Awards win left me speechless

The Network Ireland Cork awards were hosted recently. ELAINE DUGGAN caught up with the overall winner, Ciara Crossan of Wedding Dates, to talk about her success and exciting times ahead
Awards win left me speechless
Winner of the Best Large Business and overall winner Ciara Crossan, Wedding Dates at the Network Ireland Cork Branch Businesswoman of the Year Awards Gala 2019 sponsored by Brown Thomas Cork, LEO and AIB in The Maryborough Hotel & Spa. Picture: Darragh Kane

THE awards keep stacking up for Weddingdates.ie founder Ciara Crossan, as her business continues to grow and innovate.

She won the Large Business category at the Network Ireland Cork Women in Business Awards, for her significant achievements in business in recent years, her adaptation to new technologies and her excellent management skills.

But not only that - she also won the overall Cork Businesswoman of the Year 2019 Award, sponsored by Brown Thomas Cork.

The win left her speechless and comes hot on the heels of her Business All-Star, in recognition of the company’s outstanding contribution to best practice in online marketing in the wedding industry - something she is really proud of too.

Having started the site more than ten years ago with just 30 clients, Ciara now has more than 2500 wedding venues and suppliers signed up - across Ireland and the UK.

Weddingdates.ie and weddingdates.co.uk have handled more than a quarter of a million wedding enquiries.

And if that figure wasn’t staggering enough, she has generated more than 100 million euro for those businesses - including 6293 booked weddings in Ireland and 8601 booked weddings in the UK.

And she’s not stopping there. It’s an exciting time for the mum of two, originally from Kerry Pike, who lives in Carrigaline as she prepares to relaunch her company’s website and wedding portal in the coming days.

Reflecting on her recent award success, Ciara said she joined Network Cork, just early last year.

“I don’t think I have missed an event since. Straight away I felt like I clicked with the other women and I know it sounds very cheesy to say I found my tribe, but you know, there is a lot of positivity, and females supporting other females, I really enjoyed it from the get go.”

It was her first time at the awards ceremony and didn’t know what to expect. However the awards application form, which goes before independent judges was very detailed, examining everything from your ambitions for the company, your financial projections, your achievements to-date - “It is very detailed.” 

President of Network Cork Gillian Hennessy, Triskel Arts Centre with Prize winners Helen Walshe, Employmum and recipient of the Rising Star award, Marion Courtney, Himalaya Yoga Valley Centre, recipient of the Shining Star award, ciara Crossan, Wedding Dates, winner of the Best Large Business and overall Network Cork Businesswoman of the Year Award 2019, Marguerite O’Sullivan, DePuy Synthes Johnson & Johnson, awarded Best Professional in the STEM category, Loretta Kennedy, MamaBear Foods winner of Best in the Emerging Business and Valerie Finnegan Cahill, Ikon Hair Design winner Best Small Business at the Network Ireland Cork Branch Businesswoman of the Year Awards Gala 2019 sponsored by Brown Thomas Cork, LEO and AIB in The Maryborough Hotel & SpaPicture: Darragh Kane
President of Network Cork Gillian Hennessy, Triskel Arts Centre with Prize winners Helen Walshe, Employmum and recipient of the Rising Star award, Marion Courtney, Himalaya Yoga Valley Centre, recipient of the Shining Star award, ciara Crossan, Wedding Dates, winner of the Best Large Business and overall Network Cork Businesswoman of the Year Award 2019, Marguerite O’Sullivan, DePuy Synthes Johnson & Johnson, awarded Best Professional in the STEM category, Loretta Kennedy, MamaBear Foods winner of Best in the Emerging Business and Valerie Finnegan Cahill, Ikon Hair Design winner Best Small Business at the Network Ireland Cork Branch Businesswoman of the Year Awards Gala 2019 sponsored by Brown Thomas Cork, LEO and AIB in The Maryborough Hotel & SpaPicture: Darragh Kane

When she heard her name being called she was left “Totally speechless, I was blown away, I was thrilled with winning my category, large SME, and then to win the overall, it just kind blew me away. The best of the best of female entrepreneurs, women in business in Cork, to get that is just, really blew me away. I was speechless, and that is very rare.” Ciara was excited to share news of weddingdates.ie and weddingdates.co.uk new website and wedding planning portal.

“Essentially it is a portal for couples to plan their whole wedding date. You can have short lists, have favourites, connect venues to suppliers they recommend, have a checklist/ timeline of things you need to do.

“Once you set your date, we help you narrow down locations, as well as a preferred list of venues and suppliers.

“The idea is to take the stress out of wedding planning. When couples get engaged they have to plan this humongous event that they haven’t had to do before.

So many people say their wedding day was stressful, they didn’t enjoy the day, they were not ‘present’, because the stress of the whole thing took them over. We aim to demystify and simplify the wedding process. We know the suppliers, we know their availability - we can connect the dots.We are really trying to make it a lot more streamlined and user friendly for people.” 

Ciara said they have had the site for a very long time, but you need to keep ‘innovating.’ 

“If you are not innovating you are going backwards. While the site was a really cool handy thing before - it didn’t necessarily tie them all together, that is what the new system does. Allows people to plan from start to finish.” Outside of her busy work life, there are two little men to take care of at home also, Ciara is the proud mum of five and a half-year-old twins, who seem unphased by mum’s success.

“I bring home the trophies and they sit on the kitchen table - they say ‘oh they are cool… where is breakfast.’ It is one way to keep your feet on the ground, they bring you back to reality. You can’t get too ahead of yourself when you have two little fellas…” As to what the future holds? Ciara says she has purchased all international domain names ie www.weddingdates.au and weddingdates.sa but has no immediate plans in 2019 - besides there is still so much to do in the UK.

“We have nearly saturated the Irish market but we only have 20% of the UK market to go. Still plenty to go there.” What I would say to any aspiring entrepreneurs/Women in Business out there:

1) Never give up.

it takes a serious amount of hard work & dedication to grow a business. You have to ride out the tough times and be resilient.

2) Surround yourself with the best.

They say it takes a village when raising children, well the same is true for growing a business! Ask for help, and build your team of people who believe in your idea as much as you do.

3) Positivity is contagious!

Having a positive outlook will help you overcome the obstacles as well as attract people to you - customers, staff & supporters; people buy in to you as much as your product or service.

4) Act with integrity.

Ireland is small and your specific industry probably even smaller. If you are in it for the long haul then treat everyone you meet with dignity & respect, it will massively benefit you in the long run.

Winner of Best in the Emerging Business category Loretta Kennedy, CEO of MamaBear Foods.Pic DARRAGH KANE
Winner of Best in the Emerging Business category Loretta Kennedy, CEO of MamaBear Foods.Pic DARRAGH KANE

MORE ABOUT THE AWARDS

The Network Ireland Cork Business Women of the Year Awards were hosted in the Maryborough Hotel & Spa last Friday.

MC on the evening was Cliona O’Connor of the Lean Mean Momma Blog.

President of Network Cork Gillian Hennessy, Triskel Arts Centre and MC Cliona O'Connor, Lean Mean Mama at the Network Ireland Cork Branch Businesswoman of the Year Awards. Picture: Darragh Kane
President of Network Cork Gillian Hennessy, Triskel Arts Centre and MC Cliona O'Connor, Lean Mean Mama at the Network Ireland Cork Branch Businesswoman of the Year Awards. Picture: Darragh Kane

Marguerite O’Sullivan, Innovation Engineer Manager at DePuy Synthes Johnson & Johnson was awarded Best Professional in the STEM category for her pioneering innovation in her field and outstanding contribution to furthering careers for women in STEM.

Loretta Kennedy, CEO of MamaBear Foods was awarded Best in the Emerging Business category for her unique approach to business strategy and her entrepreneurial spirit.

Winner of Best Small Business Valerie Finnegan Cahill, IKON.
Winner of Best Small Business Valerie Finnegan Cahill, IKON.

Valerie Finnegan Cahill, Founder of Ikon Hair Design was commended in the Best Small Business category for her dynamic service offering, her passion and drive and her dedication to customer care.

Recipient of the Rising Star award Helen Walshe, Recruitment Consultant at Employmum.
Recipient of the Rising Star award Helen Walshe, Recruitment Consultant at Employmum.

The Rising Star Award which recognises women who have made important advancements in their chosen career path went to Helen Walshe, Recruitment Consultant at Employmum..

Recipient of the Shining Star award, Marion Courtney, Business Manager at Himalaya Yoga Valley Centre.
Recipient of the Shining Star award, Marion Courtney, Business Manager at Himalaya Yoga Valley Centre.

The Shining Star award, which acknowledges team members who have made outstanding contributions to their company was awarded to Marion Courtney, Business Manager at Himalaya Yoga Valley Centre.

The awards were sponsored by Brown Thomas Cork. The event was also supported by LEO, Network Cork’s Regional Sponsor and AIB, the organisation’s Official Partner.

The Winners in each category will now go forward to represent Cork in the Network Ireland National Business Awards, which will take place at a gala ceremony later this year, on Friday 27 September in Cork.

Network Cork President, Gillian Hennessy said: “Seeing the diversity amongst this year’s winners and their significant contributions to their industries demonstrates how Cork is leading the way in business innovation. The Cork Businesswoman of the Year Awards recognise women who are driving change in the Cork Business landscape. We’re delighted to showcase some of Cork’s leading business persons and we would like to thank our sponsors and judges for their continued commitment and support.” Network Cork is affiliated to Network Ireland, a not-for-profit national organisation for women in business, the professions, and the arts. For more information on the awards or to become a member, visit www.networkireland.ie

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