COVID-19 meant Marie Wiseman had to get more familiar than most with Zoom, and fast, as much of her marketing work went online.
But the Durrus woman admits her move back from London to West Cork in 2017 was in fact more professionally challenging than the pandemic.
“Whilst Covid meant making changes, the move from London to West Cork was a complete pivot,” she recalls.
She had built a strong marketing career in London over a 20-year career, working mainly for blue-chip, marketing-led food manufacturers.
“Then, four years ago I bought a holiday home in Durrus and found I was enjoying spending time there more and more. So three years ago this month, I decided to give life in West Cork another go and have never looked back,” she said.
Despite the differences between London and West Cork, Marie felt sure there was an opportunity for her to become a marketing consultant, offering advice and help to small business owners.
And having just won Network West Cork’s Emerging Business Award, she was right!
Presenting the award, judges noted that Marie had showed her ‘resilience through her positivity and hard work throughout the pandemic.’
As well as working with various clients, Marie is also a trainer with West Cork training company Business IQ, teaching marketing as part of the Local Enterprise Offices (LEOs) Start Your Own Business (SYOB) programme.
“The biggest challenge brought about by Covid was the need to bring training online, particularly for SYOB, which relies heavily on interaction, ie, making it as relevant as possible for the individual business owner.
“Training online is completely different to the classroom. It can be very difficult for people to stay focused for more than an hour or two and of course working from home, it’s very easy to be distracted.
“Short, sharp sessions were needed rather than the traditional full days. Material needed to be completely repurposed — simply taking our ‘classroom’ model and putting it online wasn’t going to work. We also needed to ensure there were plenty of opportunities for interactivity, designing group tasks for breakout rooms, chat discussions, etc,” said Marie.
“Happily, it’s been a huge success with the feedback very positive. As people become more used to Zoom and other online video conferencing facilities (including myself as the trainer!), it’s clear there are in fact benefits versus traditional classrooms.
“In particular, the lack of travel for both participant and trainer and the fact that as a trainer it’s now more viable to pitch for business further afield than Munster.”
Marie credits Network West Cork as an incredible support to her.
“The publicity, support and goodwill has been immense. Indeed I’ve already gained new business from it, which is fantastic for such a new business and in such a short time,” she said.
Marie admits that the last six months have been tricky for everyone in some way, but it’s taught her a lot.
“I’ve realised that opportunities exist in every situation — even if sometimes you’ve got to look hard for them! Also, taking a step back to allow yourself to see the bigger picture is so important. Covid allowed me to step off the hamster wheel and reflect on where I was going and refocus. It also showed how networking is fundamental to success — not just in terms of building a business, but also in ensuring you’ve the support and encouragement needed to build and maintain confidence.”