10 things to know before setting up a small business in Ireland

So far we have described the process of setting up a microbrewery in Ireland focusing on the actually microbrewery itself.  But there are a whole load of licenses, registrations and rules and regulations to be complied with for any business setting up in Ireland.  Ireland is heavily regulated and the amount of red tape one must get through in establishing a new business is at times excruciatingly painful.  The OECD Index of Product Market Regulation describes Ireland’s regulative environment of restrictive licenses and permits as expensive and time consuming and reports that this actually discourages entrepreneurship making it difficult for start-ups to get established (Country Profile Series Ireland In-depth PESTLE Insights, Marketline, 2014).

To say we were naive is an understatement and we would like to share some of our experiences.

10.  Not all support is financial
We’ll begin with a positive experience.  We received a huge amount of support and help from people we have met along the way to establishing our microbrewery.  The Local Enterprise Office and Enterprise Ireland is a wealth of information and help for budding entrepreneurs.  The courses and mentoring sessions on offer are extremely worthwhile.  We completed the ‘Start your own business’ and the exporting course offered by the Clare LEO.  Padraig Considine and Theresa Mulvihill are excellent mentors and trainers.  We also took part in Part I of the New Frontiers Programme.  Simon O’Keeffe, the course director welcomed everyone regardless of the stage they were at in their company development.  So even if a start-up isn’t eligible for a grant, there are other forms of assistance out there.

9. Enterprise Ireland has an extensive research library
The research libraries at the Enterprise Ireland offices in Dublin and Shannon are hidden gems of information.  The librarians are incredibly helpful.  They have access to a wide range of consumer reports which will offer an insight into product markets and export opportunities.  It is well worth spending a day at this facility to determine if there is a market for a particular product and identify any further opportunities for a particular product or service.

8. Bank are not backing brave
We wasted so much time with our bank trying to secure a loan and we naively went along with the charade.  We applied for a loan.  It was refused.  We were instructed to appeal the decision by our client relationship manager.  And again they took every minute of the legally prescribed 15 working days before upholding the decision.  We were told that we could look into a lease agreement at the start of the process and by the time everything was refused, this option was also withdrawn.  The only collateral they would accept against the loan is cash.  In order to secure a loan, we had to have 60% in an account with a lien in favour of the bank and 40% in a deposit account at the time of the loan was issued.  Basically, we had to have the money ourselves so that the bank could lend it back to us and charge us for the pleasure!!

7. The SBCI will not intervene in a loan application made under the SBCI
Michael Noonan declared that through the SCBI, banks were offering a 1% discount off the bank’s prevailing interest rate to small and medium businesses.  As the banks are not lending, this announcement is pretty redundant!!  Based on our experience, when it comes to start ups, banks are not lending.

6. Never remove an item from your to do list until you are sure it’s done
I love ticking items off to do lists as I get them done.  There is something very satisfying about ticking the last remaining item off a long list.  Based on our experience, I would recommend adding items considered done on to a follow up list if the item involves someone having to action a request or process an application form.  Forms can get misplaced, incorrectly filed or misinterpreted.  A quick follow up call a few days later can save a lot of time later on.

5. Allow time for following up on ‘done’ items
If something takes 10 business days, allow additional time for follow up.

4. Record the name and date of the person you talk to
This is a lesson we learnt the hard way.  We were given advice on a particular subject from a governmental department and did not record the name of the person we spoke to or the date of the call.  We took this information as correct.  When we returned to the government agency to apply for the required permit, we were told this information was incorrect.  Even better, get any advice in writing if possible.

3. Keep copies of all application and supporting documentation
This may sound obvious but it is so easy to fill out an application form and send it off without thinking that there could be an issue with it.  It could get misfiled, misplaced, lost but without back up, you have no prove that it was sent.

2. Get to know your local politician
While the era of the brown envelop may have gone, the need for political intervention in this country is alive and well.  We have had to call on support of our local politicians on more than one occasion to push something over the line.  We were not looking for preferential treatment or override a particular rule or regulation.  But in our experience, startups need an extra help in navigating the regulatory environment in Ireland.

1. Keep going
Starting out on your own can be an extremely daunting experience.  With any new enterprise, there are going to be unforeseen issues but it is important to work through these issues and keep going.  It’s also important to celebrate the small victories and mark each milestone along the way.