The launch of a new initiative to encourage budding entrepreneurs to bring their business ideas to fruition and take Co Longford to the core of innovation and creativity, was described as a national blueprint by Dragon’s Den star, Séan Gallagher last week. The Longford Business Angel Network, which was created by Longford Business Forum has generated €1m to provide start-up capital to new businesses and will furnish a team of people to mentor and provide commercial expertise along the way.
“This is a very exciting initiative,” Mr Gallagher said at the launch, adding that it was borne out of a coming together of local people in an effort to attract industry to their town. “As a member of Inter-trade Ireland, we have been campaigning for some time to get these angel networks up and running in Ireland and you are on to a winner here in Longford. I believe in enterprise and I believe in it now more than ever.”
He went on to say that it was invigorating to see entrepreneurs and communities coming together “like never before” to change localities forever. “Raising funds locally to encourage entrepreneurship is something that can be developed nationally and Longford has set an example, a platform on which to create new jobs,” Mr Gallagher said. “Because of the economic instability, we need to refocus and recreate an economy which is sustainable and we need to merge that economy with a compassionate society. We need to promote positivity in business, we need to care and this requires funding which we can either borrow or create ourselves. Entrepreneurs are becoming heroes because they are the future of the Irish economic markets and in the growth of indigenous business.”
A successful entrepreneur, Gallagher also pointed out that all success was about “daring to begin”.
“People start small companies and through growth and development, they become big,” he said, adding that other counties were now in a position “to follow the lead given by Co Longford”. “This could have the same impact on the growth and development of small businesses in this country in the same way that the credit unions had on every household in this country. There has been a loss of self confidence and self belief, in Ireland, in recent years and this is our greatest obstacle. We need to look into every gene of who we are and change the language of the national conversation. We need to look at new opportunities and challenge ourselves. We are innovative and creative and if there is an upturn to the downturn, then that is a return to common decency and basic value of community. By working together, you can bring new life into your county.”
Speaking to the Leader, Padraig Ward, Chairman, Longford Business Forum said that members of the Angel Netowrk would be meeting with third level institutions and Irish based associations all over the world in the coming months in an effort to encourage new business to Co Longford. “The idea is that we encourage people who want to set up business to do so in Longford,” Mr Ward explained. “The money is there and we have more business people who are willing to come on board and provide further funding. There are lots of premises available and we have been in discussions with landlords with regard to rents. The local authority is not in a position to lower rates, however we have been assured that it will help in other ways like with planning, etc.”
Mr Ward went on to say that while financial backing was essential, it was also important to realise that the “time and business expertise” that would be provided by the Longford Business Angel Network to start up businesses was “vital and crucial”. “We have experts on all areas like export, agriculture, health care, accounting and property development,” he explained. “Last year I had an opportunity to interview 10 TY students at Scoil Mhuire in Longford about their business ideas for the future. They were full of energy and optimism for the future. There was one girl who developed a product for lambs. She had no where to go with that idea and this was something that was a great idea. Now, she has an opportunity to develop her idea further and this is where the Longford Business Angel Network comes in. There are fantastic ideas out there and we in Co Longford can bring those ideas to fruition.”
The Longford Business Angel Network consists of 20 investors (angels) who have donated €50,000 each. A workshop will be held in Longford on May 30 next. Check out www.longfordbusinessangelnetwork.com for more details.