The most important thing in these times is the ability to change

A busy and exciting year lies ahead for the new Network West Cork President, Katherine O’Sullivan, writes EMMA CONNOLLY
The most important thing in these times is the ability to change

Katherine O Sullivan, GM of O Donnell Design in Skibbereen, with Caroline Murphy handing over the chain of office of Network West Cork President.

I AM just a very ordinary person who works hard and thrives on helping others.

That’s how the new president of Network West Cork, Katherine O’Sullivan, describes herself, and she insists that attention and the limelight are not what drive her, but rather the desire to give something back.

Chartered accountant Katherine, who lives in Durrus, near Bantry, didn’t let the fact that she’s already very busy, professionally and personally, put her off taking up the demanding position for the year ahead.

Married to farmer Michael, she’s a mom to three boys — Pádraig, aged 11; Daniel, aged eight and Ciarán aged three — and is the general manager of O’Donnell Furniture in Skibbereen, a manufacturer of furniture for top hotels, high end residential and the cruise line market.

She got involved in Network Ireland in 2018 when the branch was set up in West Cork.

Katherine O Sullivan, GM of O Donnell Design in Skibbereen.
Katherine O Sullivan, GM of O Donnell Design in Skibbereen.

“My interest was personal due to my work circumstances. I work in a male-dominated industry and I needed to work on my skillset and personal development to succeed and grow,” says Katherine.

“I was nominated as treasurer and I have worked in that role for three years. It is, and has been, a great experience and I have met great people and heard inspiring business stories,” she said.

She’s massively excited about her term ahead, despite the continued uncertainty caused by the pandemic.

“It is in times like these that people thrive and find strengths that they didn’t know they had.”

As GM of a business who only three short years ago exported up to 90% of their product to the UK, Katherine is well used to facing challenges head on, and finding a way through them.

The split between UK and Ireland/Europe business has since shifted to approximately 70/30 respectively, and Katherine has been generous about sharing what they’ve learned along their Brexit journey with others.

“We are a client of Enterprise Ireland and I have worked closely with them over the past six years. They have many services that are necessary supports to reach the goals that myself and the team are working towards.

“In return, I always believe in giving back and therefore, when my skills or knowledge can help, I work with my contacts. 

"So, especially over the past four and a half years, since the onset of Brexit, I have taken part in panel discussions to represent industry so that I can help give the position from the ground.

“I have also worked with the team internally, the banks, Skillnet Ireland, Enterprise Ireland and the Revenue to ensure that O’Donnell are as prepared as one can possibly be, given the ever changing nature of the agreement/potential agreement,” she said.

Katherine O Sullivan, GM of O Donnell Design in Skibbereen with Caroline Murphy, outgoing president of Network West Cork.
Katherine O Sullivan, GM of O Donnell Design in Skibbereen with Caroline Murphy, outgoing president of Network West Cork.

Not surprising, then, that her hashtag for the year is #Embracingchange.

“I have a number of objectives for the year including developing the network skills of the members in a Covid world, bringing benefits of additional business, and learning to our members, embracing West Cork and what it has the offer, and the industries that are suitable to the region, supporting women in senior employment positions, as well as the entrepreneurs and much more.

“But the most important thing in these times is the ability to change and adapt to our changing environment… so while I have objectives, I am sure that they will change.”

Her chosen charity for the year is Embrace Farm which was set up in 2014 to provide a support network for farm families who have a loved one who suffered serious injury in a farming accident.

“I know of families that have been affected by tragedy on farms and while fishing and I look forward to working with them to raise funds and awareness for farm safety and the devastating impact of farm accidents on families,” said Katherine, who was raised on a dairy farm, and who is now married to a farmer.

As she settles into office, she’s keen to stress that while she is the new president, she’s only one member of a great team.

“Without the support of the members and the committee, the president could not do the work. But I am hugely proud of being accepted to lead for 2021 and so excited, especially given the current challenges.”

About Network West Cork

Network Ireland West Cork holds networking events for members and guests in different locations in West Cork each month. For further information and to stay up-to-date with branch news, visit Network Ireland West Cork on Linkedin, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram or subscribe to the monthly newsletter by emailing westcorkezine@networkireland.ie

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