Cork woman wins national 'Businesswoman of the Year Award'

Network Ireland hosted their Businesswoman of the Year awards today and a Cork finalist is bringing home one of the top accolades, writes Elaine Duggan
Cork woman wins national 'Businesswoman of the Year Award'

Linda O'Connell of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul Ireland, who was today announced as the Network Ireland award for 'Transformative Employee' of the year.

A CORK woman is among the winners of the Network Ireland’s Businesswoman of the Year Awards 2020.

Linda O'Connell, aged 47, who lives in Turners Cross, is the national Online and Media Coordinator with St Vincent de Paul.

Today she was named as the national 'Transformative Employee' of the year, at Network Ireland's annual conference.

The awards were announced at a gala ceremony held today at Powerscourt Hotel in County Wicklow, with a digital audience of more than 450 people tuning in. The theme for the event was ‘Power Within’.

Speaking to WoW! in The Echo and last month, when she won the regional award, at the Network Ireland Cork awards, Linda said:  “Winning this award means more to me than people will ever know...” 

Born in Germany, she returned to Cork where she spent her childhood and went to secondary school in St Aloysius in Carrigtwohill, before studying art in Colaiste Stiofan Naofa.

Linda is very open about her mental health struggles and said she has battled with depression all her life and was even hospitalised for six months in her 20s. It has been a very challenging journey.

 Linda O'Connell was announced the 2020 overall winner of the Network Ireland Cork branch awards, in August. Pictured here with Network Cork President Marguerite O'Sullivan
 Linda O'Connell was announced the 2020 overall winner of the Network Ireland Cork branch awards, in August. Pictured here with Network Cork President Marguerite O'Sullivan

In her early 20s, someone suggested she reach out to The Society of St Vincent de Paul for support — as she couldn’t afford counselling. The lady who visited her, as part of the charity’s home call service, went on to be the first female president of St Vincent de Paul, Mairead Bushnell — to this day Linda and she are still friends. 

Linda began helping out with the charity’s different campaigns, such as The Giving Tree, and also got involved in offering home management classes.

When she returned to college, to study Zoology at UCC, she had the support of St Vincent de Paul, who helped pay for her books.

After graduating, Linda worked at Fota for two years, before going to a zoo in the UK. Here she suffered a mental health set back again, but describes it as “the beginning of her healing journey”.

Back home, Mairead asked her to help out with St Vincent de Paul once again.

“Before I knew it, I was fully employed by them,” said Linda, in a WoW! interview last month.

At first she was an interim office manager, before moving to the post of communications and fundraising manager.

In 2007, she was seconded by national head office to redevelop the website. She decided to go back to college to study Digital Marketing at CIT, a Certificate first, then a Masters. Not only did she get a 1.1, she also received a special award as ‘Best Student’. 

Linda O'Connell of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul Ireland.
Linda O'Connell of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul Ireland.


During today's annual conference and awards, the online audience was treated to keynote speeches from Glamour’s Editor in Chief Samantha Barry from Ballincollig, Louise Phelan, CEO of the Phelan Energy Group, founder and CEO of AsIAm, Ireland’s National Autism Charity Adam Harris, founder of The Valuable 500 Caroline Casey and the world’s leading TV Hypnotist, Mentalist and Brain Hacker, Keith Barry

President of Network Ireland Louisa Meehan also  announced ‘The Power Within Champion’ award for 2020, to recognise the unprecedented challenges faced by women juggling their responsibilities in an extremely difficult year. The winner of the award was announced as Dominika Stoppa of Studio Eleven Creativity and Wellbeing Centre in County Kilkenny. 

This year’s ‘Trish Murphy Memorial Award for Outstanding Contribution’ was conferred on Emma O’Hagan, a Mental Health Campaigner from County Leitrim. Emma has spent several years raising tens of thousands of euro in aid of mental health awareness and sharing her experience of struggling with and learning to manage her own mental health.

AIB is the official partner of Network Ireland, its Head of Business Banking-Market, Catherine Moroney said all the entries were of a very high standard: “It was intriguing to find out how people would approach the awards this year, when so much of our lives has been disrupted. 

"I was so thrilled to hear a record number of entries actually came in because it’s a great opportunity for business owners and leaders to display their incredible resilience and ability to pivot so quickly and to be recognised for that. I would like to congratulate all the winners and everyone who entered because it’s a real testament to the Power Within Network Ireland!” 

Enterprise Ireland was the official partner for the event. Entrepreneurship Manager Sheelagh Daly said: “This is another wonderful example from Network Ireland of bringing women together to share their experiences, and is all the more important in 2020. Network’s own research has shown over 60% of women in business have accessed state support since March and it’s a real pleasure to think some of those who got the help they needed are here today, and it’s so important for ourselves and bodies like the LEO to see that too”.

President of Network Ireland Louisa Meehan says her team enjoyed the experience of adapting the annual conference and awards for the new realities of 2020: “My experience with Network Ireland left me in no doubt that we would rise to the challenge of hosting an unforgettable event, albeit in an unfamiliar setting. We are so thrilled to know more than 450 people are joining us online for a fantastically engaging, entertaining and informative day. I’m incredibly proud of my team and grateful to all our judges and sponsors for getting us here today”.


Power Within Champion: Dominika Stoppa, Studio Eleven Creativity and Wellbeing Centre, Kilkenny. Established in 2020, Studio Eleven Creativity and WEllbeing Centre is a unique event venue in Castlecomer Craft Yard in County Kilkenny. The Studio’s Founder and Owner Dominika Stoppa helps individuals and groups to enhance wellbeing and thrive by using coaching and creative methods.

Business Innovation: Louise Murphy, Cyc-Lok Ltd, Kildare. Born out of a shared vision to create a more efficient and safe storage solution, Cyc-Lok is the brainchild of Stephen and Louise Murphy. This husband and wife team established the company in 2014 to investigate, develop and validate the concept. The idea foc Cyc-Lok originated out of the desire to meet the challenges posed by increased bicycle theft and vandalism, whilst encouraging and offering cyclists a mobility solution.

Emerging New Business: Lisa McKenna, McKenna and Co Solicitors, Dublin. The reason Lisa opened her own law firm was twofold: the legal profession is very male-dominated with little opportunity for female progression and a big pay gap exists, and an understanding that to effect change could only come from her starting the firm and leading others in the right direction.

Online Business Transformation: Mary McHugh, Irish Online Counselling & Psychotherapy Service, Mayo. A pioneer in the field of online counselling, Mary McHugh reaches people where they are at. She established The Irish Online Counselling & Psychotherapy Service in 2011 and believes that we are all human, all struggle and all need support. She works with clients from small villages in rural Ireland to cities like Tokyo, Sydney and London.

Solo Business Woman: Alma Jordan, AgriKids, Louth. Alma founded AgriKids - a farm safety educational platform for children. Its ethos is to positively engage, educate and empower our children to become Farm Safety Ambassadors. To date three story books have been launched and plans are in place to develop an interactive gaming app, new look ecommerce website and downloadable resources for teachers and parents.


Established in 1983, Network Ireland now has almost 1,200 members across fifteen branches around Ireland. Each year they organise up to 200 events for members. They also run a number of flagship national events, including an International Women’s Day Celebration and the Annual Conference and Business Awards.

More in this section

Sponsored Content

Echo 130Echo 130

Podcast: 1000 Cork songs 
Singer/songwriter Jimmy Crowley talks to John Dolan

Listen Here

Add to your home screen - easy access to Cork news, views, sport and more