The pull home for many people has grown stronger since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic. When we are being told that we cannot go somewhere, it heightens the desire to do just that. The longing to be closer to family has also increased.
It was in the midst of this changed landscape that the fourth year of the Back for Business programme — which helps returned or returning emigrants start and develop businesses in Ireland — was launched.
A call for applications for the programme was made in December by Colm Brophy T.D. Minister of State for Overseas Development Aid and Diaspora — while the country was in lockdown.
This meant that the programme itself had to change to cater for the current restrictions and is being delivered virtually this year. It also meant that the usual approach to raising the profile of the event had to adapt too.
In other years, the PR approach had been targeting those visiting Ireland for Christmas who might think of coming home for good. However, there was no travel this year so we had to change our target and focus.
But with change comes opportunity and, by being virtual, the programme allows participation by those who have not yet returned to Ireland but plan to do so when it is safer.
And it allowed the PR effort to tap into that desire for home that grew during the pandemic. We honed in on past participants who felt that draw back to Ireland and highlighted their successful businesses and positive experiences of making the transition.
We also focused on the fact that past participants on the first three years of the programme have recorded increased sales, created new jobs, and won export contracts. The combined turnover of the 2020 group tripled during the programme – despite the Covid pandemic.
The free Back for Business entrepreneur mentoring programme, funded by the Department of Foreign Affairs, starts this months and runs to July 2021. We wish all this year’s 40 participants the very best of luck.