A magical celebration of wonderful Cork women

And the winners are... EMMA CONNOLLY reveals the women who won accolades at the Female Founder Awards, and who shared the spirit of a fabulous event
A magical celebration of wonderful Cork women

Back, from left, Eilis Mannion, Permanent TSB, judge, Kate Lynch, Ivan McCutcheon, Local Enterprise Office, judge. Front, Muriel Foley, MGFD, judge, Clodagh O’Donovan, Janna Mullaney, Sian Horn, Founder, Aine McPhiemy, Catherine Casey, Katherine Griffin, and Judie Russell at The Female Founder Awards, which took place in the Maryborough Hotel to celebrate women in business. Picture: Alison Miles /OSM

AN awards ceremony with a difference took place in the Maryborough House Hotel last Thursday night, where, as cliched as it sounds, everyone went home feeling like a winner and standing six feet tall.

‘Epic,’ ‘incredible,’ and ‘magical,’ were just some of the words used to describe the inaugural Female Founder Awards, organised by The Club, a network that’s designed to support females, and teach them what they need to know to stay in business.

Established in Cork during Covid by the powerhouse Sian Horn, the network has since gone national and looks set to have 200 members by the end of the year.

Winners Clodagh O’Donovan, Catherine Casey, Katherine Griffin, and Kate Lynch at The Female Founder Awards.
Winners Clodagh O’Donovan, Catherine Casey, Katherine Griffin, and Kate Lynch at The Female Founder Awards.

Sian was motivated to set up the awards as she saw female founders struggle with confidence and imposter syndrome. A lot of the reason, she said, is because success is typically measured in terms of financial growth and numbers.

Sian wanted to create awards that reflected the ethos of The Club, which is all about support and learning.

On the night there were seven category awards up for grabs and the winners were:

Newcomer Award: Janna Mullaney: Sleepy Chicken, an online store curating woman-owned brands

Positive Impact Award: Katherine Griffin: a cancer survivor and self-published author of Hope To Cope, raising funds for The Irish Cancer Society, Marymount

Creative Marketing Award: Catherine Casey, digital marketing consultant

Solopreneur Award: Judie Russell, The Vidacademy

Business Award: Aine McPhilmeny, HerMoney

Contribution to the Club Network: Clodagh O’Donovan, AdvanceHR

Most Inspiring Award: Kate Lynch, The Creative Society

Each category winner was presented with €500, while the overall winner, got a further €1,000 - and that was Janna Mullaney.

Originally from Cork city, Jenna lives in Midleton and crafted her online business, Sleepy Chicken, designed to give a platform to female-led brands, during maternity leave.

The business has just celebrated its first anniversary and Janna said she was ‘floored’ by the win.

“I honestly don’t think ‘shocked’ is a big enough word for it!” she said. “To be recognised in any capacity was such a lovely experience, not to mind taking the overall title, it was genuinely unreal.”

Triona Gunning, Janna Mullaney, and Hannah Falvey at The Female Founder Awards which took place in Maryborough Hotel to celebrate women in business.
Triona Gunning, Janna Mullaney, and Hannah Falvey at The Female Founder Awards which took place in Maryborough Hotel to celebrate women in business.

Reflecting on the past year in business, she said: “It has been amazing, it has run away from me in the best possible way!”

“I come from a traditional retail background and 10 years ago I’d never have imagined that I’d have my own business, without a store front, operating out of my spare room, being a ‘Jane of all trades’. It shows how much can be achieved with belief and by surrounding yourself with a network like The Club.”

Social media and The Club, she said, were without doubt the two biggest components in terms of her business growth.

“At times, setting up the business felt a little like ‘shouting in the void’. It’s a saturated space but finding a group of women to be your champion when you’re scared, or need advice, has made such a difference,” she said.

In fact, being a member of The Club had, she said, been her best business investment in terms of what she’s learned, and importantly the friendships she’s made.

Katherine Griffin, winner of the Positive Impact Award agreed. The Midleton primary school teacher has shared her story previously with The Echo, and it’s one that clearly resonated with the judges, who singled her out for her resilience, and for turning a negative into a positive.

The judges said that Katherine’s story touched them in a way they will never forget, and that her determination, resilience and selflessness stood out to make her a deserving winner.

The mum-of-two was diagnosed with thyroid cancer in December, 2012, when she was 37 years old, and underwent treatment at the same time as her beloved dad.

He lost his fight on his fifth battle with the illness on World Cancer Day in 2017, and last year Katherine self-published a book, Hope To Cope, to share her coping strategies from that time, and crucially to raise money for charity. Her target is to raise €50,000 for the Irish Cancer Society and €50,000 for Marymount, and incredibly she’s already well on her way.

“I’ve sold 6,000 books so far and have raised €60,000,” she said.

Winning the award was ‘magical’, she said, but the atmosphere on the night was even more so.

Martina Casey, Ivan Mcutcheon (judge) and Bojana Vilhelm at The Female Founder Awards .
Martina Casey, Ivan Mcutcheon (judge) and Bojana Vilhelm at The Female Founder Awards .

“Everyone was willing each other on, it was such a marvellous celebration of women. And that’s exactly what The Club is about, having people to listen to and encourage you, so that if you have a bad day, you know you’re not alone,” she said.

Sian said the atmosphere in the room on the awards night was incredible: “Something very special happened at the event. People are starting to understand what The Club is about, what we’re trying to achieve by supporting each other, and our ethos of giving.”

Next year, she said, will be even bigger and better.

Watch this space!

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