Ukrainian entrepreneurs are set to play a valuable role in the Irish economy by launching a range of new startup businesses, says one experienced business incubation specialist.
Christine O’Brien, CEO of Kildare-based SME training firm TalentPool, has been very impressed by the ambition and engagement of the Ukrainian participants rolling out of a new bilingual six-session business startup training programme. The first course was run over six days in July. The whole course is delivered online.
Christine said: “We have had people from a wide variety of backgrounds, including one person who ran a large number of veterinary clinics, people who had worked in training and development, gardening, legal, psychology, property management and a range of crafts and trades.
“Some of the participants plan to use their existing skills and experience, some are starting businesses in entirely new areas. They have really benefitted from the training, and have really seen the value of networking.
“Ireland is a much smaller market than the Ukraine, but they have very quickly become familiar with the Irish market, getting through any challenges around language as many Ukrainians have really good English.”
Set up in 2011, by entrepreneurs and trainers Christine O’Brien and Cosmo Mellon, TalentPool provides training, mentoring, coaching and consultancy to Government departments, enterprise training boards, local development companies, Skillnet and Local Enterprise Offices across the country.
Since 2020 alone, they have delivered over 2,000 online sessions to publicly funded organisations. Around 30 Ukrainian entrepreneurs have signed up for their new bilingual business startup training courses.
Outside of the training, the Ukrainians have also benefitted from TalentPool’s free Saturday morning networks, linking up with network members in Kerry, Limerick, Wexford and other counties.
Started up during lockdown, TalentPool has continued to host the popular free Saturday morning online networks, allowing startup entrepreneurs to support one another.
“The people on these courses have nothing to go back to in the Ukraine,” said Christine. “Their homes and business premises are gone. It is hard for them to look too far into the future. They have been very surprised by how quickly we have organised this programme.
“This programme has been great for them, as it can be very isolating being in a hotel bedroom completing online training on your own. They’re really making the most of the Saturday networks, and they’re getting great encouragement from linking up with other entrepreneurs, including other Ukrainians, from all over Ireland.”
TalentPool is in the middle of its second fast-track programme for Ukrainian entrepreneurs. Word is spreading and demand is growing for further courses.
Christine has been impressed by how quickly the Ukrainian course participants have been able to apply their business skills to the Irish market.
She created the course to offer a practical solution to help participants to quickly re-invent, or adapt, their skills, so they could operate in and contribute to the Irish economy while building a new life in Ireland.
TalentPool adapted and translated its highly regarded Small Business programmes to be delivered in Ukrainian, in real-time using simultaneous subtitles. Their specialist business trainers have transformed their suite of business supports so they are also available in Ukrainian.
This support includes networking events, and most notably free business mentoring which is available to participants during and after their Start Your Own Business courses.
“Many of our clients already possess business skills, and have run their own businesses, others are budding entrepreneurs,” said Christine. “It is a challenge for anyone to start a business, let alone do it in a new country, with a different culture and in another language.
“We felt that this course in Ukrainian helps our clients to get to grips with the requirements for business in Ireland, in their native tongue, eliminating any confusion that may occur because of potential language barriers.”
The Small Business module addresses the Irish market from a multi-faceted perspective, covering everything from communications, and taxation, to digital marketing.
TalentPool’s courses feed into Government and EU priorities around local economy job creation and social inclusion. The Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment notes that the continued growth of the local economy is highly dependent on local jobs created by entrepreneurs and the SMEs that they create, develop, and grow.
Of course, TalentPool’s programme for Ukrainian participants also has a significant humanitarian aspect.
Cosmo Mellon, director at TalentPool, said: “Helping in any way we can to lessen the distress of such a huge upheaval while giving hope to people who have had their lives, their homes and their livelihoods ripped from them, is humbling.
“Our vision was to embrace this issue and support those affected by creating this course, giving people a platform to flourish in their business life, and a leg-up to start something that will ultimately support their families while they create new lives in Ireland.”
TalentPool is preparing to deliver more of these unique courses over the coming months, as those who were displaced look to immerse themselves in Ireland’s business communities utilising their skillsets from Ukraine.
“We couldn’t think of a more practical solution to help get families on their feet, and we’re ultimately helping both them, the next generation of their families and the Irish economy,” said Christine O’Brien.