Business Support

Business Start-up Support

“Go For It Programme”

We'll help you develop your business plan that will drive your business forward.

The Go For It Programme will assist you with developing a business plan. A business plan is a written document that describes your business. It covers objectives, strategies, sales, marketing and financial forecasts.
A business plan helps you to:

  • clarify your business idea
  • spot potential problems
  • set out your goals
  • measure your progress
  • access finance to start and grow your business

To be eligible for Go For It you must be either:

  • At the pre-start stage of starting your business


  • Within the first 6 months of starting your business

To register your interest in this programme please email

Business Funding Options

Loan Funding for new and existing businesses

  • Start Up Loans
  • NI Small Business Loan Fund

For more information on both start up loans and small business loans please see

Business Growth Programmes

Co-Innovate programme

Cost: FREE

The Co-Innovate programme is a cross border research and innovation (R&I) initiative funded under the European INTERREG VA Programme.

The programme aims to increase the proportion of SMEs engaged in cross-border research and innovation in the Interreg eligible region of Northern Ireland, Border Region of Ireland and Western Scotland. The programme brings together these regions’ key development agencies to deliver a programme aligned with each government’s strategic priorities. In Northern Ireland key elements of Co-innovate will be delivered by Enterprise NI and its member Local Enterprise Agencies. In the Border Region of Ireland this support will be delivered by the Local Enterprise Offices in Donegal, Sligo, Leitrim, Cavan, Monaghan and Louth.

It is widely recognised that innovation is a critical driver to competitiveness and growth.  A survey carried out by InterTradeIreland across the eligible region showed that nearly 50% of SMEs are not innovation active.  Each of the three jurisdictions aim to increase business expenditure on R&I and increase the number of firms innovating.  The Co-Innovate programme intends to complement and support this aim and will target SMEs in the manufacturing and tradable services sector.

The new partnership, led by InterTradeIreland, has developed an integrated programme of support and will run until early 2022.  There are five key strands of activity that will engage with over 1,408 SMEs providing education and capability development support tailored to their needs.

Strand 1

An SMEs first formal engagement with the Co-Innovate programme will be to undertake a newly developed R&I diagnostic toolkit the ‘Innovation Ready Reckoner’. This will be conducted to assess the company’s current position in terms of innovation. A series of workshops will be delivered at different times and locations throughout the first 3 years of the programme.  They will be delivered by Innovation Experts familiar with the challenges facing SMEs.

Strand 2

Successful companies will undertake a detailed Business Status Review.  After a selection process, companies will progress to a comprehensive Innovation Audit.

Strand 3

Enterprise-specific action plans will be designed for each company progressing to Strand 3. These action plans will concentrate on developing Research & Innovation capabilities. Up to 10 days intensive mentoring will be provided to address specific challenges.

Strand 4

Companies will have the opportunity to engage in a cross-border R&I partnership involving their company, a research institute and an intern over a 12 month period; and

Strand 5

Sector-specific networks and partnerships involving enterprises and research institutes will be established.

To register your interest in this programmes please send email to

Explore It Programme


The Yes You Can 'Explore It' initiative is delivered throughout Northern Ireland by Women in Business . Explore It is designed to support you in turning your idea into reality. You will be supported through 3 one-day workshops, 3 evening meet ups and up to 8 hours of buddy support from an experienced female entrepreneur. 


  • Females with an idea for a business
  • Early stage start Up


You will be one of a group of 15 women who will be encouraged to work together on their business ideas.

  • You will attend 3 one-day workshops that will cover getting started, marketing/selling and finance/operations.
  • You will also be offered the opportunity to take part in 3 evening sessions with role models who will help you to problem solve.
  • In addition to workshops, individuals will be allocated a Buddy who supports them through meetings, telephone calls and online communication over 3 months. You can avail of up to 8 hours of buddy support.


Explore It will be delivered throughout Northern Ireland in various locations commencing January 2020.

Download the Yes You Can 2020 brochure and apply for Explore It TODAY

Individuals will be notified if their application has been successful 2 weeks prior to the commencement of the first session.

When applying for Explore It please check delivery dates in your area here.

**Please note you must be available to attend each session,.

For any enquiries please contact

The OPTIMAL Programme

This project is part funded by Invest Northern Ireland and the European Regional Development Fund under the Investment for Growth & Jobs Northern Ireland (2014-2020) Programme.

The OPTIMAL (Outstanding Performance Through Individual Mentoring And Leadership) Programme is Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council’s principal business support and growth programme.  It provides tailored and specialist business support to micro and small enterprises to support the development of a more prosperous economy within the council area.

The OPTIMAL programme aims to:

  • Support the creation of new sustainable jobs in the council area
  • Refer businesses to Invest NI that are capable of accessing financial support from Invest NI.
  • Strengthen the local business base by assisting businesses to become more competitive in indigenous and export markets
  • Promote business growth and innovation
  • Provide accessible, need driven business support that is tailored to business requirements
  • Engage with key business support stakeholders to develop a portfolio approach to business support in the council area, ensuring that there is no duplication of effort.

Further Information

For further information on the OPTIMAL programme offered by us please contact our Business Support Team on 028 90838860 or email


Exploring Enterprise Programme

The Exploring Enterprise Programme is a free special support initiative aimed at helping unemployed or economically inactive individuals improve their employment prospects as well as exploring potential self-employment opportunities.

The course provides one-to-one tailored business mentoring support, with the opportunity to work towards achieving an accredited QCF Level 1 Qualification in Understanding Business Enterprise.

Participants will get the opportunity to visit local businesses and work as part of a team to develop business skills and knowledge.

This is an Enterprise Northern Ireland initiative which is part funded through the Northern Ireland European Social Fund Programme 2014 – 2020, the Department for the Economy, Local Enterprise Agencies and Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council.

For more information on the Exploring Enterprise Programme please contact Mallusk Enterprise Park Ltd on 028 9083 8860 or email


Social Enterprise Programme

This social enterprise programme project is funded  by Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council.

What is social enterprise?

A social enterprise is like any other business in that it works to deliver goods and services to make a profit. The difference is that they are driven by their social and environmental purposes and any profit made is reinvested towards achieving these purposes.

The government defines social enterprises as “businesses with primarily social objectives whose surpluses are principally reinvested for that purpose in the business or in the community, rather than being driven by the need to maximise profit for shareholders and owners”  and encompasses a broad range of social and environmental business. These include credit Unions, cooperatives, community-owned enterprises and trading arms of charities to list just a few.

The social enterprise programme aims to;

  • support existing organisations within the third sector to explore transitioning to social enterprise or cooperative models;
  • develop the knowledge and skills of organisations / individuals to start and grow a social enterprise;
  • provide an accessible programme of support that is flexible to meet the needs of organisations / individuals engaged;
  • create and foster a social enterprising culture, highlighting best practice, sharing knowledge and building partnerships/links within the sector;
  • Support the creation and development of new social enterprises;
  • build the capacity of existing social enterprises to progress and obtain support via mainstream economic development programmes with Council;

Start-up support:

  • Assisting individuals / groups to take ideas from the generation stage to fruition of business start-up.
  • Supporting participants in setting up associated governance structures, building capacity within their team and transfer key business learning and knowledge around sales/marketing, test trading, financial management and funding via one to one mentoring.

Post-start support:

  • Supporting newly trading or established social enterprises with one to one mentoring on a range of business topics which can aid their development, sustainability or expansion plans.

For further information please contact