Cork solopreneur on leaving her public sector job to pursue her dream 

Cork solopreneur on leaving her public sector job to pursue her dream 

Winner of the Solo Businesswoman award at last year's Network Ireland Cork Businesswoman of the Year Awards, Maeve Lankford. Picture: Darragh Kane

It was her 50th birthday looming on the horizon that prompted Maeve Lankford to take the plunge and set up her own business in 2015.

In November that year, Ms Lankford, who hails from Kilavullen, stepped away from her career in human resources to pursue her dream of setting up her own life coaching business.

“I had been in human resources for all my adult life, in particular on the training and development side.

“So coaching and people development and supporting people to be their best was definitely a motivator for me throughout all my adult life and I had done various coaching programmes over the years.

“If I'm really honest, my 50th birthday was looming and I was thinking if I didn’t make a move before that birthday I might never make it.

“I was very fortunate, my employer was willing to give me a leave of absence initially so I had a three-year leave of absence.

“I felt a bit more secure in terms of making the break and giving it a go.” 

That’s when she set up Kaleidoscope Coaching & Facilitation.

“Coaching is helping people really get in touch with what their aspirations are and to see those aspirations as being possible and real and then I think it’s really about supporting people to do things they probably know they have to do in order to get the results they want to get,” she explained.

A year or two into her business venture, Ms Lankford joined the Cork branch of Network Ireland, looking to connect with like-minded businesswomen.

“I would talk a lot with clients about being in networks and having people around them who are kind of doing the thing that they want to do.

“So like having mentors for ourselves, people showing the results that we want to have.

“All my adult life had been in the public sector so I was really realising over those early years that I really didn't know a whole lot of people, in my personal circle, who were making it as solopreneurs and working on their own as coaches.

“Network Cork felt like the right home for me because it was all women and there are a lot of coaches in the network as well and they were demonstrating that this can be done.” 

This support system was invaluable to Ms Lankford when the pandemic hit and presented her with the single biggest business challenge she has ever faced.

“I think Covid was one of those disruptions for everybody, you start to really question am I doing the right thing?

“I have to say while on one level the Government had great supports in place for people they didn’t for solopreneurs.

“So if you were a sole trader and you were struggling, really the only option you had was to close up shop.

“I didn’t want to do that and even though in the first couple months my income plummeted by over 80% I wasn’t willing to say I was done.” 

This determination and resilience was recognised at last year’s Network Ireland Cork Businesswoman of the Year Awards when Ms Lankford won the Solo Businesswoman category.

“I didn’t expect to win and I just felt so validated by the Network and I know that the judges are outside of the Network so someone else could take a bird's-eye view of what I was doing and say yeah this woman is really making it as a businesswoman.

“That felt really good," she said.

“I think for clients too, it gave them a kind of confidence in their choice of me maybe and they were very proud of seeing me doing so well and the business was surviving.

“I did say throughout that whole process that the tools I was sharing with my clients were the tools I was using myself to deal with the change.” 

This year, the Solo Businesswoman award is sponsored by Mrs Mon.

The closing date to apply for the Network Ireland Businesswoman of the Year Awards is today at 5pm.

To find out more, visit

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