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Weekly Round Up, September 9, 2014

Published on Sep 8 2014 1:46 PM

Weekly Round Up, September 9, 2014

The SFA National Small Business Awards 2015 were launched last week by the Taoiseach Enda Kenny, beginning the search for Ireland’s best small business. The awards both celebrate the achievements of small businesses in Ireland and highlight the significant contribution of Ireland’s small business sector to the national economy. All finalists ar the awards process will receive an exhibition stand at the SFA National Small Business Showcase in Dublin Castle, a voucher for a Skillnets Management Works management team/CEO course, and broad-ranging national and local media coverage. The category winners and overall winner will be announced at the Gala prize giving ceremony, which is due to take place in March 2015. The overall winner will also be presented with a sum of €5,000, funded by the 2013 overall winner, Megazyme International Ireland, to give to a charity of their own choosing. SFA Chairman and Chair of the Awards judging panel, AJ Noonan commented, "For more than a decade the SFA National Small Business Awards has demonstrated that a focus on competitiveness, efficiency, passion, courage and risk taking are the factors that put Irish small firms to the top of the pile."

Ardkeen Quality Food Store in Waterford has been named the Best Artisan Food/Greengrocer in Ireland by The Irish Times at the weekend, as part of its celebration of Ireland's Best Shops 2014. The award, which is voted for by the public, was presented to Ardkeen due to an 'overwhelming' response from the public, the paper said. "“It’s great to see a serious gourmet shop in Waterford tempting people to buy local home-grown brands," said Simon Pratt, managing director of Avoca and a judge on the Best Shop program. "The fact that they can literally compete in the shadow of multi-national brands like Tesco (a quarter of a mile down the road) and Lidl (literally behind them) shows the strength of the offer."

John Williamson, chief executive of Topaz, is set to leave the forecourt retailer in the coming weeks, according to The Sunday Times. The paper reported that Sean Corkery, a non-executive director at the company, will take the position of interim chief executive until a replacement is found. Williamson joined Topaz in 2009 as chief financial officer in 2009 before being named chief executive in 2012. In a note to suppliers, Topaz said that Williamson had "made a great contribution to the company as finance director, and more recently as chief executive, and has led the company through a challenging period with great success."

Mondelez Ireland, the maker of Cadbury and Kenco, has partnered with the Bord Bia Origin Green programme to encourage sustainability in the food industry. The independently-verified programme allows farmers and manufacturers to set and achieve targets on sustainability. This is intended to protect Ireland’s resources, help communities and decrease the industry’s impact on the environment. Now, all three of Mondelez Ireland’s manufacturing sites will focus on processes that make less impact on the environment and use resources more efficiently. For example, the facility in Rathmore, Kerry, gets 80 million litres of milk from local cooperatives that use sustainable farming methods. The company sources raw materials locally as much as possible, whilst there are also plans to reduce carbon emissions from natural gas consumption by 15% in the next two years.

The Irish Brewers Association (IBA) have welcomed the Irish Craft Beer and Cider festival, which took place last weekend at the RDS, Dublin. Head of the IBA, Tom Burke commented, "at a time when the latest Revenue Clearance data shows that overall beer consumption was down 6.2% in 2013, it’s great to see the craft sector enjoying a period of considerable growth, innovation and creativity, which has been matched by a rapidly growing interest in the beer category among the public," adding that the brewing industry adds €1.3 billion to the Irish economy. The IBA supports the 'Support Your Local...' campaign, which calls on the government for excise on alcohol to be reversed. Campaign Manager for "Support Your Local…" Bart Storan said: "The craft brewing sector is an entrepreneurial driven sector which has been performing well with a growing market of fans. However, excise on beer and cider, which has gone up in the last two Budgets, may mean that the sector will have difficulty performing in the domestic market going forward."

Microfinance Loans of up to €25,000 will now be available to small businesses, accessible through the 31 Local Enterprise offices (LEOs) across Ireland, in partnership with Microfinance Ireland. The loans will be offered at lower interest rates, in an attempt to encourage more businesses to use the scheme. The unsecured loans will be offered to new or growing businesses with less than 10 staff. However, despite €90 million being available, only €4.8 million has been offered to small businesses in the past two years, leading some to criticise the microfinance scheme. The Small Firms Association said the loans would help small businesses in need of money, or new businesses facing typical startup costs of between €15,000 and €17,500. Director Patricia Callan commented, "It should encourage many more people with good business ideas to take the risk and start up in business, as well as enabling those companies who may still be struggling to stay in business."

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Simon Coveney is expected raise the issue of the impact of Russian sanctions on the fishing industry, at a meeting of EU agriculture and fisheries ministers in Brussels. There has been increasing concern in Ireland and the Department of Agriculture regarding the impact of Russia banning EU fish on Ireland’s fish exporters, particularly mackerel. Emergency market measures have already been introduced by the European Commission to safeguard the food and agriculture industry from the effects of the sanctions, including storage arrangements for dairy products and a further €30 million in support for farmers. However, no similar protection has been provided for the fishing industry. According to commission figures, Ireland exported €211 million worth of agricultural goods to Russia last year. The possibility of providing further support for agricultural producers will be discussed by agriculture and fisheries ministers in Brussels, although speaking to the Irish Times, Romanian commissioner Dacian Ciolos has warned of the limited scope for assistance, under next year’s agreed EU budget.

92% of Irish companies are at risk of cyber attack due to inadequate internet security - 6% higher than the worldwide average. The statistic was revealed at a conference held by Aon Risk Solutions and the Convention Centre in Dublin. Data collected from over 1,000 companies demonstrated that many businesses were unaware about potential dangers. Furthermore, many were not focussed on creating strategies to limit these risks. According to Business World, Sarah Stephens, Head of Cyber Risk and Commercial E and O - EMEA, Aon Risk Solutions said: "It's our experience that the issue of cyber security needs to be addressed at boardroom level. The research from our cyber diagnostic tool shows that only 22% of people at management level in Irish companies are actively engaged on the topic. Aon's goal is to help clients to use risk understanding to make better business decisions and ultimately support them in growing a safer working and commercial environment."

Shipments of Jameson to Russia have increased ahead of a possible escalation of the country’s response to EU sanctions. Last week, Pierre Pringuet, chief executive of Pernod Ricard, told the Irish Independent, "We are importing as much as we can for our [Russian] inventories because an embargo or retaliatory action could happen any time". As well as Jameson, Pernod Ricard has increased shipments of Ballantine’s scotch, Absolut vodka and a number of wines, just in case the Kremlin blocks future imports. Whilst alcohol was not included in Russia’s initial embargo on Western goods, this may change as tensions continue to mount over the crisis in Ukraine. At present, sales of Jameson are growing quickly in Russia, with sales growth of 4% in 2013. Irish Distillers Pernod Ricard’s increase in exports is intended to maintain this growth and defend the brand’s market position.

© 2014 - Checkout Magazine by Nathan Evans and Emily Horne.

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