Funded under the Labour Market Activation Fund, it involved 10 regional training networks of 20 unemployed participants each who wished to become self-employed.  Micro-entrepreneurial development was developed within a network setting and early-stage development was supported and fostered through training, mentoring and provision of start-p capital.  Each network was set up to provide a clear progression route to self -employment.

Overall 219 particpants took part in the 10 networks.  Arising out of the programme, 187 new businesses were commenced, giving rise to an estimat4ed 195 owner-manager jobs and 164 additional jobs in year 1, with the expectation of rising to 545 jobs by year 3.  The Project concluded in November 2010.

Optimum Limited was one of 4 high quality companies chosen after tender to deliver this initiative on behalf on First Step.  In our opinion this was the most complete support initiatives ever provided for start up micro SMEs and it is hoped that it will be re-activated in 2011 and beyond.

Optimum’s brief for this Project involved training and mentoring three networks of 60 unemployed participants towards achieving self employment. 56 commenced operations with projected turnover of 6,000,000euro+in year 1 creating 80 jobs.  30+ availed of First Step start-up finance of circa 500,000euro thus far and 48 achieved FETAC Level 6 Entrepreneurial Studies Certification. These micro businesses represented business across all the sectors e.g. Retail, Restaurants, Application Development, IT Support, Tourism, Food, Smart Economy, Fashion, and Marketing Services. The programme involved a mix of direct training, mentoring, networking events and supporting Entrepreneurs in the preparation of professional business plans to obtain financial support.  Coaching and mentoring were key to the programme success and each Entrepreneur received professional advice for Financial Committee presentations and submissions.

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