Norma Smurfit introduces Microfinance to Tipperary’s Women in Business

60 local female entrepreneurs have received top tips and business advice from philanthropist and successful business woman Norma Smurfit.  The meeting was also addressed by Lorna Coleman, Project Manager, Microfinance Ireland, which provides loans to small businesses which have been refused credit by financial institutions.  The event was organised by Network North Tipperary in conjunction with the Tipperary North County Enterprise Board and local businesswoman Lisa McGee (founder of Isle Magazine) acted as MC.

Smurfit, a Director of the Board of Microfinance Ireland, spoke about how she first started a microfinance initiative in Ireland when she founded First StepMicrofinance more than twenty years ago and how she lobbied the Government for recognition of Microfinance as an option for financing businesses. She also explained the rationale behind the new Microfinance scheme, which was announced by the Government last yearunder the ‘Action Plan for Jobs’.

L-R Emma Darcy PRO, Pauline Coonan MCC, Mary Ryan Murray Vice President, Louisa Condon President, Norma Smurfit MFI and Fiona Connolly past president of the Network

Lorna Coleman, Project Manager with Microfinance Ireland, gave a presentation on how the Microfinance scheme works and encouraged small businesses to apply for the new Microfinance Ireland loan scheme, if they have been refused credit by the banks.

To apply for loans of up to €25,000, start-ups or small businesses employing fewer than ten people must have a commercially viable business proposal and the Enterprise Boards can provide assistance with the application process.  Aimed at businesses with less than ten employees and a turnover of less than €2million, the microfinance scheme is run by Microfinance Ireland in partnership with the County and City Enterprise Boards. Nationally, the ten-year microfinance scheme is expected to assist 5,500 micro-enterprises, helping to create an estimated 7,700 jobs in Ireland.

Lorna Coleman, Project Manager, Microfinance Ireland said: “The scheme is open to sole traders, partnerships and limited companies, across all industry types and business sectors, from services such as hospitality/catering  and hairdressing to IT and manufacturing in Co. Tipperary. We’re encouraging existing businesses looking to expand, in addition to new start-ups which cannot access credit through the normal channels to apply. Working in partnership with the County and City Enterprise Boards, our doors are now open for business in every county. It’s great to see so many women in business in Tipperary interested in driving their enterprise  forward – and it’s vital that they know that funding is available through Microfinance Ireland if they can’t get it from their bank.”

Rita Guinan, CEO of  Tipperary North County Enterprise Board explained: “This new loan scheme is filling a gap in the market, to help secure credit for more micro-enterprises in local areas, not just start ups, but existing firms who, for example, may need working capital or to invest in plant and equipment. The Enterprise Boards can help applicants with advice around business plans, cash flow projections and the application process itself, covering  up to 90% of the /mentor or accountant fees involved.   We are holding another lunchtime briefing next month in Thurles in conjunction with Thurles Chamber and I would hope to see more businesses, as well as financial institutions coming along to hear about this new alternative source of finance. Unlike the usual grant schemes operated by the Enterprise Boards, Microfinance is open to “the butcher, the baker and the candlestick maker” Ms Guinan said.

President of Network North Tipperary, Louisa Condon said: “It was great to see that this meeting was so well attended and energetic and that the message from Microfinance Ireland was so positive”. Ms Condon encouraged those present to consider membership of the Network which has many benefits for new and existing women led businesses.

A second information session on Microfinance is planned for Thurles on Wednesday, 13th March, aimed at the wider business community in North Tipperary.

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