Entrepreneurship skills charity Young Enterprise Northern Ireland and start-up community Startacus have joined forces with the Department for the Economy to support early-stage entrepreneurs with high-growth export potential.
Forty founders, aged 18-30+, participated in the three-month long programme over two cohorts. This included alumni of the Young Enterprise school and university-based programmes who continued their journey into the world of entrepreneurship.
Participants got involved in workshops and panel discussions to understand how to build export into their business growth plan, hearing from seasoned experts including Declan Barry from Export Explore, marketing specialists Grand Scale and sales expert Aidan McGrath. The knowledge of these experienced exporters helped to create connections and pathways to build a route into cross-border and international trade as part.
Speaking at the initial launch of the programme at Clockwise Belfast co-working space, Economy Minister Gordon Lyons said: “I am excited to launch this pilot with Young Enterprise and Startacus.
“The initiative connects well with my Department’s 10X Skills Strategy by seeking to create a culture of lifelong learning in our young people that have entrepreneurial intent, and supporting them to drive economic growth.
“Having met with some Young Enterprise alumni, I can see the value in investing in the development of the entrepreneurs of the future through developing their skills at an early stage. I am keen to ensure that we continue to promote business start-ups within the NI market but also, as this pilot does, to equip them with the skills to trade internationally.”
Carol Fitzsimons MBE, chief executive of Young Enterprise, said: “The Young Enterprise charity is well known for our work in schools to develop entrepreneurial intent, and this programme was built on this foundation.
“We recognise that those early in their entrepreneurial journey, whether alumni of our programmes or not, value additional support to build their network and gain knowledge on important topics such as export before they start their business and during their early development stage.”
The programme built on the northwest area female-focused Impacting Founders initiative which the Young Enterprise/Startacus team ran last year, connecting early-stage female founders with business specialists and support networks.
Alastair Cameron, co-founder of Startacus, said: “The Exporting Founders programme has done a great job of providing early-stage start-ups with the skills, knowledge and connections to make cross-border and international trade a core part of their business strategy.”
Raising awareness of wider links with other business networks is a key component to provide long lasting support networks that the founders can pathway into.