Limerick’s ongoing renaissance and the investment plans unveiled for the city in the Limerick 2030 plan are potential catalysts for further economic growth, particularly amongst local businesses.

Network Ireland Limerick provides a forum where women in business, the professions and the Arts can exchange business ideas and increase their business contacts. It encourages women to achieve more satisfying careers and promotes women as worthy contributors to the Irish economy. Network Ireland Limerick is a branch of Network Ireland, a national organisation driving the personal and professional development of women with over 500 members and 11 branches through the country.

Network Ireland Limerick holds monthly networking meetings where a guest speaker is invited to educate, inform and entertain on topics of interest to women. Members can develop and pool their individual skills through interaction with other women in a supportive environment which offers, training, mentoring and an opportunity for women who call on other members with specialist expertise for help. It also provides a forum for established women to develop professional and social contacts, according to Laura Ryan, Head of Communications/Marketing at Limerick City & County Council. Laura was speaking at the Network Ireland Limerick February event that examined the opportunities for local business to grow and what funding mechanisms are available for SME’s looking to expand. The event, which was attended by over 60 women in business from the mid-west region, was sponsored by the Strategic Banking Corporation of Ireland (SBCI).

The SBCI was set up in 2014 as a national promotional institution, to enable businesses and the farming community to access vital funding for their businesses. With initial support from KfW, the German national promotional bank and the European Investment Bank, the SBCI has been modelled on a number of successful similar entities across Europe, with a mandate to address financial market failures. Since it began lending in March 2015, the SBCI has lent €347 million to 8,619 SMEs across all regions and a variety of business sectors.

Explaining why Limerick is making the headlines for all the right reasons and receiving international attention as a city in which to invest, Ms Ryan said, “Limerick now has the highest economic growth in Ireland.”

Jillian Mahon, who is Head of Funding & Strategic initiatives for SBCI, then described how the SBCI is ensuring Irish SME’s have access to flexible and affordable funding. Challenging current perceptions around funding, she introduced a new way of financing for small businesses.

“We are here to disrupt the marketplace. We want to power SME growth by helping them access the finance to invest in their businesses. So far 8,619 Irish SME’s have drawn down SBCI loans, we want more and more businesses to ask their banks about how they can access our competitive funding,” commented Ms Mahon.

Supporting the SBCI presentation, Sabrina Amodeo of Tuscany Bistro spoke about how her business has benefited from SBCI funding. Starting out with a small bistro in Castletroy, she explained how she seized opportunities as they arose and now has four businesses including Tuscany at the Granary, Amodeo Dressing (a salad dressing food company) and an outdoor catering company. Ms Amodeo praised the SBCI and AIB for making the funding application process so seamless.

Edwina Gore, president of Network Ireland Limerick, said “This event was all about changing perceptions and understanding the opportunities that exist for local companies to grow their business. It was great to hear about the positive change in our region and how small businesses are seizing the opportunities to grow with support mechanisms like those available from the SBCI.”

The next Network Ireland Limerick event takes place on 8 March 2017 and will mark International Women’s Day.

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