The Coronavirus has caused unprecedented interruption to our daily and business lives. Many Irish SMEs are struggling to understand how they can best weather this crisis. Business owners will need to reawaken their operations when things return to normal. Thankfully, the Irish government and a number of digital platforms have created COVID-19 (Coronavirus) business supports for Irish SMEs.
We’ve compiled a list of some of the most important supports, which we will update as the crisis develops.
Government COVID-19 (Coronavirus) Business Supports for Irish SMEs
The financial impact of the crisis presents very clear challenges for all sectors. The Irish government has created a wide-ranging informational portal specific to the COVID-19 crisis. It includes advice and supports relating to:
- Working Capital – Provided by the SIBC, loans of €25,000 up to €1.5mln are available at reduced rates
- Engaging with Revenue
- Income support schemes
- Including the newly created Short Time Work Support scheme for anyone that has had their hours or days reduced
- Wage subsidy schemes
- Grant supports from Enterprise Ireland, IDA Ireland, the Local Enterprise Office, and Údarás na Gaeltachta
- The Local Enterprise Office has created a Business Continuity Voucher worth €2,500 for any business in any sector with up to 50 employees
- The Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation has prepared a useful checklist for Business continuity planning
- Enterprise Ireland’s Business Response for COVID-19 has a plethora of up to date advice and supports
- It includes their Covid-19 Financial Planning Grant of €5,000 available to help companies employing 10 people or more to understand their financial position and plan for any required financing
- Also their Lean Business Continuity Voucher worth €2,500 for training or advisory services support related to the continued operation of their businesses during the current pandemic
- And their Sustaining Enterprise Fund providing a €25,000 to €50,000 short term working capital injection. This is an EU backed fund
- Enterprise Ireland’s ieLearn online learning platform can provide Irish SME directors with crisis-related operational advice tailored to your needs
- Microfinance Ireland have increased their maximum loans available from €25,000 to €50,000 to respond to the crisis. These are available for sole traders and businesses with up to 9 employees.
- Bord Bia has created their “Navigating Uncertainty” Covid-19 response program for horticulture, food and drink businesses affected
May 2nd Government Update
As of May 2nd, the Irish government has released further guidance on the business supports available to aid recovery from Covid-19. It contains detailed measures being introduced to help lift the economy and bring SMEs back to life. It includes:
- A €10,000 restart grant for micro and small businesses based on a rates/waiver rebate from 2019
- A three-month commercial rates waiver for impacted businesses
- A €2 billion Pandemic Stabilisation and Recovery Fund within the Ireland Strategic Investment Fund (ISIF), which will make capital available to medium and large enterprises on commercial terms;
- A €2 billion COVID-19 Credit Guarantee Scheme to support lending to SMEs for terms ranging from 3 months to 6 years, which will be below-market interest rates. SMEs can go directly to their banks for this.
- The ‘warehousing’ of tax liabilities for a period of twelve months after recommencement of trading during which time there will be no debt enforcement action taken by Revenue and no interest charge accruing in respect of the warehoused debt;
- A commitment to local authorities to make up the rates shortfall, so that local authorities can continue to provide full services to the public
Business Supports for Online Strategy, SME Marketing & Communications
Some Irish businesses have reduced their marketing budgets while others have outright stopped all marketing activities during the health crisis. The main focus for every SME, after the health of its staff, has to be surviving the disruption.
It’s crucial to stay in touch with your clients with topical messaging and to help improve their isolated living situation in any way your business can. We’re constantly reviewing and appraising the business supports available for your online strategy, marketing, and communication efforts.
Enterprise Ireland – Covid-19 Online Retail Scheme
The Department of Business, Enterprise, and Innovation (DBEI) has proposed this Scheme in response to the Covid-19 crisis. The urgent need for retail companies to achieve a step-change in online capability is clear for all businesses. They’ve created a €2MLN fund to aid Irish owned businesses make the sorely needed transition to an online/remote offering. Successful applicants will be awarded funding to support a maximum of 80% of the project eligible costs with a maximum grant of €40,000.
“The applicant must be an Irish-owned retail enterprise that had 10 or more employees on or before 29 February 2020. They must have the potential to sustain or create jobs, generate growth in online transactions. And an ambition to internationalise their business in future.”
Applications for this scheme opened on the 29th of April and will close on the 27th of May 2020. They require that your business has at least an existing website or social media presence. Your proposed project size must have a minimum investment size of €12,500 (€2,500 to be paid by your business and €10K from the fund). For more details, read here.
If you’re wondering what your business could achieve with this funding, talk to us about how to pivot to online. We’ve already helped a number of our clients make the move.
If your business has a limited or nonexistent e-commerce presence, there’s also the €2,500 Local Enterprise Trading Online Voucher. If you’ve previously availed of the scheme, you can now apply for a second one if your e-commerce offering requires upgrades!
Virgin Media – €1MLN of Free TV Ads for Irish SMEs
Virgin Media have created a €1 million support fund to aid Irish SMEs affected by the health crisis. They have stated that the initiative will showcase the resilience of small and medium-sized Irish businesses. This will take the form of free TV ads across their channels and provide Irish SMEs with a national platform to aid their recovery.
Interested business operators should compile a short video and email which outlines their background, services and products. Also how your business is adapting to the challenges posed by COVID-19. Virgin have said they will accept businesses from all sectors and provide them with advertising airtime, ad creative and production, social media promotion, PR activity, content features and a business support package.
Their Director of Business, Aidan Darcy said:
“This campaign celebrates and promotes the spirit of Irish businesses and their resolve to fight back, recover and succeed in spite of this unprecedented crisis”
You can submit your business by emailing email@example.com
Google Ad Grants
Google has announced a new $800+ million commitment to help fight the economic damage the health crisis is having. $340 million of this will be made available to all SMEs with active Google Ads accounts in the last 12 months in the form of Google Ads credits. They specify that eligibility is for SME advertisers having spent with a Google Ads account in ten out of twelve months of 2019, and in January and/or February of this year. Read Google’s help centre article here for more details.
Businesses can expect to see the credit notifications appearing in their Google Ads accounts. The credits can be used at any point until the end of 2020. This will go some way towards communicating with your clients and accessing available demand.
Google Shopping – It’s now free to list your products!
Having an e-commerce offering has never been more important. As many bricks and mortar stores have had to temporarily close their doors, Google has made a very important announcement. In their blog post on Tuesday, April 21st 2020, they stated that Google Shopping listings will be primarily comprised of free listings starting the week beginning Monday 27th April 2020. This initially applied to the US only but we’re already seeing the option to list our Irish client’s products!
Irish businesses can take advantage of free product listings right now. We’re working with our clients to ensure they’re positioned to rank their products organically as it will go a long way to driving recovery. For more details of where your products can be appearing for free right now, see here. While the current health crisis has caused Google to push this strategy’s introduction forward, it will be a permanent feature ongoing.
To quote Bill Ready (Google), author of the blog post:
“For retailers, this change means free exposure to millions of people who come to Google every day for their shopping needs. For shoppers, it means more products from more stores, discoverable through the Google Shopping tab. And for advertisers, this means paid campaigns can now be augmented with free listings.”
Make no mistake, this is a tectonic shift in the marketing landscape. Having your products displayed, at the moment of search and high intent, in the Google Shopping listings can now occur organically. Developing a strong SEO strategy with your digital agency should be very high on every businesses’ priorities currently and ongoing to take advantage of this gift from Google.
Facebook has announced the creation of its Facebook Small Business Grants Program which has funding of $100 million in both cash grants and Facebook & Instagram Ads credits. In their official guidance, Facebook states that these can be used for:
- Keeping your workforce going strong
- Helping with your rent costs
- Connecting with more customers
- Covering operational costs
Applications aren’t being taken yet but you can sign up to be kept updated. We’re keeping a close eye on this to help clients engage with when possible and if needed.
Irish business owners can create a personal fundraiser for their business directly on Facebook. This will allow you to request donations from your loyal customer base at this critical time. You will receive any raised funds directly into your bank account.
Facebook Gift Cards
As part of its efforts to support small businesses during the health crisis, Facebook has introduced a new feature – Gift Cards. They are now available for users in Ireland.
This is particularly aimed at people that want to support their favourite local businesses. It can give bricks and mortar stores a fighting chance to recover when this crisis ends.
If you own a local business you can create Gift Cards through Facebook in conjunction with either of two approved 3rd party providers. Loylap (1.5% charge per gift card loading) or SumUp (2.75% charge on the gift card value).
Facebook states that “people in your community will be able to discover it on Facebook and purchase if they choose”. We interpret that as Facebook plans to showcase the option to buy a Gift Card for a local business in users’ Facebook feeds. Business owners can also share the gift card and get the message out across all their channels.
We’ll update news on this feature in regards to Irish users, as more is known.
We can help you
We’re staying on top of all of the available COVID-19 (Coronavirus) business supports for Irish SMEs. The ad grants can be used to help our clients when they most need it and we will guide them as to how to take advantage of each. Your digital agency should be able to help you keep the lights on with helpful advice on how to access them too.
If you’re struggling to understand how to give your business the best chance to weather this storm, we can help. By pivoting and adjusting to a digital or remote offering, we can lend our expertise to help you embrace digital transformation.
Talk with us about where your business is currently and we can help you to position yourself for strong recovery when things start to pick up again.