The organizers of the Entrepreneurial Business Awards (EBA) have reported substantial interest in this year’s competition, with more than 1,300 applications from around the country, with 26pc of these being in the emerging new business category, which was open to businesses in operation for two years or less.

The EBA website, meanwhile, received almost 100,000 hits in the three months leading up to the application closing date on 18 February.

“The huge interest that has been shown demonstrates the need for these awards,” said John Kelly, chairman of the EBAs. “It is encouraging to see such high numbers for the Emerging New Business Award and illustrates the entrepreneurial spirit and willingness of Irish people to make a career for themselves in these tough times.”

The judges have now drawn up a shortlist of 80 businesses for the national final, where one company will receive a prize fund worth €100,000, including a cash prize of €25,000.

Interviews will take place across the country over the coming weeks ahead of the gala event at Kilashee House, Naas, Co Kildeare, on 18 May.

Those who did not make the shortlist will all receive a year’s membership to the EBA Alumni Business Network, a national body providing free networking, subsidised training and business workshops to local companies. These events assist local business people to expand their businesses through the development of their core skills, new partnerships and increased brand awareness.

“We recently carried out a survey where we found that 85pc of Irish people believe we are a nation of entrepreneurs,” said Kelly. “The massive response to the awards is proof of that, and we expect to see them grow substantially in the coming years. We plan to develop a secure and accessible support network for local businesses around the country, via the alumni, that will help them expand.”

The shortlisted companies:

·        ACT for Meningitis

·        Air Take Photography

·        Angelman Syndrome Ireland

·        BabyBay.ie

·        Ballyhogan Country Kitchen

·        Bear Necessities

·        Buyers Broker Ltd

·        Caragh Nurseries Ltd

·        Carlton Real Estate

·        Carnsore Broadband

·        Carraig Safety Consultants Ltd

·        Christening Elegance

·        Clane Chiropractic

·        Clarke’s Funeral Directors

·        David McConville Specialist Dentistry

·        Depressionhurts

·        Desforma

·        Dezynamite

·        Dingle Hampers

·        Dip in the Nip Foundation

·        Dunhill Rural Enterprises Ltd

·        Essential French Language College

·        Expect Talent

·        Focus Ireland

·        Fresh, Fit & Feisty

·        Funky Goddess

·        GFD Bootcamp & Assault Course

·        Golden Ireland.ie

·        Greenside Up

·        Heavenly Boutique

·        Hedgehog Fibres

·        Helen’s Paperie

·        HTH Accountants

·        IP Watch Limited

·        Irish Deaf Kids

·        Johnnie Cupcakes Ltd

·        Little Sitters

·        Miss Moneypenny

·        Molly Gallivan’s Cottage & Traditonal Farm

·        Moloney & Company Solicitors

·        Mr. Waffle

·        Munster Mobile Hair

·        Nicola Erasmus Consultancy

·        Noel Whelan Furniture Design

·        Nostra Systems

·        Old Rectory

·        Oliver Reilly Ltd.

·        OmniScience Design

·        Online Marketing in Galway

·        Pauline Forde Heirloom Bridal Bouquets

·        Pin Point Alerts Ltd

·        Polka Dot It

·        QED Training Ltd (Quality Education Development)

·        Rafters Café

·        Rye River Cafe

·        S & S Office Interiors Ltd

·        Sanctuary Landscapes

·        Saoirse ar an Uisce

·        Secret Garden Centre

·        SeniorsAtHome Ltd

·        Shield Health Ltd

·        Simply Natural Foods

·        Slugs & Snails

·        Smartheat Limited

·        Sniffy Whiffy Pencils

·        Source Sligo

·        Special Needs Parents Association

·        STAR Translation Services

·        Starting Small Standing Tall

·        Stocktaking.ie

·        Student Programmes Ireland Ltd

·        Superior Internet Marketing

·        Superscrum Ltd

·        TanOrganic

·        Taste and Made

·        Ted Tours

·        Temetra

·        The Book Producers Ltd

·        The Celbridge St. Patrick’s Day Parade

·        The Foods of Athenry

·        The Powder Room Girls Ltd

·        The Rise Foundation

·        The Travel Broker

·        The World Explorers Bureau

·        Tipperary Energy Agency Ltd

·        Travelling Languages

·        Ultimate Webs

·        Workhouse Studios

·        Nappycakes.ie

·        Zesti Smoothies