AIR² (Am I Ready: Am I Right) Start your own business programme

This case study aims to illustrate the individuals behind new businesses, their personal journeys from moving from unemployment towards sustainable self- employment and the subsequent jobs created in their community.  


Since 2011, SECAD have provided a specially tailored five day training course, AIR² (Am I Ready: Am I Right), in conjunction with the Department of Social Protection (DSP), for people in receipt of social welfare who are considering starting their own business.   

SECAD has worked with partners and sub-contractors who are qualified to deliver the accreditation and either are FETAC /QQI Accredited Centres or work in partnership with such bodies.

Course participants must be currently in receipt of a social welfare payment or be the partner/spouse of someone receiving a DSP payment.  


SECAD carefully designed  and tailored the AIR² programme to specifically meet the needs of a target group people of clients who are currently on the Department of Social Protection Back to Work Enterprise Allowance or Short Term Enterprise Allowance and need to improve on their business management skills.

Whilst there are enterprise training and mentoring programmes available through the Local Enterprise Offices and RDP/LEADER supports, these are often ‘sector specific’ and are best suited to those that have already developed or have established their enterprise.

The majority of unemployed people approaching DSP and the SECAD Employment Support Services do not fit easily into these categories, thus the requirement for a specific dedicated programme, which can best serve the needs of this group.  

The AIR² programme encourages participants assess their own suitability for self-employment and assists with writing a business plan, strategy and how to assess business viability before for setting up a small business.


The AIR² Business Start-Up Programme is an accredited training programme leading to a FETAC Level 5 Award on the National Framework of Qualifications.

The course involves one full-day per week over five weeks and there is no charge to participants for doing this course.

Part one programme objectives help participants to:

  • Identify personal entrepreneurial traits  
  • Identify training gaps and set goals  
  • Assess the business idea
  • Assess if they are ready to be their own boss  

Part two objective is to help participants to:

  • Prepare their individual business plan
  • Strategic planning  
  • Address legal formalities involved in starting a business  
  • Market Research – examining the market for new product or service niches
  • Effective marketing for the business
  • Introduction to small business finance – making the numbers talk
  • Funding sources for businesses – setting up financing tailored to the needs of the particular business

In addition to the group training sessions, each participant has free access to 10 hours of one-to-one mentoring in respect of their own business from mentoring experts in areas such as sales/marketing, financial management and social media marketing.

Application of FETAC/QQI Assessment Methodology

The development of a business plan is mandatory in order to achieve this qualification.  

Candidates are required to identify the steps necessary to set up a new business enterprise, draw up a business plan, how they will operate the business, and how to review the business.  Evidence presented in the Business Plan includes:

  • A description of the product or service to be provided
  • Business documentation including market research/survey, SWOT analysis, description of personnel roles and responsibilities, health and safety documents, etc.
  • Financial records
  • Evaluation report on business
  • Personal review of the learning during the programme

The course is quality assured by FETAC’s / QQI Quality System requirements.


The AIR programme is an example of our approach to provision of accredited training when provided in-house. The AIR² programme is locally based and held at various locations throughout the South and East Cork area.

Time frame

The programme is successfully in place since 2011-2017. Approximately 104 of 400 participants progressed to start their own business within a two year period after completing the programme.  


See personal case studies.

Budget / Investment / ROI

How much does it cost to run a course? Is such information of relevance?

A crude estimate of cost saving on unemployment benefit of €188 approx per week over a one year period for 61 full time self- employed people,  equates to €596,000 on yearly basis.

Success factors Key learning, transferability and replication

SECAD’s success factors in delivering this programme over a six year period is due to tailoring its approach in meeting the specific needs of clients. The local and personal delivery of the programme sets it apart from other agencies.

SECAD has on ongoing relationship with the Department of Social Protection (DSP) for referrals and is continually strengthening the relationship with the front line staff and management.

SECAD very much celebrates the determination, positivity and creativity of its AIR programme clients and is cognisant of the risks for clients to start their own business in terms of forgoing annual leave, sick days etc. One of the unique elements of this programme is that it is structured in such a way as to filter those who are suited and those not suited to self-employment in the early stages.  SECAD works closed with DSP case officers in the initial referral and recruitment process.

Embedding and future monitoring

High resolution, quality images?

Integrate existing media  

More information

Link to webpage

For more information, contact: Edel Smiddy/Sinead Conroy