Applications open for national scheme to help small businesses trade online

From this week, small businesses throughout Ireland can apply to the Government for digital vouchers to the system in helping their businesses trade online. Announcing the scheme, the Minister for Communications, Pat Rabbitte, said that 1,000 vouchers will be available for qualifying businesses through the network of 31 Local Enterprise Offices between now and the end of 2014, with more on offer next year. Businesses will be able to apply for grants of up to €2,500 as Government has allocated €5 million for the rollout of the trading online voucher scheme. “We want this scheme to help small businesses grow their sales, exports, and ultimately jobs. This will be the test of success, not the take up of vouchers,” said Minister Rabbitte. He went on to say: “We have successfully piloted the new scheme in Dublin City, and six months on, early research into the business outcomes has shown promise.” The key findings to date are, seven out of 10 companies said that the voucher application process haD already helped them in determining how online trading would fit into their business. Seventy per cent of companies saw more customer inquiries, 55 per cent have had more sales. Most companies are primarily trading domestically, but export expectations have increased with business expecting to get 30 per cent of sales from export markets within six months. UK is by far the most important export market initially. Business owners and staff are devoting more time to trading online. Sixty per cent expect to need to recruit with 12 months. Minister Rabbitte continued: “The results so far are positive, and we can expect these findings to improve over time as businesses involved in the pilot stage embed online trading within their overall business model. My Department will continue to review the scheme and improve it iteratively.” The LEOs were chosen as an ideal partner to deliver the trading online voucher scheme, as they are focused on getting business supports directly into the communities where small businesses operate. The Trading Online Vouchers Scheme is a new ‘product’ for these new organisations. The pilot voucher scheme demonstrated that it had the potential to open up a whole new customer base for the LEO service, bringing them closer to businesses in their area and allowing businesses to benefit from locally based experience.

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