Meet some of the finalists in Network Ireland Cork Businesswoman of the Year Awards

31 women have been shortlisted across eight categories in the Network Cork Businesswoman of the Year awards which take place Friday night - we catch up with some of the finalists
Meet some of the finalists in Network Ireland Cork Businesswoman of the Year Awards

Annabel Lolah, Bezateli

Emerging New Businesswoman:

Lolah Annabel Limah, Bezateli

A MUM-of-three launched her own athleisure wear business during the pandemic as an identity for the tribe of women she had brought together.

Lolah Annabel Limah is a Cameroonian living in Ballincollig with her husband Glen and three kids. She moved to Ireland in 2015 to join her spouse and has a degree in Economics and Management.

“Back home, I worked in my mother’s businesses. At some point, my mum was a dressmaker while my dad made handmade traditional dresses. In these different roles, I built the skills which I now use in my business, Bezateli,” she said.

Bezateli athleisure wear was conceived in the heart of the pandemic from her own experience.

“After having our third son, I lost my self-esteem due to the ‘mummy tummy’ I had developed, but I was encouraged when I saw the progress a friend had made from eating better and regular exercising.

“Within a few months, I began noticing results; my shape and confidence were gradually being restored and I felt empowered to inspire other women.

“So I decided to create a community to support and motivate women, especially those going through similar circumstances. 

"In the community, we inspire each other to exercise, share meal ideas, act as accountability partners, and occasionally talk about mental health and self-care. 

"There is also a fitness challenge every month that we commit to accomplish.

“The athleisure wear is an identity for the tribe and we always ensure that our gear is designed to find the right balance between sustainability, functionality and style.”

The name Bezateli comes from the names of her three kids.

“We often joke that this brand is our fourth kid. Bezateli means ‘Never Give Up.’ This is the attitude we want our tribe to adopt.”

Being a mum of three energetic boys, all under five, with the eldest having a speech delay is challenging on its own, not to mind running a business, Lolah says.

“Some days are tough and I feel like quitting, but when I think of the purpose behind the brand, it gives me the energy and determination to keep pushing.”

Being a member of Network Cork, she says, is one of the best decisions she has made.

“I get to meet and chat with like-minded women from different sectors and with years of experience in business. The mentoring from them has been exceptional. I also get to know about different cultures. I am excited to be part of the big family.”

Other finalists in this category are:

Una Buckley - Blossom4Life

Fiona Walsh - Imagine Coaching

Claire Keane - Second Street Bakeshop

Linda O’Connell - Digi Nomad

Aine McLoughlin - AML Property Services

Noella Carroll - Pinnaklo Ltd

Sandra Gilligan, Pinnaklo
Sandra Gilligan, Pinnaklo

Rising Star Employee:

Sandra Gilligan, Pinnaklo

HAVING been made redundant from a job, and just nine months later being nominated for an award in a completely new role, is a huge source of pride for Sandra Gilligan.

She’s the Personal and Marketing assistant with Pinnaklo Ltd, a finance and business consulting company based in Cork.

And she’s a great example of what can be achieved in a part-time and flexible position.

Sandra worked for Ulster Bank in Dublin from 2007 to 2019, mainly in its business banking division.

Originally from Leitrim, after the birth of their first child, herself and her husband moved from the capital to Clarecastle in his native Clare to be closer to family.

“Following the decision to move west and in order to spend more time with my small family, I decided to leave the bank and seek part-time employment.”

However Sandra was made redundant in August, 2021: “When I returned from maternity leave, the landscape of work had changed, and sadly my role was no longer required. This was a huge shock and unsettling. But I knew that I could not let the grass grow and started my job search straight away.

“I took advantage of the opportunities available to the unemployed and commenced a Human Resource Management Diploma with the Galway Business School, a subject I was always interested in.”

In her new role at Pinnaklo, she completely reinvented herself – with impressive results.

She hasn’t been afraid to learn new skills and try new things, and despite having no formal training in marketing, she’s having a big impact.

“To say no two days are the same is an understatement!” she said.

As well as her marking roles, she assists the MD with the day-to-day running of the company: “It’s certainly a departure from my roles with Ulster Bank, and I’m really enjoying the challenge.”

Working remotely, she really sees the value of being part of Network Cork for support and reassurance.

“Network Cork feel like my work colleagues, It makes me feel connected to the working community, which is especially important when working from home.”

Sandra, mum to three-year-old Iarlaith and one-year-old Síofra, feels really proud at getting this nomination: “Just because you ‘only’ work a certain number of hours in the week, does not mean that you can’t make a strong contribution to an organisation or workforce.”

Other finalists in this category are:

Niamh Drohan - Hopkins Communications

Aoife Behan - The Montenotte Hotel

Solo Businesswoman and Power Within Champion:

Karla Goodman with Graham Norton.
Karla Goodman with Graham Norton.

Karla Goodman, Producer & Director and founder of Made to Measure Films

WHEN the pandemic hit, Karla Goodman saw a whole raft of work projects disappear into an abyss.

It was a hard time to be at the helm of a business like hers. She set up Made to Measure Films in 2014, and creates story- driven videos for businesses, campaigns, short films and documentaries.

Karla, who has lived in Cork for the last 21 years via Dublin and London, was well used to transitioning, having worked in front of and behind the camera throughout a successful career as both an actor and director.

But the pandemic required her to make even more radical changes.

“As a company in 2020, we pivoted from scripting and filming to supporting and advising companies how to self-shoot, albeit from their own home offices. We would creatively edit the material together using banked and stock footage. Stories kept being told, without the need to gather as we had always been used to,” she recalls.

Coming out the other side, she believes that they have bounced back even stronger: “The sentiment of many of my videos is about overcoming adversity and challenges and dealing with the dramatic turns of life.

“Cork County Council have commissioned us to cover both the 9/11 and the Covid-19 remembrance events, which brings me full swing back to my original passion of telling stories.”

Karla, who lives near Kinsale, and has three teenager children, also acknowledges the challenges of being a working mum.

“Despite all our efforts as women, it is impossible to work as if you are not a mother and to be a mother as if you don’t work. Both have to acknowledge the other. Initially, it was a time challenge, I was maintaining all the motherly duties and working late hours and weekends to get things done. But as my children have grown older and more self-sufficient, it has become easier.”

Karla was encouraged by other friends to join Network Cork during the pandemic and she describes it a “wonderful, embracing, colourful, holistic and supportive blanket”.

“This kind of network is hugely beneficial when you are running your own business, not just for work but for wellness and balance,” she added.

Her two award nominations, she says, are “truly special, coming out from such a dark period and still standing”.

“I am honoured to be amongst such hardworking and wonderful women. I know how much goes into staying on top of your game, setting up your own business and reinventing yourself and/or your product.

“To win either of the two categories in which I have been shortlisted would be immense. It is something that would consolidate so much of the work and challenges I have faced on the journey of the last seven years.”

Other finalists in this category are:

Cathy Fitzgibbon MBus, DipLCM - The Culinary Celt

Judie Russell - The Vidacademy

Melissa Curley - SocialBe Communications

Caroline O’Brien, Erin Hampers
Caroline O’Brien, Erin Hampers

Established Businesswoman: Caroline O’Brien, Erin Hampers

CAROLINE O’Brien is so passionate about engaging with her customers that she went so far as to study psychology to help her make those positive connections.

The powerhouse behind leading online hamper store, Erin Hampers, describes herself as “incredibly fussy and a perfectionist” and she makes no apology for it.

The mum-of-two always puts herself in her customer’s shoes and says that every hamper they deliver is an advert for the business, and one they can’t afford to get wrong.

On the rare occasion they don’t get a five-star review, she wants to know why!

Originally from the Model Farm Road and now living in Tower with her husband and two grown-up children, retail is in her DNA.

She started working in her family business, Erin Giftstore, outside the gates of Blarney Castle, in 1985 when she was 19 and her dad was diagnosed with lung cancer. The plan was to help out there for a summer and return to her job working with an architect – but she never left.

Herself and her brother John are at the helm of the business and, while brainstorming for an idea for the off-season months, they launched an online hamper business.

That was in 2017 and Caroline says that it wasn’t until the pandemic hit that the business really took off.

“I remember closing the gift store on March 17 and wondering what were we going to do,” she said.

But there was little time for wondering, as in no time at all they were inundated with hamper orders from the corporate sector, locally and nationally, and business went through the roof. Such was the demand, they even had to hire extra staff and expand into additional space.

Being part of Network Cork is something she values.

“I love women supporting women in business and I think it’s important when a lot of businesses can still be quite male-oriented.”

She’s a firm believer that if you love what you do, you never work a day in your life – and she really loves what she does!

That’s a philosophy she’s passed on to her daughter, who is studying commerce, and her son, who is studying criminology.

“I always tell them they have to find a career that they love, however long it takes them to find it.”

And being nominated for a Network award is as good as winning to Caroline: “It’s fantastic and a real validation of what we do. We already know what we do is special but to get that outside recognition is really great and makes all the effort worthwhile.”

Other finalists in this category are:

Anne O’Doherty - Quintas Wealth Management

Sandra Looney - To Have and To Hold

MORE ABOUT THE AWARDS

A total of 31 women have been shortlisted across eight categories in the Network Cork Businesswoman of the Year awards.

The awards will take place on Friday, May 27 at Fota Island Resort. The winner of each category will be announced on the night and the finalists will then go onto the Network Ireland national awards.

Tickets for the event, which kicks off with a prosecco reception, sponsored by Electric, are available to purchase through Eventbrite.

For more see www.networkireland.ie/cork

More in this section

Sponsored Content

Echo 130Echo 130
EL_music

Podcast: 1000 Cork songs 
Singer/songwriter Jimmy Crowley talks to John Dolan

Listen Here

Add Echolive.ie to your home screen - easy access to Cork news, views, sport and more