We joined the Donegal Women in Business Network as they celebrated International Women’s Day 2019 and Local Enterprise Week with a unique event on the power of people in the digital age
A series of engaging workshops on leadership, customer service, retail, marketing and cybersecurity attracted many local female entrepreneurs to the CoLab in Letterkenny on Friday 8th March.
The expert talks from local women in various sectors proved that traditional business strategies are still important in today’s era of AI and algorithms.
Attendees heard stories, stats, inspiration and key advice to help them develop their businesses for success in the digital world – but the essential element was the people.
Executive coach Cathy Kelly Sweeney shared insight into effectively leading change in business.
The key skills needed to survive and thrive in the digital age, she said, were the ability to be a nurturer and communicator, having insight into others, empathy and critical thinking. Cathy pointed out that these traits, as identified by Google, are typical feminine qualities.
“We are all leaders right now and we are in no better time to be female leaders,” Cathy said.
Marketing consultant Evelyn Mc Glynn had encouraging words for all women in business. She highlighted the value of good old fashioned storytelling for brand awareness. Her thought-provoking talk inspired the audience to examine what story they are communicating about their business.
The McElhinney Way
Sandra Devenney and Ruth Callaghan also had many stories to share about their work with McElhinneys of Ballybofey.
Sales and Business Manager Sandra Devenney offered a crash course on the winning formula of the 180-strong retail team at McElhinneys.
“We are customer obsessed,” Sandra said, as she explained how the ‘McElhinney Way’ always puts the customer first.
“Our customers are not just our customers, they are our story, they are part of our legacy,” she said.
Sandra’s open talk also delved into challenging times for the department store. In 2016, they underwent major changes to diversify for the digital age, but the organizational design has paid dividends and has ensured that McElhinneys is fit for the future.
Online Customer Experience
Marketing & Design Manager Ruth Callaghan shared how McElhinneys has embraced digital while keeping customers to the fore.
“We knew we had five star customer service, but bringing it online was a challenge,” Ruth said.
She shared how her digital team now interacts with customers in a personal way to deliver a quality online customer experience.
From good digital to the dark side of digital, Clare Ryan of ITUS Secure Technologies had strong warnings for attendees on cybersecurity.
“If all your business data went tomorrow, how would you cope?”, Clare asked.
Clare outlined the current most popular types of cyber attacks and the damage they can cause to small and medium businesses.
“It’s becoming very sophisticated,” she warned, while revealing how attacks usually come down to human error. Clare had valuable advice on protecting information, passwords and preventing costly security breaches.
As the female enterprise event coincided with International Women’s Day, the Donegal Women in Business Network took the opportunity to have a social gathering after the workshops.
A dinner was held in the CoLab with food provided by Yes Chef catering and Harvey’s Point, while a raffle and networking added to the lively celebrations.
Looking Back, Moving Forward
Donegal Women in Business Network have a lot to celebrate this year as they mark 20 years since the establishment of the non-profit support group. Events throughout 2019 are themed on ‘Looking Back Moving Forward’ and celebrating entrepreneurial women throughout the decades.
The first keynote speaker of the DWBN annual conference was formally announced today. It was revealed that Buncrana businesswoman Rosaleen Hegarty (83), who established Crana Hand Knits 40 years ago, will be sharing her fascinating story on October 1st in Lough Eske Castle, with many more speakers to be announced in the months to come.
For more information about the Donegal Woman in Business Network and membership details, check out: donegalwomeninbusiness.com