A SURVEY of more than 200 women in business carried out by the Local Enterprise Offices in Cork and Kerry has found that the biggest challenge facing self-employed women is finding a healthy work/life balance.
The survey was carried out to mark the 13th National Women’s Enterprise Day event, which will be held in Castlemartyr Resort Hotel on Thursday, October 17.
The ‘Making it Happen’ themed event, which encompasses a business afternoon tea, will see a mix of speakers tell their business story, including the well-known Celia Holman-Lee, who has built a strong brand and business over the past three decades. She will be joined by Aisling Hurley, The Business Fairy, and social entrepreneur Aoibheann O’Brien, Food Cloud.
Also addressing the event will be Ciara McGee, Local Enterprise Office South Cork and Douglas-based Wendy Oke, a finalist in the upcoming IBYE (Ireland’s Best Young Entrepreneur) national finals who has found success with her early years digital management programme for preschool leaders.
Here they share a flavour of what to expect on the day and other nuggets of advice…
Find your passion, believe in it and turn it into something you can be really proud of.
That’s the message from Ciara, who has 12 years’ experience working in the enterprise space, providing support to the micro business community in the South Cork region.
Ciara believes it is that same passion that gives women an edge in business; along with skills like multi-tasking, collaboration and communication skills, an ownership mentality and a very important, never-give-up spirit when things go wrong.
“Everyone goes through some kind of hiccups on their way to success and if you are confident enough to admit when things go wrong, you will always be admired,” said Ciara.
But equally she sees her clients facing a number of other challenges including, she says: “Lack of confidence — especially after a period of career break; overcoming perfectionism and a fear of failure.”
Originally from Derry, she’s a mum of three — Cara, aged nine, Lily, aged six and Cian, aged one — who works from the Business Growth Hub, County Hall Campus, County Hall.
“The Local Enterprise Office serves as a first stop shop to provide support and services to start, grow and develop micro and small businesses in the local area.
“We provide business advice, business training, mentoring, networking events, management development programmes — all aimed at improving owner-manager skills to assist the survival and growth of micro businesses, as well as providing financial interventions to support business development.
“Female entrepreneurship has been recognised as an important source of economic growth. Female entrepreneurs create new jobs for themselves and others and provide society with different solutions to management, organisation and business problems.”
At the event in Castlemartyr, she said to expect lots of advice and networking opportunities.
“Women in business are very supportive of each other — it is up to women to raise their hand and ask for help and support and when they do they can rest assured that they will receive a helping hand and a supportive ear.
“This is one of the main reasons why these events are so successful — it is where you can find and build your own tribe and also lend support to others.”
“It was necessary for me to be resilient to survive at a very young child and I think being resilient is a key characteristic of any entrepreneur,” recalls Wendy.
Originally from Nigeria, she recalls being on holiday in Paris as a child: “My mum went for a check-up before we were supposed to return to Nigeria and doctors discovered my brother would be born very sick so we moved to Ireland to seek medical treatment.”
She was just six at the time and it was far from plain sailing, she remembers:
“He was born with two holes in his heart, and had life-saving, open heart surgery at just four days old in Crumlin Hospital. With no family living in Ireland and in a foreign country, it was extremely traumatic. We were called names on the street and told to ‘go back to your country’. A few years later my mum was diagnosed with cancer during my final years in school. It was definitely heart-breaking but that’s one of the main things my brother and mum have taught me; never give up and to have faith in God.
“In addition to this, the power of a quality early education took my grandfather from a makeshift hut to a supreme court judge.
“His mother always prioritised education and they would often go hungry so that she could pay his school fees. As a direct result, the value and power of education was ingrained in our family’s history and directly inspired me to obtain a degree and PhD in early years education.”
It was during her studies at CIT that she created TeachKloud: “It’s software to help pre-schools, after-schools and childcare services comply with regulations, spend less time on paperwork and more time doing what they love, nurturing the potential of every child, just like teachers had done for my grandfather.”
Wendy is currently working on scaling TeachKloud and raising investment to expand its user base in Ireland.
“I also want to move TeachKloud into the UK. and the U.S by 2022,” she said.
She has had to overcome self-belief problems along the way: “I think this is something that we all struggle with, especially in business. But growing a business that I love from the ground up is one of the most rewarding things I have ever done in my life.”
Wendy feels that Cork is a great place to set up a business: “It is vibrant, always adapting and welcoming to new businesses. I also think, but may be biased, that my Local Enterprise Office (LEO South Cork) is one of the best and the other LEO’s around Cork are always open to hear new ideas, give advice and even financial support!
“Cork also has hubs like the Rubicon Centre and CIT who run programmes to get students involved in entrepreneurship, while nurturing and growing start-ups. We’re very lucky in Cork.”
Tickets for the October 17 event cost €30 and are available from: https://www.localenterprise.ie/SouthCork/Training- Events/Online-Bookings/National-Women-s-Enterprise-Day- 2019.html