Women reach new frontiers with their businesses

From bone broths, to healthier ketchup, products that help new mums heal, and a perfume brand... four women talk to IRENE HALPIN LONG about their exciting new businesses and the support they received through New Frontiers
Women reach new frontiers with their businesses
Nora Irwin showcasing her company Arona at the CIT Rubicon Centre New Frontiers Showcase in the CIT Bishopstown Campus.  Picture: Darragh Kane

PRODUCTS for new mothers which help heal and soothe the pain and discomfort suffered after labour and birth, are just one of the business ideas supported recently through the New Frontiers Programme.

A total of 12 entrepreneurs from the Munster region completed the programme, supported by Enterprise Ireland. Of these, four were women — Marian Kennedy, Loretta Kennedy, Nora Irwin and Tara Zuluaga Dorgan.

The programme is a national entrepreneurship programme and has been associated with Cork Institute of Technology and the Rubicon Centre since 1998, during which time it has supported more than 400 businesses.

Marian Kennedy, PPR Healthcare, Loretta Kennedy, Mama Bear Foods, Tara Zuluaga Dorgan, Gut.Instinct and Nora Irwin, Arona at the CIT Rubicon Centre New Frontiers Showcase in the CIT Bishopstown Campus. Picture: Darragh Kane
Marian Kennedy, PPR Healthcare, Loretta Kennedy, Mama Bear Foods, Tara Zuluaga Dorgan, Gut.Instinct and Nora Irwin, Arona at the CIT Rubicon Centre New Frontiers Showcase in the CIT Bishopstown Campus. Picture: Darragh Kane

Alison Walsh, the New Frontiers programme manager in Cork, says there are many benefits for participants.

“Over the six months, participants gained high quality training in business planning, market research, finance and funding for start-ups, sales strategy, digital marketing and presentation skills.

“They also completed an investor-ready business plan to pitch to potential investors.”

Whilst completing the programme, Marian, Loretta, Nora and Tara also gained valuable insights and advice specific to their businesses from a team of experts.

This access to information regarding their start-up businesses has helped each woman develop their companies.

Here, we find out more about the four women who took part...

Marian Kennedy, PPR Healthcare. Picture: Darragh Kane
Marian Kennedy, PPR Healthcare. Picture: Darragh Kane

Marian Kennedy — PRR Healthcare

Limited

Marian’s company is based in Clonmel and develops products for new mothers which help heal and soothe the pain and discomfort suffered after labour and birth.

The birth of her baby girl, Emily, in 2015 was difficult and resulted in injury and tearing. After her experience, Marian was determined to help new mums and has spent the last two and a half years developing her range of products, called anewmum.

Marian says, “I wasn’t given much advice on how to take care of myself when I left the hospital. I found myself resorting to looking on the internet for advice on comfort and hygienic solutions. That’s where I came up with the idea — to have all-in-one, safe, effective, readymade solutions, designed specifically for a new mother’s body.”

Marian Kennedy of PPR Healthcare at the CIT Rubicon Centre New Frontiers Showcase in the CIT Bishopstown Campus. Picture: Darragh Kane
Marian Kennedy of PPR Healthcare at the CIT Rubicon Centre New Frontiers Showcase in the CIT Bishopstown Campus. Picture: Darragh Kane

Marian’s products will be available this summer online at www.anewmum.com and in pharmacies throughout Ireland. Her products include a comfort spray which is for use on the perennial area and the lower abdomen, which helps heal, cool and soothe sensitive areas after birth.

Marian says: “Along with the spray, we have a bath and shower wash. Our formulations invigorate circulation and also promote healing and soothing of sensitive areas.”

Marian is currently designing a second phase of products which have already received approval for testing under the remit of Professor John Higgins at the Cork University Maternity Hospital.

Marian has a clear vision for her business and plans to grow it in the future.

“It is our vision that our brand, anewmum, will become synonymous with aftercare for new mothers. Our initial launch is happening this summer. Our phase two products will launch in 2020. We have already sourced our first distribution company internationally and we will be exporting to them by the end of 2019.

“We are committed to research and development in the aftercare of a new mother’s body because we want to make the post-partum experience better for every new mother.”

The New Frontiers Programme has helped Marian develop personally and professionally.

“I have been provided with knowledge that is essential to start-ups,” she said.

“I have also gained invaluable connections and partnerships that will help my business scale up and grow nationally and internationally.”

Loretta Kennedy. Mama Bear Foods ltd. Picture: Darragh Kane
Loretta Kennedy. Mama Bear Foods ltd. Picture: Darragh Kane

Loretta Kennedy — MamaBear Foods

Loretta began making her own 100% natural ketchup and reduced sugar ketchup in her home in Glanmire when she couldn’t find one that her children liked.

“I dreamed up MamaBear in my kitchen in 2017,” says Loretta. “A trip to our local dentist showed one of my daughters had a cavity. After I got over the initial mortification and parental guilt, I began examining our diet. I was astonished to discover the amount of hidden sugar that was in many of the foods I bought regularly. Like ketchup.”

Loretta’s MamaBear ketchup contains ingredients that promote gut health and is kind to teeth. It has 60% less sugar than regular ketchup and contains prebiotics. It is currently stocked in 15 SuperValu stores and will be stocked in Aldi stores around the country from June onwards for a limited time.

Loretta Kennedy from Glanmire showcasing her company Mama Bear Foods at the CIT Rubicon Centre New Frontiers Showcase in the CIT Bishopstown Campus. Picture: Darragh Kane
Loretta Kennedy from Glanmire showcasing her company Mama Bear Foods at the CIT Rubicon Centre New Frontiers Showcase in the CIT Bishopstown Campus. Picture: Darragh Kane

Loretta is mum to three daughters, Áine, Riana and Saorla. Having children meant she had to adapt when it came to her career. She changed tack and began to make career decisions around her children’s needs.

She says: “After having children, I took a step back from a career and more of my career-related decisions were based around childcare.

“On the one hand, it allowed me to look at different revenue streams and follow some of the creative ideas I had, but it also diminished my promotion chances and earnings.

“Now, working in my own business is hugely empowering. To become a player on the pitch, to be actively making decisions, influencing policy making, and driving access to healthy products, is monumental.”

Loretta plans to launch two new food products this year and hopes to begin exporting her products in 2020.

The New Frontiers Programme has significantly helped her: “The programme offered support in terms of access to expert knowledge, workshops and business planning.

“The camaraderie from a group of entrepreneurs who are on a similar journey to me has kept me going on the bad days.

“The financial assistance and access to office space has been invaluable. All of this has helped bring my business forward.”

Nora Irwin, Arona. Picture: Darragh Kane
Nora Irwin, Arona. Picture: Darragh Kane

Nora Irwin — Founding Director of ARONA

Nora Irwin, lives in Youghal. She believes that nature has given us the best ingredients to make the most ideal smelling fragrances possible.

“We design fragrances reflecting the essence of nature,” she says.

ARONA is a premium solid perfume brand.

Nora has adored fragrance since she was a little girl. She started her business in 2018 and developed a solid perfume which is made using beeswax and essential oils.

She says: “I developed a solid perfume because of personal travelling experiences. Solid perfume is suitable to travel in hand luggage on aircraft because it is 7ml which is well below the maximum 100ml allowed.

“It’s 100% natural and is free from alcohol and synthetics.”

The three fragrances currently available are Delicate Rose, Zesty Citrus and Soothing Lavender.

Nora says: “Natural fragrances are complex and uncompromising. Their character adjusts when in contact with the skin. You experience a fragrance that is totally individual to you.”

Nora’s vision is “to establish a brand that represents quality, both in Ireland and abroad, and by doing so, becoming the leading all-natural fragrance brand in Europe and worldwide.”

Tara Zuluaga Dorgan, Gut.Instinct. Picture: Darragh Kane
Tara Zuluaga Dorgan, Gut.Instinct. Picture: Darragh Kane

Tara Zuluaga Dorgan – Gut.Instinct

As well as working as a nutritional therapist, specialising in chronic disease and gut-related disorders, Tara is originally from Washington and is the founder and director of Gut. Instinct. She and her family live in Cobh.

The company creates a range of bone broths using Irish products, such as grass-fed beef and botanicals. Tara explains that bone broth is a rich source of gut-friendly protein.

“The specific amino acids in bone broth make it a unique product. Specifically, the proline, glycine, argenine and glutamine in bone broth offer anti-inflammatory, immune boosting and digestive benefits. The collagen content encourages joint health and helps strengthen hair, skin and nails,” she says.

Tara has always had a passion for food and nutrition and decided to develop her own range of products in 2017.

Tara Zuluaga Dorgan showcasing her company Gut.Instinct at the CIT Rubicon Centre New Frontiers Showcase in the CIT Bishopstown Campus. Pic DARRAGH KANE
Tara Zuluaga Dorgan showcasing her company Gut.Instinct at the CIT Rubicon Centre New Frontiers Showcase in the CIT Bishopstown Campus. Pic DARRAGH KANE

“I have done a lot of work to optimise nutrition, making sure the bones used in our broths and the process manufacturing them provides a pure, clean product that delivers an exceptional taste.”

The company’s bone broths are currently available through the online market, Neighbourfood.ie.

Tara is working towards launching her products in stores around the country and wishes to expand her range of products in the future.

“We are a functional food company,” she says. “We are all about health, convenience without compromise and sustainability.”

Reflecting on her experience with the programme, Tara says: “Having the opportunity to take part in the New Frontiers programme allowed me to focus 100% on developing Gut.Instinct. It also provided support and access to knowledge that has helped me take my business from a concept to reality.”

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This year, 40% of the New Frontiers programme were female, the highest percentage since the programme commenced at the Rubicon Centre.

Nora says: “It is important to see more female entrepreneurs in the market place because women bring new ideas, new innovations and more export potential. Diversity drives performance and that, in turn, drives business.”

Tara agrees: “It is important to not let social norms and societal pressures deter you from your dreams, no matter what your sex. I have a passion and vision that not only fulfils me, it sets an example for my children that they can chase their passions and dreams.

“For our family, it is not just about me building this business and going for this. It is also about my husband being willing to shift the traditional family paradigm and taking part in all the family roles too.”

New Frontiers Programme Director, Alison Walsh, is keen to hear from budding entrepreneurs for the upcoming programme. Visit www.rubiconcentre.ie or call 021 4928900 for information.

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