Programmes, Funds and Supports Available for Female Entrepreneurs

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Programmes, Funds & Supports Available for Female Entrepreneurs – As a woman in business, there are a number of programmes, funding options and supports that are available to you. No woman is an island in terms of business so you shouldn’t feel alone about where to turn or if you need advice.

This article aims to give you the low down on what is available to you, so you know where to turn for advice, support and funding for your business – whether start up or growing. Here is some information grouped into government support agencies, programmes to undertake, funds to avail of and supporting organisations to contact.

Government Support

1. LEO

The first port of call should be your Local Enterprise Office. With 31 dedicated teams across the Local Authority network in Ireland, the offices are aimed at entrepreneurship and can help with advice and information on support, funding options and mentoring advice. Each office has a dedicated women in business network.

2. Enterprise Ireland

Enterprise Ireland has a range of supports and grants that are available to Irish businesses. Their funding programmes are open to anyone from entrepreneurs with a business idea that have the potential for a start-up to large companies that want to expand their business activities, improve efficiency and grow sales.


1. Going for Growth

Going for Growth is designed to support women who are serious about growing their businesses and are the owner manager of a business which has been trading for at least two years. At Going for Growth, they believe that entrepreneurs learn best from each other. Accordingly, the initiative is based on interactive roundtable sessions that are facilitated, not by consultants, academics or professional trainers, but by successful entrepreneurs.

If you are interested in participating in next year’s programme, you can register your interest over at Going for Growth website and you will be sent an application form as soon as the call for applications opens (Approx. November 2019).

Note – I can whole heartedly recommend this programme having done this myself and also further programmes with them. It is an excellent programme.

2. AIB Women in Enterprise Masterclasses

The Masterclass will be led by 3 expert business trainers from the Entrepreneurs Academy who are specialists in the areas of leadership, sales, finance and marketing and cater for up to 70 female led businesses. The Masterclass is suitable for female owned or led businesses, who (ideally) are in operation for longer than 18 months, have employees (even if they are part time or sub-contractors) and is better suited to businesses whose revenue or projections are in excess of €150,000 per annum

Note – I’ve taken this Masterclass too and found it to be amazing. Sometimes you just need an afternoon out of your business to take stock and get energised with ideas and plans.

3. AIB Women in Enterprise Growth Academy

Each Academy caters for up to 20 ambitious female business owners for more intensive in-depth sessions of 6 full days over 5 months focusing on leadership & growth strategies, facilitated by the Entrepreneurs Academy. Each Academy consists of highly engaging full day workshops. Each group will be facilitated to become its own peer board and will be supported by ongoing peer support network the ‘Board you can’t afford’, an accountability system and online community development. You can check their website for when applications open.

4. DCU Ryan Academy Highfliers Programme

Female Highfliers is an accelerator programme for Ireland’s best early stage start-ups, specifically addressing the challenges facing female entrepreneurs. The programme aims to fast track participant’s business development and leadership skills. It is aimed at female founders of start-ups which are less than 5 years old, show growth potential and must show strong export potential. Check out their website for dates for the next cycle of applications.

5. The Exxcel Programme

Exxcel is a part-time programme aimed at busy female entrepreneurs who have a business idea with high growth and export potential, within the STEM sector (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths).

Delivered over six months and working around professional and busy life commitments, participants undertake modules on different business topics on six Saturdays at the Rubicon Centre. Topics include Business Strategy and Planning, Finance and access to grants and loans for women, Sales, Branding, Digital Marketing and Presentation Skills.

It is the only one in Ireland dedicated to the STEM sector and this sets it apart.

6. Google Adopt a Start-up

Adopt A Start-up is a start-up mentoring programme whose mission is to accelerate the growth of high-potential Irish start-ups. It is not exclusively for women but it is an interesting programme.

This initiative is for firms that are in business for more than one year, currently generating revenue and with a strategy in place for acquiring new customers. The programme itself spans 8 weeks and comprises a series of specifically catered lectures and workshops, 1:1 guidance from Googler experts and Networking Opportunities. The curriculum focus is on an Accelerated Growth Plan covering 4 Priority Growth Areas: Understand Your Customer, Build Your Brand, Grow Globally & Scale Your Organisation.

Funding/Finance Options

There are a variety of funding and finance options available to you. Do your research to see which suits you. Your local LEO or Enterprise Ireland will provide a great deal of information to you about them. Here are a few ideas to help get your research started.

1. Competitive Start Fund for Female Entrepreneurs

The purpose of the Competitive Start Fund is to accelerate the growth of start-up companies that have the capacity to succeed in global markets. The fund is designed to enable those companies to reach key technical and commercial milestones.

This is part of the High Potential Start Ups are start-up businesses with the potential to develop an innovative product or service for sale on international markets and the potential to create 10 jobs and €1m in sales within 3 years of starting up. Enterprise Ireland will invest €50k for a 10% ordinary equity stake in the start-up company,

There is typically an annual call out for applications and they have a window of a couple of weeks when you fill out the form and apply.

2. The Employment and Investment Incentive Scheme

This scheme replaced the BES and allows individual investors get tax relief on investments they make in other companies. It will run until 2020. The cumulation limit on EII investment is now €15m as defined under the EU GBER.

3. Innovation Vouchers

Innovation Vouchers worth €5,000 are available to assist a company or companies to explore a business opportunity or problem with a registered knowledge provider (higher education institutes, public research bodies).

4. Trading Online Vouchers Scheme

For small businesses, LEO offices offer financial assistance of up to €2,500 along with training and advice to help your business trade online. Participating in this scheme can make the process of trading online much easier for smaller businesses (less than 10 employees).

5. Feasibility Study Grants

Feasibility Study Grants, available through your LEO, are designed to assist the promoter with researching market demand for a product or service and examining its sustainability. It includes assistance with innovation including specific consultancy requirements, hiring of expertise from third level colleges private specialists, design and prototype development.

The maximum Feasibility Study Grant payable for the S&E Region shall be 50% of the investment or €15,000 whichever is the lesser.

6. Propeller Venture Accelerator programme

DCU’s Ryan Academy runs the Propeller Venture Accelerator programme for early-stage technology start-ups. This three-month accelerator offers €30,000 seed funding plus €15,000 in services costs to entrepreneurs with winning ideas.

It has an emphasis on software, Web 2.0, applications, informatics and cleantech start-ups.

Supporting Organisations

1. Network Ireland

Network Ireland is a progressive, dynamic organisation supporting the professional and personal development of women. They have 15 branches all around Ireland.

2. Women in Business Network

The Women in Business Network is a membership organisation for women who wish to gain new business opportunities through word of mouth. There is a branch in Ireland.

3. Women’s Inspire Network

Woman’s Inspire Network has grown to become an international business community of hard-working women. This network is to celebrate all female CEOs, leaders, experts, entrepreneurs and women who work from home and are feeling a little isolated. They can help you take your business to the next level or assist you if you are thinking about taking the courageous leap into self-employment.

4. Women Mean Business

This is a business website dedicated to Women in Ireland that gives its readers a platform to reflect, collaborate, connect and gain insight from other female business leaders. It also has a print magazine.

5. is all about encouraging, empowering and investing in the existing and new businesses of women in our villages, towns and suburbs of every city and county across the country. Their remit includes the promotion of every part of the country for the benefit of the businesses of the area that are operated by women and the people of the area as well as encouraging a self-investment model for the area so as to bring vibrancy to each community. is a new voice for the Women in Business community in all parts of Ireland which consists of 110,000 Women who run their own businesses and 1.2m Women who work in management.

We hope you find you this interesting and useful. These are currently the supports available in 2019.

If you’d like to talk more about your business, talk to Angela O’Leary, Owner Manager of AG Associates. AG Associates is an accounting practice that specialises in affordable accounting and payroll solutions for the SME business owner. It’s new service Clarity combines online book-keeping with offline accounting to provide an instant snapshot of how a business is doing right now

For further information please contact Angela at Unit 11, Eastgate Way, Little Island, Cork. 021 4824723 or