s Next winners, Meredith Davis of ReFunk Upcycling with Mandy Lamb, MD UK & Ireland, Visa

John Kennedy
Award-winning editor John Kennedy is one of Ireland's most experienced business and technology journalists.