Small businesses ‘need more help’ in Budget 2023, says start-up founder

The founder of a Dublin start-up said the government needs to do more to support small businesses like hers in the 2023 budget.

ohini De (49) moved to Ireland from India 22 years ago and founded her company Empeal in 2018 together with her husband Aurobinda. Empeal’s app aims to give workers access to a comprehensive digital tool that “makes small, consistent and positive changes for big health impacts”.

The company employs nine people in Ireland and ten support engineers in India.

Ms De said the government needed extra support and “focus” to support Ireland’s “domestic businesses”.

“Covid-19 has wreaked havoc across our sector, start-ups and SMEs, but we also need to focus on retaining and attracting investment – whether it’s Irish investment or FDI (foreign direct investment) – but we need investment in this sector. It’s a big, big problem right now and with high inflation, the economic outlook doesn’t look good for the next 15 to 20 months,” she said.

Ms De said start-ups “need more help” and programs like the Employment Investment Incentive (EII) needed to be “more relevant” to the sector. EII is a tax break aimed at encouraging individuals to provide equity-based financing to trading companies.

She argued that Irish investors are “very sensitive” to EII and this is hampering start-ups’ ability to attract investment.

“It’s a huge burden for startups like us, and if you self-certify and get it wrong, we’ll get killed,” she said.

“In addition, the administrative effort is enormous. If we decide to do it, the amount of money we will have to spend to manage it is very high, which discourages us from trying.

“It is very difficult for Irish start-ups to raise money in this situation. There has been a lot of press about the government’s EII funds and initiatives, but if you really want them to work, we need to do something to make it more workable.”

Ms De said another issue for the sector is “talent retention” and that incentives such as the Keep Employee Engagement Program (Keep) need to be improved to help small businesses “attract and retain employees”.

“First of all, the sector has talent problems. Now we have housing problems wherever the talent comes from, either the cost of their position is increasing or it becomes very difficult to keep talent because they can’t find a home and go somewhere else,” she added.

“All these things are very difficult for start-ups and smaller SMEs, and to level the playing field they need to be addressed very clearly. I don’t want to say that everything is doom and gloom, but things done with good intentions need to be reviewed and made more effective.” Small businesses ‘need more help’ in Budget 2023, says start-up founder

Fry Electronics Team

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