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The First Step Programme

Anyone out there who is currently unemployed and thinking of setting up their own business might be interested in our next guest post from Joanne Hession of QED Training about the First Step programme. 

With the First Step programme, we are trying to help those who are currently unemployed and are interested in setting up their own business.  The aim is to help those who are seriously interested in getting their business up and running within 90 days.  This  programme is funded through the Labour Market Activation Fund and is a great opportunity for people who wish to set up their own business as it will give them access to finance, mentoring, coaching and ongoing support.  At we are one of the network of providers of this programme for First Step and we are actively looking to recruit participants for the programme so that we can support businesses in launching – ideally in September (we will take another intake in October/November).

20 potential start-ups will be able to access the support of specialist trainers, coaches, mentors and a panel of experts who will work with them to assess their strengths and weaknesses and provide them with practical, tailored and one-to-one assistance to get them up and started in business.

The programme of coaching/mentoring/support will last approximately 15-20 weeks and during this time there will be an entire suite of workshops, networking events and coaching sessions, tailored to each individual participant.  The coaching will be intensive, utterly practical and very hands on.

Importantly, access to start up loans will be provided through First Step –  and there will be a rigorous selection process in place as the programme has limited places.

For further information or to apply for participation on the network contact Joanne on 087 2882688 ( or Steve on 085 1175452 (

Participant profile:  The ideal candidate must satisfy 3 criteria.  They must be unemployed for the past 3months (in receipt of unemployment benefit or unemployment assistance), and they must require funding support and have a business idea that they are driven and hungry enough to set up in 2010 (with a business plan started or completed).

First Step: First-Step was set up in 1991 as a not for profit organisation by Norma Smurfit and a group of like minded individuals. The objective of First-Step is to provide microfinance loans (i.e. loans less than €25,000) to start up or expanding small and medium enterprises for job creation or protection.  Loans are targeted at people who have difficulty securing finance from traditional banking sources. To date First-Step has assisted 1,500 projects. It is estimated these projects have created in excess of 3,000 employment opportunities.

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Free Waterproofs for Pre-School Kids

Unfortunately only in Scotland!

 I came across this report from the Scottish TV website.  

More than 4,000 pre-school children at Highland nurseries are to receive all-weather play suits. Highland Council’s “Rain Starts Play” initiative will allow school staff to take children out in all weather conditions by supplying every pre-school facility in the region with waterproof suits and wellington boots.

The all-weather clothing is to be paid for by funding from a Big Lottery award. The project was one of the groups that competed in the People’s Millions contest on television. Viewers from across the Highlands voted in the Scottish regional contest allowing the project to receive £80,000 funding. The all-weather suits have been arriving at pre-school facilities over recent weeks and many groups of children dressed in red rain suits have been seen enjoying the snow in Inverness, Resolis and elsewhere throughout the Highlands.

Image from STV

Image from STV

 Councillor Bill Fernie, chairman of Highland Council’s education, culture and sport committee, said in a statement:  “The beauty of this all-weather equipment is that it will allow our children to play out of doors all year round no matter what the weather.

A fantastic initiative – it would be great if it could be emulated in Ireland. I also like the idea that local communities can vote on how parts of the lottery grants are distributed. True people power!

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