Fostering entrepreneurial

activity among returning


"Working overseas gave me


that translated into a

competitive advantage."

- Denise O'Connor, Optimise Design

"Working overseas

and with people who


made me more creative

and courageous."

- James Murphy, Lifes2Good

"Working abroad opened

my eyes to the size of


for an Irish headquartered business"

- Julie Currid, Initiafy


Back for Business is a new pilot initiative to foster and support entrepreneurial activity among emigrants returning or recently returned to live in Ireland.  It addresses the challenges that all early stage entrepreneurs face with a particular focus on the additional barriers and challenges faced by those who have been out of the country for some time.  This can often result in their local knowledge, contact base and professional and personal networks being less developed than those of typical entrepreneurs.  Back for Business aims to bridge this gap.

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Those interested in receiving an application form should register their interest in the first instance on the website and they will be sent an application form by email.  This form should be completed and returned either by email attachment or by post to:  Fitzsimons Consulting, 6 James’s Terrace, Malahide, Co Dublin.

Those who would like the application form posted to them, or if there is any difficulty registering online, please phone us on (+353) 1 8450770 or email us on

As it is expected that there will be many more applications than there are places available, it will be a competitive selection process. The Lead Entrepreneurs will play a key role in selecting the successful candidates. They will be seeking those who are prepared to fully engage with the initiative over its six months duration; demonstrate a determination to advance their fledging businesses; are prepared to work hard in pursuit of their entrepreneurial goals; and expect to become employers.

The Back for Business Lead Entrepreneurs will meet  to assess the applications and candidates will be notified in the following days.


Back for Business is for returning emigrants who have lived abroad for at least a year and are planning to return or have returned to Ireland in the last three years. These will be men and women of different ages and experience who have lived in different parts of the world and are returning to Ireland for different reasons.

Their experience of living and working abroad will often bring significant advantages for starting a business, such as having a strong network of international contacts, fluency in foreign languages and greater cultural understanding of foreign markets.

Suitable applicants will be (i) actively planning a business or will have recently started a new business in Ireland, either on their own or with another business partner or (ii) they are becoming/have become entrepreneurs through the acquisition of an existing business. If the business is newly established, it will not have generated sales before the end of May 2016. If acquired, it will not have been acquired before this date.

In respect of the business whether new or acquired, they will be a major shareholder and key decision maker in the venture. Furthermore, they will have the ambition and expectation of becoming an employer of others within three years.  There is no restriction on the sector in which the business is focused.

Register your interest

Lead Entrepreneurs

James Murphy

Galway born, James Murphy qualified as a Chartered Accountant in 1986. He then moved to Brussels where he worked for Coopers & Lybrand (currently Pricewaterhouse Coopers) and spent five years working between Belgium and Luxembourg.  He returned to Ireland in 1991 to join BMR-Slendertone where he built the brand.  He sold out his participation in 1997 to start up Lifes2good.

Under James leadership, Lifes2good has grown from a small distribution company to a global enterprise with offices in Ireland, UK, USA, Canada, Australia and Portugal.

James made the company’s first acquisition in the UK in 2003.  In 2007 he acquired the Viviscal brand when this business had a turnover of €700k. The Viviscal business grew to €50m in 2016 and in January 2017, Lifes2good successfully sold the Viviscal brand to the US Conglomerate Church & Dwight for €150m.

James has continued his professional education over the years attending development courses in Stanford University and the IMI.  He was one of the finalists in the Ernst &Young Entrepreneur of the Year programme in 2013.

Aine Denn

Áine Denn co-founded Altify with Donal Daly in 2005. Altify is a leading digital sales transformation software company. With offices in Dublin, San Jose, Seattle, Atlanta and the UK, Altify methodology and technology solutions help global sales organisations transform their sales execution and strategies so that everyone is selling like their top performers. Áine has been a key contributor to the direction of the company since its inception and now works directly with a number of global customers and leads many of strategic programs within the organisation, contributing to both customer and company success. Áine’s insight is informed by more than 25 years’ experience in enterprise software, business development, operations and customer engagement. Prior to Altify, Áine has served in senior executive positions in public and private companies. Her career spans business, technology and consulting organisations including The SCO Group, NewworldIQ, Prudential UK, and Accenture. Áine has been a lead entrepreneur for the last 3 cycles of Going for Growth. Áine holds a Computer Science degree from Trinity College Dublin.

John O’Hare

John, founder and CEO of Azotel Technologies, has a range and depth of technical expertise garnered from over twenty seven years experience in the international mobile/wireless telecommunications industry.

A graduate of the University of Limerick with a First Class Honours degree in Electronic Engineering, he has a specialist expertise in leading edge wireless telecommunications technology. John was formerly Principal Staff Engineer with Motorola Inc. and has worked in Ireland, Europe and the US. He has had exposure to all aspects of large telecommunications projects ranging from specification, design, implementation through to integration, deployment and support. Other roles included project management, system engineering and technology transfer (from the USA to Ireland). Before founding Amocom in 2002, John worked on the formulation of strategy representing Motorola at the international ETSI (GSM)/3GPP Core Network standardization working group in the definition of the IP Multimedia Subsystem. He successfully established a number of collaborative research efforts between industry and education in Ireland.

Following the successful sale of Amocom in 2005, John founded Azotel whose software platform SIMPLer™ powers in excess of 200 networks across 22 countries.

Based in Cork, as CEO of Azotel, John has a passionate interest in applying his expertise to assist Operators worldwide with overcoming the various challenges to the global rollout of broadband.

Tom Brennan

Tom Brennan co-founded EirGen Pharma with Patsy Carney in 2005. They started the company from the South East Business Incubation Centre (SEBIC) in Waterford with a single lap-top computer costing €175.  The company has since successfully completed over 45 clinical studies mainly in the oncology area and now employ 220 highly skilled personnel at their US FDA approved facility in Waterford. EirGen Pharma export their products to over 47 countries worldwide. EirGen are also in the process of constructing a new R&D campus (across from Whitfield Hospital) at a capital cost of €35 Million which currently employs 130 construction personnel and will employ 200 scientists on completion in mid-2018

In May 2015, EirGen were acquired by Miami based NASDAQ listed OPKO Health Inc. for $135 Million.

EirGen have been nominated for and won numerous business awards including:

  1. Waterford Chamber Special Recognition Award for outstanding contribution to Business
  2. Business and Finance Magazine Business Person of the Year
  3. Irish Exporters Association Life Science Exporter of Year
  4. AIB / Business & Finance Irish Emerging Company of the Year
  5. Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year
  6. David Manley Start Up Business of the Year

Tom is also a co-founder of specialist healthcare Stability Storage company Q1 Scientific which is growing rapidly and was a finalist in the 2016 Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year Awards led by its other co-founder and CEO Louise Grubb.

Mary McKenna

Mary McKenna is a well known Donegal based Irish technology entrepreneur and angel investor.  She co-founded successful Northern Irish e-learning company Learning Pool following a long public sector career and a spell as a Silicon Valley dotcommer and exited from the business in 2014 so that she could return to working with earlier stage startups.  Mary is interested in helping start and grow indigenous Irish and UK tech companies and especially in working with female entrepreneurs.  She has invested in 6 early stage tech startups to date, 3 with female founding teams.

She is one of the Entrepreneurship Experts with the Entrepreneurship Centre at Saïd Business School (University of Oxford), Entrepreneur in Residence at Catalyst Inc (the Northern Ireland Science Park in Belfast), an advisor to government, a trustee of the Centre for Acceleration of Social Technology and an active member of Tech London Advocates.

Mary was awarded the MBE by Her Majesty the Queen in the 2014 New Year’s Honours for services to digital technology, innovation and learning

Julie Currid

With a background in sales and marketing, returning from London in 2012, Julie set up Initiafy with her business partner, Sean Fennell. Together they had recognised the need in the market for a product which would focus on the challenge of delivering inductions to large numbers of short-term workers.

Initiafy is a contractor management software company headquartered in Dublin and with offices in London, New York and Toronto.  Initiafy’s customers are typically companies which use a large number of contractors, temporary, seasonal staff or project workers. Their client base now includes Pfizer, Pernod Ricard, FMC, Sodexo and five of the top 20 construction companies in the world. The company employs 20 people and is set for further growth in 2017 and 2018.

Having driven the initial growth of the company in the US market, Julie is now returning to Dublin.

In 2014, Julie took part in the 6th cycle of Going for Growth.

Role Models

Nikki Evans

Hungry for new experiences, Nikki left Ireland for Australia in the late 1990’s. She began working in the burgeoning IT industry in Sydney, before following an exciting opportunity to Auckland. It was a formative time that would prove invaluable in the years to come.

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Fergal Keogh

Fergal Keogh is an example of Back for Business in action. His story demonstrates that it is not only those who return from living overseas, while still in their twenties or early thirties, that can successful start a new business on their return.

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This innovative initiative is funded through the Emigrant Support Programme by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade which seeks to facilitate in practical ways those who left Ireland and want to return home.  Thanks to the support provided there will be no charge for those selected to participate in the initiative.


Minister for Foreign Affairs & Trade.
Welcoming the new initiative, Minister Coveney said: ‘I am delighted that my Department is supporting this exciting new pilot initiative, Back for Business. Irish people who have travelled, or spent a number of years out of the country, often have exceptional entrepreneurial skills. The challenge is to maximize this potential for the benefit of the individuals returning and their families and also for the benefit of the communities in which they will locate across the country.”


Minister of State for the Diaspora & International Development.
Minister Cannon also welcomed Back for Business, saying: ‘Global Irish – Ireland’s Diaspora Policy, is committed to facilitating, in practical ways, those who left Ireland and want to return home. Back for Business reflects this commitment. It is an initiative that can make a real difference to returning emigrants who have a keen desire and ambition to be entrepreneurs.’


Fitzsimons Consulting specialises in areas related to entrepreneurship and growth. Paula Fitzsimons, founder and managing director of Fitzsimons Consulting, is a recognised expert on entrepreneurship. Paula has been the national coordinator for GEM (Global Entrepreneurship Monitor) for Ireland since 2000, a former President of the consortium of GEM national teams, and a former Director of GERA, the governing body for the Global Entrepreneurship Research Association.

Fitzsimons Consulting has been central to the design and development of award winning initiatives, which focused on specific demographic groups to maximise their entrepreneurial potential:  Going for Growth ( and Senior Enterprise ( More recently the team has developed ACORNS (

Speaking of her approach to developing this initiative for returning emigrants, Paula Fitzsimons commented: “Back for Business has been designed to draw on the proven successful elements in these other award winning initiatives. Voluntary Lead Entrepreneurs will be the backbone of the initiative; role models will demonstrate what is possible; and a focus on goals and milestones will keep participants on track to achieve their stated ambitions. Participant entrepreneurs will support each other to achieve their growth aspirations, to overcome common challenges and to strengthen their networks.”