BETTER Together is the theme the new president of Network West Cork is running with for her year at the helm of the organisation.
Marie Wiseman feels it’s “really reflective of what Network Ireland is – a place of support”. And she knows that only too well from her own personal experience, having availed of this very same support when she returned to Ireland after almost 30 years working abroad.
Originally from Durrus, near Bantry, Marie had a hugely successful marketing career in the UK working for big food manufacturing companies.
“Five years ago, I bought a holiday home in Durrus and found I was enjoying spending time here more and more. My mum wasn’t very well at the time either, so in September, 2017, I decided to give life in West Cork another go, and it was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made,” she said.
However, with few big food manufacturers situated in the area, and those that were already fully staffed, Marie needed to pivot on her return.
“I’d also never worked in Ireland before and indeed hadn’t lived here for almost 30 years, so I had a lot of learning to do,” she said.
“My end goal was always to start my own marketing consultancy, but my start point was to take on some part-time marketing roles, to help me get to know what it was like to be a small business owner in West Cork,” she said.
“In 2020, I realised my dream and set up my own marketing business, Wiser Marketing. I provide both strategic and hands-on marketing support to small and micro businesses across a wide spectrum of industries, including tourism, retail, craft, farming, food, health and sport,” she explained.
Shortly after returning to Ireland, an old school friend recommended Network Ireland to Marie, as a way of meeting like-minded people in the area and building a network.
“At the time, the closest branch was Cork so that’s the branch I joined. I attended a few events and meetings but with most of these in the city, it was a bit of a challenge to get to events, particularly in the winter evenings. So when I heard about a West Cork branch being formed, I jumped at the chance to change branch.
“Having a branch here didn’t just make it easier to attend events, the connections made were more relevant and it’s easier to build those connections over time.
“There’s also a real sense of community here in West Cork – I love getting to know people here and joining the dots on who’s connected to who!” she said.
Since joining, Marie has wasted little time in getting stuck in. Her business was West Cork Branch Winner in the Network Ireland Businesswoman of the Year Awards for 2020 in the Emerging New Business category.
She also went on to volunteer on the committee: “My first year on the committee was fantastic, and despite not getting to physically meet most of the others due to Covid, I formed some really strong friendships and relationships, and really strengthened my connection with the Network. It was good to feel part of something, particularly at a time when we were all feeling so disconnected.”
She was vice president this year, and says she’s now “humbled to be taking on the role of president, following the footsteps of so many inspiring West Cork women”.
Marie’s plans for the year are to build on the great work of previous presidents: “This isn’t about reinvention and I feel privileged to be able to continue the work that the past four presidents started,” she said.
“It’s a fantastic opportunity and I couldn’t pass by the chance to lead this wonderful group of ladies for a year.”
The group has conducted a number of surveys with members over the last 12 months, and Marie says it’s clear that that’s what they are looking for: “It’s about getting to know others, connections, camaraderie and a listening ear.
“Indeed, support means different things to different people. It can be ‘hard’ support, for example getting an introduction to a potential new client, or having the opportunity to speak at an event, or help in getting PR coverage for a new venture, yet more often it’s ‘soft’ support.
“Having someone you can turn to if you are in need of a pick-me-up or a confidence boost, or have a question you need answering, or ideas you need to bounce off someone. Or sometimes it’s simply to know others are in the same boat as you – that you’re not alone.”
She dearly hopes she won’t be a virtual president and says: “There is a Covid sentiment to #bettertogether. We’re social creatures – we need that human connection – which is why these last two years have been so challenging for us all. In the meantime, as I say, I will be sure to build some form of networking into everything we do.”
When she’s not working, Marie enjoys hiking, running and cycling: “I’m a member of a local sea dipping group and an avid all year round sea swimmer and, yes, I do own a dry robe! I’m also a member of the local drama group and women’s choir and a leader with Muintir Bháire Foróige club.”
She recently joined the board of West Cork Women Against Violence, the charity she’s chosen to support this year.
“It’s a charity that’s been doing amazing work supporting women over the past 20-plus years. The support they give to women in the area is immense and they’ve helped change the lives of countless women over the years.
“This is support in its biggest form and never has it been more important than in the last two years. I’m really looking forward to supporting them in whatever way we can.”