THE theme of Helen Wycherley’s presidency of Network Ireland for 2019 was ‘Step Up’ — and the West Cork woman certainly lived up to her word, visiting all 15 of the dynamic branches of Network Ireland around the country, which has 1,200 members.
“I was thrilled to achieve that this year,” says Helen.
“I really enjoyed meeting other members from around the country at events. I love that part of it!”
“I was invigorated and inspired to keep the momentum going. It was great to see the enthusiasm of other women going about their business.
“Coming together with like-minded people to support each other discussing the same topics, the same issues, offering each other ideas, is very empowering.
“Feeling the energy in the room all pulling together, helping promote the growth and the strength of the organisation is important to all of us.”
As Presidents go, Helen, the head of Ireland’s largest women’s network, who is a mother of three, is on top of the job, encouraging and helping empower business owners and budding entrepreneurs to put themselves forward and to set more ambitious targets.
“Cork got a boost in March, 2018, when we became the only county to have two Network Ireland branches, following the West Cork branch,” says Helen.
“Since then, the West Cork branch has more than 100 members.”
What does she attribute the popularity of the West Cork branch to?
“It has filled a niche in West Cork,” says Helen.
“Women get to meet like-minded women in business, which in itself is inspiring.
“It encourages women to not only set goals, apply for grants, and enter an awards scheme, it also demonstrates that by setting goals, female entrepreneurs get to grow and develop.
“Network Ireland reaches more than 85,000 people. Our social media drive paid off. I see projects that started this year coming to fruition.”
Helen, a qualified chartered accountant, previously President of Network Cork, who also helped to launch the branch and mentor the committee members in their first year, obviously possesses drive and ambition.
She is director of the family-owned hotel, Celtic Ross, Rosscarbery, and director of the Marina Commercial Park in Cork City.
“I have good role models in my dad and my late mother who passed away 13 years ago. They both had a wonderful influence on me.”
She has another asset.
“My husband, John Breen, used to commute to work to Limerick,” says Helen.
“He joined the business here in Cork which is great as we have three smallies!”
Liam is five, Laura is three and a half, and Kate is 21 months.
A busy household?
“It sure is!” says Helen. “They all need me. It is manageable. We have no set routine. I try to make week-ends family time.”
Does she have a routine for the festive season?
“We’re going to Limerick to my parents’ in-law,” says Helen. “I’m organised work-wise. But I don’t know what I’m letting myself in for!”
Helen believes in organisation. It is a trait that helps her in her Presidency role.
“I got a lot out of Network Ireland this year,” she says.
“I learned a lot and I up-skilled myself in a lot of areas.”
She did something else.
“I was surprised on the impact I could have,” says Helen.
“Our two Cork branches hold monthly events and we have a free mentoring programme available around the country. People find that very beneficial and it helps them to network as well.”
Helen can be a dark horse that has hidden talents.
“I have a black belt in Taekwondo, a few years ago now!”
She’s scaled many heights.
“I climbed to the summit of Kilimanjaro,” she adds.
Helen has friends in high places who are helping her to get ready for the festive celebrations.
“A well-known West Cork lady, Mary Anne, who was a member of the ICA, handed down a recipe for plum pudding which has Murphy’s stout in it,” says Helen.
Is the President of Network Ireland a domestic goddess too?
“The recipe is fool-proof,” she says. “You can’t get it wrong!”
Helen, who lives in Crossbarry, loves the beauty of West Cork.
“We upped sticks in 1991 and moved here from Dublin,” says Helen.
“I love the walks here and being beside the water. The water is very calming.”
She was always a West Cork girl at heart.
“Even when we lived in Dublin, we were real Cork GAA followers, wearing our red and white to all the matches.”
What does her affinity to Network Ireland, enjoying the previous roles of secretary, vice-president, and current President, mean to her?
“I get a lot of out of it,” says Helen. “Being a member and now President of Network Ireland, I realise that us women are all the same, sharing the same goals and ambitions.
“Women are doing it for themselves. We are all doing it. There are so many amazing role-models willing to support us. Achieving our goals and our targets is not always easy. But we can do it. We are doing it. We have the shared passion and the valuable support all around us. Network Ireland is leading us in the right direction.”
So Helen is glad she went along to her first Network Ireland event in 2007?
“It made a huge difference to me,” she says.
“I remember I didn’t know anyone.”
Now she has met 1,200 members.
“I’ve never looked back.”