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Complete Guide to the €2,500 Trading Online Voucher

Summary

8-10 minute read

This article is for Irish business owners who want to automate their systems, increase revenue and reduce their costs but have tiptoed around upgrading their website for the last few years. We’ve helped multiple businesses navigate the Local Enterprise Online Trading Grant Scheme and have compiled this easy-to-follow guide to help you to do the same.

Sections

Side Note:

We are not in any way affiliated with the Local Enterprise Offices. Everything in this article was created from our own experiences of going through the process with clients and our in-depth knowledge of the LEO’s best practices. Part of the service we offer as a web design agency is to guide business owners through this process. That being said, following the steps outlined in this article does not guarantee your success. The success of your application will depend on your fulfilment of the eligibility criteria (detailed below) and the discretion of your Local Enterprise Office.

SECTION 1

What Is The LEO Trading Online Voucher Scheme

To understand how to navigate this process, you first need to learn what it is and why you need it.

You need to get the big picture…

“This Government grant scheme offers financial assistance of up to €2,500 along with training and advice to help your business trade online.” – From the LEO website

This scheme aims to inspire Irish business owners to adapt to the changing needs of their customers and assist them in building a digital asset that grows their business exponentially. This is a unique programme under the National Digital Strategy, funded by the Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment and provided by the nationwide network of Local Enterprise Offices (LEOs).

The scheme is a matched-funding prospect where the maximum amount payable is €2,500 or 50% of the eligible cost (whichever is the lesser), exclusive of VAT. Over 2,000 businesses from all over Ireland, have already benefited from the scheme.

And Results?

We can’t speak for everyone, but reports from the LEO website say those who have embraced the change have seen their sales increase by 20%, with an 80% jump in sales leads and 60% now exporting for the first time. From our small sample size, we’ve had clients increase sales by 45% within 30 days, have seen companies grow from 0 – 5k Facebook Likes in less than six months, and we’ve seen companies double their number of qualified sales leads. Not bad at all.

GRANT SUMMARY

What’s in the grant?

Voucher for €2,500 off your development costs
Information sessions covering Web Development (Web Dev), Social Media (SM), Digital Marketing (DM) and Search Engine Optimisation (SEO).

What can the vouchers be used for?

IT consultation;
Development or upgrade of an e-commerce website;
Implementing Online payments or booking systems;
Buying Internet-related software;
Buying online advertising (the purchase of digital advertising cannot be for more than 30% of approved Voucher costs, this can only be drawn down in one payment phase);
Developing a mobile/web app;
Implementing a digital marketing strategy, i.e. Google Adwords, Social media marketing, Retargeting Campaigns;
Consultation with ICT strategists for early-stage adopters of digital strategy;
Training/skills development specifically to establish and manage an online trading activity.

What can the vouchers NOT be used for?

Development of brochure websites;
Purchase of non-internet related software;
Anything other than online trading-related activity.

SECTION 2

Am I Eligible? Criteria Needed

You must satisfy both the qualifying eligibility criteria and the post-development criteria to successfully apply for a Trading Online Voucher Scheme from your Local Enterprise Office.

Qualifying Criteria

  1. You must have less than 10 employees working in your business
  2. You must earn less than €2,000,000 in annual revenue
  3. Be actively trading for at least 12 months and
  4. Be in the same region as the LEO which you are applying to
  5. You must participate in some form of online trading (selling online/online booking system/etc.)

Important Information

  • The max value of Vouchers provided are for €2,500 or 50% of relevant expenditure (exclusive of VAT), whichever is less;
  • Voucher approval must be gained before incurring any expense;
  • Own labour is not an allowable expense;
  • Third party costs only will be considered;
  • All third party/supplier invoices must contain proper business details (e.g. Tax and Business Registration details).

Post-Development Criteria

As much as we’d like it to be for every type of business, this scheme is designed solely for Irish companies that have a limited online presence and want to sell products or offer a booking system for their services online. Basically, they want to help Irish businesses create a digital suite to showcase products for sale, services for hire and process payments online.

Ineligible Projects

  • Charities, “not for profit” companies, semi-state corporations, trade associations, and company representation bodies such as Local and National Chambers of Commerce;
  • IT companies with the existing in-house systems and expertise to already trade online;
  • Concerts, Seminars, Events and Conferences;
  • Projects which are contrary to public policy;
  • Duplication of support for projects that would be eligible for financial assistance from other EU Funded State Agencies;
  • Projects with more than 10 employees;
  • Projects that don’t need the scheme to trade online, i.e. deadweight;
  • Businesses that essentially comprise importation and distribution.
SECTION 3

Full LEO Grant Scheme Reverse-Engineered

Transform Your Business in 3-Months

THE APPLICATION PROCESS

WITH CASE STUDY

To make this fun and to ensure the anonymity of our previous clients, we’re going to take you through the application process from the fictional perspective of Bob’s Mechanics.

Bob’s Mechanics is an Irish Ltd company founded in 2007 by Robert McHugh. The business currently earns €780,000 annually and employs 7 full-time staff including 5 other mechanics and 2 administrative staff across both of his premises. Due to the popularity of Robert’s flagship store in Lucan and the growing number of commuters travelling to and from Dublin each day, Robert opened a second store in Rathcoole in February 2016.

Bob’s Mechanics current offering includes body and mechanical repairs as well as vehicle storage and towing. However, Robert wants to make his business more efficient by developing a new website with an online booking system to ensure maximum efficiency across both locations. Robert is also thinking of selling specific services online such as an “Oil and Filter Change”, “Antifreeze Replacement” and “Wheel Alignment Resetting”.

STEP 1

Find your local enterprise office (LEO)

As mentioned in Section 2, one of the qualifying criteria you must satisfy for the Trading Voucher Grant is to be located in the same region as the LEO you’re applying to.

To find your nearest LEO centre follow this link and choose the nearest LEO office to your business address. In the case of Bob’s Mechanics, Robert’s flagship store is closest to the Naas Local Enterprise Office so he will make his application there.

STEP 2

Book into a Trading Voucher Seminar either Online/Phone

The next step to take in your application is to contact your local enterprise office and book yourself into a Trading Online Voucher Seminar. You can do this via phone or by applying online. To inquire over the phone, Robert would call the number circled in blue between the hours of 9-5 from Monday to Friday.

To apply online, Robert would click the location link marked on the image below, which brings him to the Kildare LEO website.

Halfway down the main page of the Kildare local enterprise website, Robert sees a calendar and list of upcoming events in the Kildare LEO that he can register for. Circled in red, is the Trading Online Voucher Seminar which is held on the 26th of June, 2018. Robert clicks the link to book online.

Robert is brought to Online Trading Voucher homepage. He selects the number of attendees from the drop-down menu and clicks the “Book Now” button to register for the upcoming seminar.

If successful, he will see the following confirmation on his screen.

Robert fills in all appropriate business details to register for the upcoming seminar.  

And that’s it.

STEP 3

Attend the Online Trading Voucher Seminar and Fill Out the Application Form

On the 26th of June, 2018, Robert attends the Online Trading Voucher Seminar. At the event, all attendees are given an application form that they will need to fill out to apply for the scheme. The application form is also available here if you wish to fill it out in advance of your seminar.

STEP 4

Obtain 3 different quotes from 3 different web designers

On average, step 4 takes the longest to complete.

Now don’t get me wrong, it’s not as if Ireland is in the midst of a digital drought. There are literally hundreds of capable web designers across the country dying for your business and would be more than happy to provide you with a quote for your project.

However, what if you don’t really known what you want yet? You have a rough idea of the scope but can’t put it precisely into words when speaking on the phone to a web designer. When there’s a knowledge gap between a buyer and a seller you could be sold things you don’t understand and even worse, don’t really need.

In short, the longest part of any process is the initial outreach. Both you and the designer are on the phone for different reasons, and even if all else goes perfectly, you’re still looking at around 4 – 7 working days before you can get a realistic quote for your project. Multiply that by 3, and we’re talking about a month of back-and-forth communication with different web dev firms when all you want is to get the ball rolling, and the site live.

To simplify the process, download the word document from the image below with our website questionnaire. This is a document that we send to all new clients before starting a project.

Download Website Questionaire

The purpose of the pre-development questionnaire is to find out precisely what the client needs before commencing work on the project, so we can build it in less than 10 days.

As it’s a word doc, feel free to delete our logo and branding and fill in only what you need for your site (we don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings). Send it off to a couple web development firms and watch the quotes roll in. Easy.

NB: To count as a valid quote from a third party/supplier, invoices submitted must contain proper business details (e.g. Tax and Business Registration details).

STEP 5

Submit your application form, relevant documents and 3 quotes to your LEO

Make sure to select your preferred supplier!

By this stage, Robert has received the 3 required quotes from 3 different web designers and has filled out the application form.

To submit his application, he MUST do the following:

Email to LEO: (Part A)

  • Soft copy of the Application Form
  • Soft copy of a quotation from 3 suppliers detailing the works to be done and cost (+ selection of preferred supplier)
  • Evidence of duration of trading if an unregistered business or sole trader


Post to LEO: (Part B)

  • Hard copy of the Application Form
  • Hard copy of a quotation from 3 suppliers detailing the works to be done and cost (+ selection of preferred supplier)
  • If an unregistered business or sole trader; you must provide hard copy evidence of how long you’ve been trading for

NB: Your application may be turned down if you fail to provide supporting documents.

STEP 6

Application is Evaluated

Once submitted, Bob’s Mechanics Grant Application will be evaluated in the Kildare Local Enterprise Office.


An external evaluation committee will be commissioned to assess each individual application and make recommendations for approval.

 

As is the case when a large number of companies compete for limited funding, the process is highly competitive and successful applicants in each territory are chosen based on how well they satisfy the following criteria:

  1. Eligibility for the scheme: Do the applicants fulfil the eligibility criteria outlined in (Section 2)?
  2. Value-added potential: How much of a difference will the upgrade in online trading capacity affect the applicant’s offering to their customers?
  3. Export potential: Will the increase in their online trading capacity increase the applicant’s export potential?
  4. Job creation potential: Will the improvement in the applicant’s online trading create new employment opportunities in their business?
  5. Financial Sustainability: Will the improvement in online trading improve the chances of the applicants business becoming or remaining financially sustainable?

Bob’s Mechanics satisfies all of the eligibility criteria outlined in (Section 2). Robert has stated in his application that by introducing a booking system for customers via their new site, Bob’s Mechanics will be able to streamline their business across both locations and assist twice as many customers in the same period of time.

Even though Robert doesn’t plan to visibly export products through their new website, the streamlined process available from Bob’s Mechanics provides a valuable towing service to commuters on one of Ireland’s busiest roads. Therefore it could be argued that the development of Bob’s Mechanics website could provide an invisible export opportunity to Ireland by reducing traffic congestion into Dublin

Bit of a stretch but you get the idea 🙂

Regarding job opportunities, Robert plans to hire a full-time Digital Marketing Manager to drive traffic to his new website once it has been developed. Also, due to the expected increase in staff efficiency as a result of the booking system, Robert has plans to open a third shop in Coolock by the end of 2018.


Following the review of all applications, the external evaluation committee will record decisions and report them through to the Local Enterprise Office approvals committee.

NB: Applicants may be required to attend a training session on how to optimise the value of their voucher as part of the application process.

STEP 7

Receive Letter of Approval and Begin Project

From working with clients, the average wait time before receiving a letter of approval from your LEO is between 5 – 7 working days.

The LEO website states that you will receive notification of the result of your application within 20 working days.

The takeaway here is that it’s highly variable and location dependent. The best advice we can give is if you’re waiting more than 5 days, to call your LEO directly and check the status of your application.

If successful, you will receive a “letter of offer” which you must forward to your preferred supplier. This receipt of offer is in fact “The Trading Voucher” and must be signed by both the successful applicant and his preferred supplier and returned to the applicant’s LEO.

The successful applicant must complete the project and drawdown in full within three months of the date of the offer, or in exceptional circumstances, within four months (i.e. three months plus one-month extension) as may be agreed between LEO and company.

NB: Failure to draw down all or any portion may result in automatic de-committal without notice, i.e. loss of voucher.

STEP 8

Drawing Down the Grant

Following the completion of the project, payment will be made to the applicant, within 15 working days upon satisfactory receipt of the following:

  • Both the applicant and chosen supplier sign a declaration on the voucher and submit it to the Local Enterprise Office (LEO) as outlined in Step 7
  • Applicant submits:
    • copy of their Company Registration Office (CRO) registration;
    • an up to date tax clearance certificate ;
    • the original invoice from the supplier(s), with the supplier(s) CRO or Tax Registration or VAT details (or proof supplier is a registered business in the territory in which the supplier is located), when submitting a claim for payment;
    • Bank statement(s) showing proof of payment from the client company to supplier(s), i.e. one lump sum payment;
    • Declaration of project completion by supplier(s);
  • All work must be completed and paid for before a claim can be made.

Note 1: Payments can only be discharged towards approved expenses outlined in the application form submitted to the LEO.

Note 2: The supplier must be PAID in full before the grant can be drawn down.

STEP 9

Post-Voucher Reporting

By entering the application process, businesses consent to their inclusion in all case studies used to promote the voucher scheme.

To measure the effect of the scheme on a company’s growth, successful applicants must also report to the LEO on the progression of their online trading after 6 months from receipt of Voucher and at annual intervals for up to three years after that.

Applicant reporting will include:

  • What jobs were created (new or reallocated)?
  • Was there increased turnover?
  • Did the company begin exporting or expand in the domestic market
  • Did the company reduce costs?
  • Does the company expect to invest further in their online trading capacity? Did they already invest more capital towards this?

Who can conduct the report:

  1. Local Enterprise Offices.
  2. Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources.
  3. Approved Independent Evaluators.
As suppliers to many Irish companies who’ve graduated from the Scheme, we are regularly required to report on the impact of our products and services on their business.

Supplier reporting will include:

  • How our service enabled them to trade online?
  • How our service improved their business performance?
  • How did our service end up reducing the firm’s average costs?
  • Did we open new markets for our clients that they had not yet serviced?
LE FIN

Conclusion

So there you have it, the full LEO application process in all of its intricate detail. From helping dozens of Irish companies go through it, we have witnessed the benefits that going digital can have on your business’s revenue, costs, growth and sustainability and can’t recommend the scheme enough.

At BeQuick.ie, we live by the philosophy that every single day when the sun comes up, the world is a small bit different from what it was yesterday.

We provide tailored, innovative solutions to accelerate SME growth.

Be Quick, Grow Fast.

Let’s Work Together

TELL ME MORE ABOUT YOUR PROJECT

Navigating the LEO system can feel daunting for many first timers. We guide our clients through the LEO process to ensure that every step is handled correctly. We have a 100% client acceptance rate in the LEO trading voucher scheme.

Get your business accepted today!

2018-07-18T18:06:35+00:00

About BeQuick

BeQuick is purposely small team of designers, developers, marketers and copy writers with the sole purpose of growing Irish business.

We help passionate founders and great companies achieve exponential growth through our tried and tested digital strategies.

We’re process people. And we have perfected the process of bringing Irish businesses to the forefront of the ever expanding digital sphere.

We are pleased to meet you already.

 

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