Fostering entrepreneurial

activity among returned



Back for Business is an initiative to foster and support entrepreneurial activity among returned emigrants or those planning to return to live in Ireland in the near future.  The six-month part time development programme is aimed at assisting them to start and develop a business. 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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The call for applications is now closed. 

Those interested in receiving an application form for the next cycle should register their interest in the first instance on the website and they will be sent an application form by email when the call for applications opens.  This form should be completed and returned by email attachment to

If you have any questions, 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 returned emigrants who have lived abroad for at least a year and have returned to Ireland in the last three years, or for emigrants currently living abroad who are planning to return to Ireland in the near future. 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) those who have recently started a new business in Ireland, either on their own or with another business partner, or (ii) those who are well advanced in their plans to start a business and have moved well beyond the concept stage,  or (iii) 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 October 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

Aine Denn

Áine Denn co-founded Altify in 2005. Altify is the digital sales transformation company, accelerating sales performance for the world’s best sales teams. Working with Altify, sales teams win the opportunities that matter, grow revenue in their key accounts and improve sales execution with guided selling. Built natively on the Salesforce platform, Altify helps salespeople, sales leaders and executives achieve sustained revenue growth and sales success. Altify customers include Autodesk, Bell Canada, BT, GE, Honeywell, HP Enterprise, Johnson Controls, UnitedHealthcare, Optum, Salesforce and Software AG.

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 three cycles of Going for Growth and for the inaugural cycle of Back For Business . Áine holds a Computer Science degree from Trinity College Dublin.

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, Madrid, New York, California, Texas, and Toronto.  Initiafy’s customers are typically companies which use a large number of contractors and operate in heavy industries such as construction, energy and mining . Their client base now includes Sisk, ESB, CBRE and five of the top 20 construction companies in the world. The company employs 30 people and is set to double headcount through 2019 and 2020.

Having helped drive 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.

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

Michael Hoyne

Michael began his career by founding a plumbing distribution business in his home town of Kilkenny.
In 1986 he launched Somerby, a shower tray business. In 1988 alongside Somerby, Michael began a complimentary business, Image Showering, which he ran successfully until he exited in 1999.

This experience fuelled his drive for the manufacturing industry and in 2000 he founded MERLYN SHOWERING.  Michael’s ultimate goal was to challenge the existing traditional manufacturers with an innovative quality range of products, supported by leading customer service.

MERLYN BATHROOMS grew to be No 1 in U.K. and Ireland, and designed ranges for markets across Europe and Middle East. It subsequently became one of the most innovative and progressive bathroom companies in Europe, and won numerous awards over the years for quality, design and customer service.

Michael was a finalist in Entrepreneur of the year in 2015.

MERLYN BATHROOMS was sold in 2017 to Norcross PLC for €70 million.

Nikki Evans

Eager for new experiences, Nikki left Ireland for Australia in the late 1990s. 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. In 2001, she decided to move closer to home. Nikki completed her MBA in London Business School, and started working as a Strategy Consultant in the banking sector in London, working in the city and consulting for high profile clients such as Visa.

Moving home in 2005, Nikki set about creating a business that would bring together her passions for IT, finance and employee happiness – so she founded PerfectCard. The initial product at PerfectCard was a new solution for shopping centre cards, using pre-paid debit cards to eliminate the need for costly software installations at checkout. The retail gift card caught on quickly and PerfectCard won clients like Dundrum Town Centre, Blanchardstown Centre and Swords Shopping Centre.

The company then refocused their strategy on the corporate market. PerfectIncenitve, a new type of pre-paid debit card product, uses PerfectCard technology to bring the next generation of employee rewards and incentives to businesses all over Ireland, and beyond. With a growing client list including Dell, Salesforce, Dublin Bus, Allergan Pharmaceuticals, AWP Health and Life, and 123, global ambitions and a growing team in Dublin and Galway, PerfectCard has recently become part of the EML Group, an Australian based PLC and Nikki and the team look forward to going global.

A previous participant of Going for Growth, Nikki has been a Lead Entrepreneur on Going for Growth’s Starting Strong initiative for a number of years and was a role model for the Back for Business pilot programme.

Thomas Ennis

Thomas Ennis, founder and CEO of the Thomas Ennis group, is an award-winning Irish retailer, recognised for his innovative approach to convenience food. Thomas has over 30 years’ experience working in all aspects of Irish food retailing. He headed up Superquinn’s foray into the Convenience World – Superquinn Select, before opening his first store in 2005, the award-winning flagship Spar on Merrion Row, Dublin. Since then Thomas has opened eleven more stores spread across Convenience, Forecourts and Artisan Delicatessens. Thomas attributes the success and growth of his businesses to date to a continual commitment to excellence in customer service and turning his stores into destinations in the convenience food sector.  He currently employs over 200 and is committed to staff development, with his senior management team recruited internally.  Seeking to be continually innovative in the food offerings within his stores, Thomas has welcomed Irish franchises into the stores. Committed to helping others, Thomas has worked with Bord Bia in the past highlighting the passion and creativeness Artisan Suppliers can bring to the market and has helped numerous start-ups over the years.


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 once again supporting this exciting initiative, following a very successful pilot. 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 who have recently returned and their families and also for the benefit of the communities in which they are locating 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. As we have seen in the pilot, it is an initiative that can make a real difference to returned and returning emigrants who have a keen desire and ambition to be entrepreneurs. It is designed to support them to go beyond just creating a job for themselves and to aim higher and create a thriving business that can provide employment for others and value added in their local community.’


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.”

    Fitzsimons Consulting is most grateful to KPMG who on a voluntary basis are hosting and facilitating workshops on Finance, Tax and KPIs for  participants of Back for Business.