Entrepreneur hits out at Enterprise Board red tape

A local businessman has received a €50,000 grant from Enterprise Ireland has hit out at a local agency that turned down his application.

A local businessman has received a €50,000 grant from Enterprise Ireland has hit out at a local agency that turned down his application.

Henry Fingleton from Cullenagh recently won the Enterprise Ireland Competitive Start Fund award but he applied for support from Laois County Enterprise Board in 2010.

He has invented a vacuum cleaning system for domestic and commercial kitchens, for the European market.

“I applied for €30,000 for a feasibility study in December 2010. It was very frustrating, I waited ten weeks, and they came back and offered me around 10 per cent. It probably would have cost me as much in compliance to get that funding, it was a useless offer really,” he said.

The wait also affected his schedule for getting a patent.

“When you apply for a patent you are given a certain time to meet their goals. That ten weeks ate into that time. They seem mostly to run training courses, I dealt with them in the past and they were ok for that, but in terms of what I needed, they weren’t fit for purpose,” the entrepreneur said.

He feels there was a lack of business knowledge in the board members.

“There are four county councillors and eight representatives from community groups, with just one person from Enterprise Ireland. There seems to be little representation from business people,” he said.

Enterprise boards are soon to be amalgamated into county councils, which Mr Fingleton hopes will improve the situation.

“These support bodies need to reappraise their goals, function, culture and management systems if they are to become part of the solution on the road to recovery. Hopefully this will result in a body which is effective and truly understands the needs of business start ups,” he said.

The Assistant CEO of Laois CEB, Evelyn Reddin, explained why their decision took time.

“Henry Fingleton’s application for grant assistance was received on the 3rd December, 2010 and was considered by the Board at their meeting on the 13th December. Further information was requested by letter dated 16th December which Mr Fingleton replied to by email on the 5th January, 2011. His application was reconsidered by the Board at their next meeting on the 14th February and a decision issued by letter dated 15th February,” she said.

Mr Fingleton then applied to Enterprise Ireland, a national body which develops Irish enterprise in world markets.

“It was almost a Dragon’s Den style. About 180 people applied, they pick thirty to pitch, then 15 of those get €50,000 funding. EI take a 10 per cent share in the company. It’s an investment, not a grant or a loan,” he said.

Enterprise Ireland offered him a position on their High Potential Start Up programme, based on export potential and the ability to create 10 jobs and one million euro in turnover by year three.

“It’s an excellent system, they provide me with an advisor, and access to all their foreign counterparts. It gives me credibility too when talking to suppliers and customers, having them as a partner. Unfortunately for most start up’s they won’t get the benefit of this unless they have potential for export or scale.” he said.

The first batch of patent pending Sweepovac units, manufactured by a Drogheda company, are to undergo testing in August, with plans to launch the product at five kitchen retailers by October. A full launch is scheduled for March 2013.