Fund for SME Mentoring and Business Development

August 03, 2021

The latest phase of MentorsWork, the award-winning Government initiative providing free mentoring and business development tools for SMEs, launched today by the Small Firms Association (SFA).

Up to 400 new places are now available to SME owner-managers and leadership teams across all industries. Any private sector business with between 5 and 250 employees is eligible to participate in the 12-week programme.

MentorsWork offers one-to-one mentoring from an independent professional mentor, experienced in the business area, as well as masterclasses and peer-to-peer workshops. It includes an online diagnostic tool to provide insights and help business owners and managers identify key skills and development needs. This forms the basis of bespoke mentoring to address business challenges and to plan for growth. There is also access to a self-paced learning portal and online resources in the MentorsWorks business development package which is free to business owners and managers of SMEs.

The programme is provided by the Small Firms Association (SFA) in partnership with Skillnet Ireland. Encouraging registration, SFA Director, Sven Spollen-Behrens, said MentorsWork is an excellent resource for Irish SMEs to tackle skills gaps and development needs, in order to rebuild business.

“Few businesses were unscathed by the pandemic. Some managed to adjust, and many took their business offering online and learned to lead teams remotely. But now is the time to identify a clear path to future growth, and MentorsWork is an excellent starting point. Mentorswork represents an investment in your business and we encourage companies to engage with this free programme”.

First introduced in April 2020, MentorsWork has supported 700 businesses, to date, in various sectors including services and manufacturing operations working in both domestic and international markets. Lifestyle, hair and beauty, childcare, technology, retail, marketing services, recruitment and small manufacturing operations have been largely represented with businesses from over 16 counties participating in the 12-week programme. 97% of participating businesses have successfully completed the programme and found it transformational.

Developed with the input and feedback of small business owners, the programme is available free of charge to private sector businesses based in Ireland. MentorsWork and its integrated learning supports address four key areas; People, Business Processes, Finance and Growth, and Digitalisation and Automation.

Skillnet Ireland Chief Executive Paul Healy says MentorsWork is a flexible and bespoke programme proven to reboot business success.

"Working with the SFA, we want to support business owners and managers to navigate the challenges they are facing and grow their businesses by offering them supports that are targeted at their specific needs. The opportunity to analyse needs, gain expert advice and develop bespoke business plans through MentorsWork is essential to driving sustainable long-term recovery across the SME sector."

The scheme also supports businesses in developing a six-month Strategic Business Improvement Plan. Sonya Murphy-Lyons, Founder and Director of the Mezzo Music Academy in Dublin, a recent MentorsWork programme participant found the initiative invaluable.

“Leading my team remotely was a new challenge, so I was delighted to participate in MentorsWork. My mentor guided and encouraged me along the way, as we looked at how to work with over 500 students and 30 teachers remotely. Having the opportunity to discuss ideas and challenges with a fellow entrepreneur was invaluable to me and the business.”

This latest phase of the SME support programme has up to 400 places available to SME owners or senior managers. Places will be allocated across the summer and early autumn, with priority given to eligible applications received by 31 July next.

Business owners and managers can apply to participate in MentorsWork here.