The Trading Online Voucher is a matched funding grant of up to €2,500. It is provided by the Local Enterprise Office in Ireland and is designed to help businesses start or grow their online trading.
If you are a trading business who would like to grow your online presence then consider this your Ultimate Guide to the Trading Online Voucher! Plus get the insights and advice from those previously been through the application process and been successful.
What to expect from this article
Click on a topic to jump straight there.
1. What is the Trading Online Voucher?
2. Who is it for and who is it not for?
3. What can I use the money for?
a. Attending the information session
b. What to expect from the application form
c. Getting the notification of approval
5. Getting the money (drawdown)
6. Your commitments after receiving the Trading Online Voucher
7. Feedback and advice from those having gone through the process already.
What is the trading online voucher?
The Trading Online Voucher is a grant scheme available to small business in Ireland made available by the Local Enterprise Office. The grant aims to allow currently offline businesses to begin or increase trading online.
The Trading Online Voucher is different from other sources of business funding in that it is a grant, not a loan therefore it does not have to be repaid. However, it is matched funding, which means, if you spend a total of €2000 on getting your business online, you can get a Trading Online Voucher worth €1000 and you must spend that €2000 before you can receive the money-back from the scheme.
Therefore you must have the means to spend the money first then receive half back from the voucher.
To help applicants make the best use of the grant they will receive free training and support from their local enterprise office.
Who is it for and who is it not for?
To be eligible for the Trading Online Voucher you must:
1. Have none or limited online trading currently
2. Have been trading for more than 6 months (this has been reduced from 12 months)
3. Have a turnover of less than €2 million
4. Have less than 10 employees
You won't be eligible for the Trading Online Voucher if:
1. Your business is a charity or 'not for profit'
2. You have services specializing in I.T. type services that are currently able to trade online using existing systems. This is the stipulation that rules me out from applying as a website designer.
3. Your business is conference and seminars
4. Your businesses services or products go against public policy (have the potential to cause harm)
5. Your business will be ineligible if it is considered that your project is capable of proceeding without the assistance of the scheme.
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What can you use the money for?
You can use the money for software and services that assist you with trading online including:
1. I.T. consultations
2. A website that includes a payment process system or booking system
3. Online related software
4. Advertising (no more than €30 % of the total voucher amount)
5. App development
6. Development and implementation of a digital marketing strategy
Trading online means that you can access potential clients from across the globe, you are no longer confined to the Irish border or those close by. To give you an idea of what trading online could mean for your business let's take aa fictional company, StarShip Business Consulting as an example.
Before the Trading Online Voucher
StarShip Business Consulting currently has a simple website where local business can find their contact details. Those potential customers email or ring StarShip Business Consulting to inquire, the customers acquire some information about how they could potentially work together, some sent via email and some through the post.
After a few days, staff from StarShip follow up the inquiry to try and close a sale. The customers decide to work with StarShip. StarShip requires half of the consulting fees upfront so they must get the customers on the phone to take their credit card details, this takes time and many missed calls.
The consulting takes place and the customers are very happy with the service provided. StarShip Business Consulting does not get any future work from the client.
As you can see valuable time is wasted and there is no further work done between the two companies.
After the Trading Online Voucher
Let's look at how different the business is for StarShip Business Consulting after improving its website and sales funnel.
While researching the problems they are having in their business, the same client comes across a detailed blog post written by StarShip (strategic blogging strategy). The blog post is professional and well written so the client tries to find out more details by going to the home page of their website. Again, they are impressed by the website and feel that StarShip understands their company's struggles (professional sales copy), so they book a call back through the website booking system.
StarShip now has dedicated times of the day where they can return the calls of potential customers. During the discussion, the client's contact details are taken including their email address. The customer goes away to think about what to do but has been added to StarShip's automated email sequence.
They receive several emails over a couple of days, providing useful business tips and tricks ending with an email saying, 'If you are still interested in working together, you can book and pay for your required service by clicking Here' (payment processing system).
The companies work successfully together on the project. After completion, the client is added to another email sequence. One that sends monthly emails with useful blog posts or Youtube videos that can help them improve their business. StarShip is called upon for further work by the client because of this regular contact.
Can you see the differences? Due to the funding received from the Online Trading Voucher StarShip Business Consulting now have:
1. Well written blog posts that increase traffic to their website
2. Automated sales funnel, saving time and resources getting clients on board.
3. Payment processing through their website
4. Professional sales copy on their website
5. Automated email sequence to encourage further working relations
This is simply an example of how you could grow your business online, but there are many many other uses for the Trading Online Voucher. StarShip Business Consulting continues to grow their business and provide their services to more clients around the world.
You cannot use the money for:
1. A brochure website. This is a website that only has information and contact details (no booking or payment system)
2. Non-internet related software or anything else that is not related to getting your business online
The Application process
This is the step by step process in applying for the Trading Online Voucher. After reading this you will be more physically and mentally prepared for the application process. If you are still unsure if you are eligible I would advise you to contact your Local Enterprise Office who can answer any of your questions.
1. Apply for and attend an information session
2. Complete the application form and return it to the Local Enterprise Office. Expect to answer questions such as your plan for using the Trading Online Voucher, what is the Unique Selling Point (USP) of your business and who is your target market, your expansion potential, and financial projections.
“Be certain what you want, why you want it and how it will fit into your plan for success..”
- Aidan, Previous applicant -
There is a competitive aspect to help with finding the most suitable young businesses and these things are taken into account:
c. Export potential
d. Job creation potential
e. Financial sustainability
3. Notification of approval.
The voucher is a letter that is sent to the applicant upon success. This letter must be accepted, signed and returned to the Local Enterprise Office.
The applicant has 3 months to avail of the money provided by the scheme.
4. Drawdown (getting your money)
Payments will be made directly to the participant on the receipt of:
a. Applicant and supplier signed declaration
b. Copy of Company of Registrations Office (C.R.O.) certificate
c. Tax clearance certificate
d. The original invoice of the supplier used including their C.R.O. and tax registration details
e. Bank statements showing proof of payment from applicant to the supplier
f. Declaration of projects completed by supplier.
Your commitments after receiving the trading online voucher
Applicants must agree to reports of progress from participation in the scheme, 6 months afterward and annually up to 3 years after completion.
These reports may include details such as jobs, turnover, export expansion and reduce costs.
Feedback from passed participants of the scheme
If you are going to be spending a few thousand on setting up to trade online I think it is an excellent option as it is relatively easy to complete.
I think S.M.E. [Small, Medium Enterprise] owners are often put off availing of this as they assume it will be a bureaucratic nightmare ... and it really isn't. It is also a great reflective tool as you are rightly challenged to explain why you want to make this particular investment and how it fits into your plan for success.
What other sources of funding are available to start- ups in Ireland?
There are several financial supports available for small businesses and start-ups provided by the Local Enterprise Office including:
Feasibility Study Grants - funding available to assist with market research assessing demand for a product or service
Priming Grant - for micro-enterprises within the first 18 months of operation for domestically trading services with the potential to trade internationally
Business Expansion Grant - for enterprises after their first 18 months of operation for domestically trading services with the potential to trade internationally
Other grants are available from the Local Enterprise Office and you can find out more here.
Enterprise Ireland - High Potential Start-Up fund
This is a fund supplied by Enterprise Ireland. To be considered a high potential start-up you need to have plans to provide your service or product to an international market, employ more than 10 people and have €1m in export sales in 3 years. To find out if you are eligible for this support visit the Enterprise Ireland website here.
New Frontiers Program
NATIONAL PROGRAMME FOR DEVELOPING ENTREPRENEURS
The New Frontiers Program offers interactive workshops, 1-1 mentoring, financial supports and co-working space. It is delivered by the Institutes of Technologies and Universities on behalf of Enterprise Ireland. You can download the booklet here.
It is delivered in 3 phases and is ideal for someone serious about developing their business idea into a successful start-up.
The Trading Online Voucher can be of great use to specific small businesses and start-ups who are eligible. I hope this article has given you all the information you need to decide to apply or not. If you have questions or queries the Local Enterprise Offices are always there to take your call. You can find the contact details for your local office here.
The Trading Online Voucher is not the only support available and I would encourage you to take a look at the other options too. Perhaps you could inquire about business loans through the banks or credit unions or even find private investors.
If you decide to apply for the voucher and are looking for a website designer I would love the opportunity to work with you. Getting your business profitable online is essential in this changing world and the longer you leave it, the more behind your competitors you fall.
Have you successfully applied and received the Trading Online Voucher? I would love to hear your experiences and include them in future updates of this blog post to enable future candidates to get a full picture of the process.
Do you have any questions or queries about the voucher or the application process? I can include your answers in future updates.