The Donegal Women in Business Network had a warm welcome for new visitors from Northern Ireland at today’s cross-border afternoon tea event at Dunmore Gardens, Carrigans.
The beautiful country house, rustic barn and walled garden was a picturesque setting for an enjoyable summer afternoon of networking with up to 50 women from both sides of the border.
Ambitious and established businesswomen and business support workers from counties including Derry, Belfast, Tyrone, Donegal and Sligo took the chance to share their business stories.
Donegal Women in Business Network President Deirdre McGlone acknowledged a shared quality among all women in business – resilience.
The Harvey’s Point Hotelier said: “The thing that unites us here today is that we are all female, we’re all ambitious, we all enjoy a bit of fun, we all work hard.
“Any challenges that are out of our control, be it Brexit, currency fluctuations or an act of God, what we have in common is that we dust ourselves off and we’ll keep going forward.
“It is hard to juggle home, life, work, yourself, business. But at the end of the day we stick together, we network. By networking and supporting each other we find a way to enjoy the bumps in the road and we enjoy the scenery as we go along.”
Toni Forrester shared a look at her career path, from the clothing industry of Northern Ireland, to the business sector of Derry, to becoming CEO of the Letterkenny Chamber.
Toni said the most rewarding work in her career has been helping women in business. In the 1990s, she came to realise the many barriers facing entrepreneurial women. Toni was one of the founders of the Women in Enterprise in Derry, sitting on the board for 15 years and helping to support and connect hundreds of businesswomen across the region.
Toni said she wants to see more women in business, women heading organisations and women in boardrooms, because she feels there is still not enough.
Brenda Hegarty from the Donegal Local Enterprise Office outlined how the agency can work for women in business. LEO can help women who are aspiring to be in business and those who are seeking support, she said. The state agency is a first-stop-shop for anyone establishing a business by providing advice, training, mentoring and grants.
In terms of Brexit, Brenda advised everyone to assess their readiness by checking out the Brexit Scorecard for SMEs on https://www.localenterprise.ie/Donegal/.
On a positive note, Brenda advised business owners to research opportunities to achieve their own ‘Brexit Bounce’ by gaining an advantage on the major political change.
A representative from Women in Enterprise NI discussed the importance of networking and paying it forward. She endorsed the idea of sisterhood, explaining that it is ‘the sharing and synergy that is exponentially increased when rightly applied’.
Guests also got a glimpse into the career of Joanne Doherty, founder of Piece Makers Gifts. The company specialises in 3D visual wooden crafts design with laser cutting. Joanne recalled how she tapped into opportunities during the City of Culture celebrations in Derry, and has enjoyed expansion ever since. “Collaboration is the way forward,” Joanne said.
Anne McFarland of Dunmore House and Gardens recounted her fascinating career journey, from working as a Finance Director in Russia to becoming an expert in Corporate Governance and writing a book – ‘A practical guide for Company Directors’.
Having returned to her husband’s family home at Dunmore House, Anne shared her family’s vision of putting Dunmore and Carrigans on the map.
Anne and her daughter Amelia, events co-ordinator at Dunmore House, gave guests a tour of the enchanting walled gardens, along with a delightful afternoon tea spread in the unique heritage barn.
The event concluded with an interactive workshop, delivered by DWBN PRO Evelyn Mc Glynn (Evelyn Mc Marketing).
The business consultant encouraged everyone to speculate on the future of their business in light of Brexit and how a hard or soft border would affect their operations and business relationships.
This inclusive networking event inspired new business connections with new people in new locations, allowing the Donegal Women in Business Network to grow further beyond borders.
See more photos from the day below: