Cork entrepreneurs share their top tips for female founders

The Local Enterprise Office South Cork, will host an event at Fota Island Hotel on March 10, to mark Local Enterprise Week - called ‘Brunch and Learn - Be inspired to build a company’. EMMA CONNOLLY talks to the two keynote speakers ahead of the event about their top tips for female founders
Cork entrepreneurs share their top tips for female founders

Local Enterprise Office South Cork has announced an exciting line-up of events for ‘Local Enterprise Week 2023’, which runs from Monday March 6 to Friday March 10. At the launch was Peigin Crowley, GROUND Wellbeing and Loretta Kennedy, Mama Bear food Photo Darragh Kane

IF an idea is really niggling at you, and won’t leave you alone, then you should be curious about it.

So says entrepreneur Loretta Kennedy, who says good ideas don’t usually stay around for very long, and if you keep coming back to a particular thing, be it a business or a book, it’s worth giving it attention.

Loretta is speaking from experience: she founded her first business, MamaBear Foods, from her kitchen table in 2018, in response to her three children’s over fondness for ketchup.

Last year she sold the business to Ballymaloe Foods, in what she says was her wildest dream come true, admitting there was no difficulty on her part letting it go.

“I made my decision around this time last year that I wanted to sell my business. I remember we were on holidays and I got a phone call looking for labels. We were out of the country and I felt so disheartened I couldn’t plug out, even though I’d set everything up as best as I could before I left.

Peigin Crowley, GROUND Wellbeing and Loretta Kennedy, Mama Bear food. Picture: Darragh Kane
Peigin Crowley, GROUND Wellbeing and Loretta Kennedy, Mama Bear food. Picture: Darragh Kane

“When I came back, I realised I was done and that I needed to be able to switch off. I’d been running on all cylinders for a very long time,” she recalls.

As well as running the food business start-up, she was also working full-time in the charity sector until the pandemic hit in 2020, when, with home schooling thrown into the mix, the situation became unsustainable.

“I could have given my job up earlier,” she says, “I had enough money in my business account to pay myself a salary but I genuinely thought that it was a fluke, that there was no way I could be a businesswoman! 

"It seemed nearly too good to be true that it was working – and it was working really well.”

Loretta went on to train as a Trauma of Money practitioner and coach. She’s the only such person trained in this area in Ireland and works with an international faculty.

“Every woman who comes to work with me, asks how can you have trauma around money? It’s such a big word and we have to go into all the societal conditioning we’ve been brought up with, we’re all carrying around so much.

“I mean, Irish women couldn’t hold public sector positions until 1973. I’m turning 50 this year, and I’d always grown up thinking that business is for men in suits, and if you said you wanted money, you were greedy, and if you were rich you were corrupt. 

"In fact, I’ve met some of the most wonderful and kind businessmen on my journey and that transformed my idea of what a businessman and woman is.”

Her best business advice came from her brother, who told her to do her costings before she got too emotionally attached to product. Interestingly, she’s one of five, four of whom have their own business.

“That was really good advice, as at the time I was very money avoidant, and was far more focused on being creative. The other thing is that if something is really whispering at you, and it won’t leave you alone, you might want to be curious and see what it would be like to give it attention. Those great ideas don’t stay around for very long, and you’ll see someone doing that very thing and kick yourself. Also, we’re very lucky in Ireland to have access to LEO supports, and to Enterprise Ireland, and you don’t have to spend a fortune to start a business.”

Originally from Mayo, and living with her family in Glanmire, Loretta’s a big advocate of basic manners.

“Never burn a bridge with anyone; be grateful, be professional, kindness goes a long way,” she said.

And finally, she urges female founders not to underestimate how much time the business will require in the start-up phase.

Loretta Kennedy, Mama Bear food and Peigin Crowley, GROUND Wellbeing Picture: Darragh Kane
Loretta Kennedy, Mama Bear food and Peigin Crowley, GROUND Wellbeing Picture: Darragh Kane

“It’s like a new baby, it’s full on, you’re doing everything at the start – and you’re not doing anything wrong if you’re finding it overwhelming, that’s the nature of it at the beginning.

“That’s why it’s so important to be with other entrepreneurs. If your partner is in a nine to five job, they’re in a different headspace, and you need to have a crew around you who get it.”

As well as her global coaching work, Loretta is working with Ballymaloe for the next two years as a consultant for MamaBear Foods.

“It’s great! It felt like I had taken my baby to pre-school, she’s now going to primary school but I get to go with her too to see how she gets on!”

She’s also planning her wedding next year to her partner of 19 years … and she hasn’t ruled out launching another business in the future.

“I don’t know what it’s going to be but I know I will have another,” she pledged.


Female founders need to understand that as soon as they decide to have their own business and wear their heart on their sleeve, it will change their life.

That’s what businesswoman Peigin Crowley will be helping those attending the Fota brunch get their heads around.

The Ovens woman is a wellness curator, creating award-winning spa experiences with wellbeing at the core.

Forced to slow down during the pandemic, her brand Ground was born at the kitchen table in 2020 in a quest to make sincere wellbeing accessible to all. In just two short years, Ground’s message has resonated with leading wellness properties across the world, with the brand being represented at the highest level at The Rosewood in Hong Kong, St Barth and Hawaii to The Four Seasons in Boston, Whistler and Toronto to The Waldorf Astoria in Beverly Hills and Edinburgh.

There’s lots of new developments in the pipeline this year too and she’ll address the Enterprise Week event not long after returning from growing the business in Mexico.

“Last year, we began to sow seeds in US and Canadian markets and this year it’s about harvesting that. The scale and volume that the U.S requires, we have to scale up to that so it’s about understanding how we do that in baby steps and not overwhelm ourselves. But it’s very exciting, it’s a lovely space to work in, as they love the Irish,” said the mum-of-two.

Among her top business tips is to ‘mind your cash flow like a pet rabbit. it’s your source, your energy.’

“I wouldn’t be a numbers or an Excel sheet kind of person, but it’s important there are no surprises, you could be kiboshed by cash flow and chasing invoices, so that’s the most important thing to focus on,” she stressed.

“It’s also important to stick to what matters, growing your vision, staying true to it, true to yourself, and not being swayed by different ideas.

“There are high highs and low lows so you need to dig deep, have grit, be strong, and to ask for help and guidance when you need it.”

* The ‘Brunch and Learn’ event is sold out. However, there are lots of other events running as part of Local Enterprise week - see:


Dr Karen Weeks, endurance athlete and sports athlete will speak at an Enterprise Week event on March 8, International Women’s Day, with a theme of ‘inspiring to succeed’.

In February, 2022, Karen became the first Irish woman to row solo and unsupported 3,000 miles across the Atlantic Ocean as part of the ‘SHECANDO2021’ campaign. By successfully completing this journey, she became the 20th female worldwide to have ever rowed across any ocean solo.

The Galway woman is an adventurer, lecturer and sport psychologist who specialises in cognitive and practical coping techniques for endurance sport.

The talk runs at County Hall from 6.30-8.30pm. You can book that talk here.

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