Scheme for entrepreneurial emigrants open for business

A Government-supported business programme, which focuses on returned emigrants, is hoping to attract people who moved home to Ireland during the pandemic.

The scheme, which is now in its fifth year, is also open to those planning to come back in the near future.

The Back for Business developmental programme is funded by the Government’s Emigrant Support Programme.

It was set up to support Irish citizens who have returned to Ireland and who are in the early stages of setting up a business.

For many returning emigrants, there is unfamiliarity with professional networks in Ireland and gaps in their knowledge of the local business scene.

This programme aims to address those challenges while it also provides peer support with high profile entrepreneurs and other participants.

“It is terrific to meet so many with real entrepreneurial flair determined to create new businesses on their return to Ireland. Starting a new business while moving home is not easy” said Áine Denn, one of the voluntary Lead Entrepreneurs.


Aileen Markey is among the 120 past participants on the programme.

Originally from Dundalk in Co Louth, she spent almost three decades living abroad. In 2016 she decided to leave the corporate life in New York and returned to Ireland where she set up a company – Unglu-d – which produces gluten-free products.

“I thought if I’m going to do this then what better place to do it than at home where I’ve got a support network around me,” she explained.However, moving home after being away for so long brought its own challenges.

“When you are coming home, it’s difficult. It’s like moving to a new country, you are starting from scratch again,” she said.

After getting accepted on the Back for Business programme, Ms Markey said a whole new network was opened up.

“The programme gave me all the training. Accountancy, how to apply for funding and all that.

“But the key part for me was I was part of a group, and we had a mentor, Thomas Ennis. His experience and insight were invaluable,” she added,

Ms Markey has grown her business and now has seven gluten free products in her range.

“I don’t think I would have the confidence to have done so much, were it not for the programme,” she said

Artist Clare O’Connor from Co Meath, has a similar story. She left Venice in 2017 and returned to Ireland to set up a designer brand.

“Before I came home I had done a lot of sampling with fabrics, so I already had my product ready, and I launched in January 2018 and that’s when I started Back for Business”.

Now four years on and her business is growing. She makes scarves and other luxury accessories with a focus on bright, vibrant colours.

The Meath woman credits the Back for Business programme for helping her expand the business.

“Every month, you came and talked about your achievements. We were doing workshops. We were learning about sales and marketing. There were so many aspects to it,” she said.

Ms O’Connor is now encouraging returned emigrants to apply for the programme.

“The one thing about being at home, you have support of friends and family. It’s been the best decision I made,” she said.

The scheme is open to candidates who have lived abroad for at least a year and have returned in the last three years, as well as those planning to return to live in Ireland in the near future

There are up to 50 places available on Back for Business, and the closing date for applications is midnight Tuesday 15 February.