Looking for advice about starting up a business? We talked to the women who have been there and done that.

The Donegal Women in Business Network hosted a Start Up Clinic & Exhibition on International Women’s Day to bring together businesswomen in the county to share their advice and experiences.

Each visitor who came to the Station House Hotel in Letterkenny was at a different stage of their business journey. Some were looking for the first step to take in their start-up, others wanted to explore a new avenue and others needed extra help to make their ultimate goals happen – and they all sought answers.

Donegal Women In Business Network Start Up Clinic & Exhibition

Exhibitors were there to give all the answers they could, sharing advice gathered from years in their industries. These businesswomen had made it through the struggles and setbacks and were eager to pass on the lessons they learned along the way.

This Donegal Enterprise Week clinic was backed by AIB and supported by Donegal Daily, Donegal Woman and Donegal Sport Hub. The busy day and celebrations for International Women’s Day combined to create an exciting and supportive atmosphere.

Patricia McGinley, Deirdre McGlone, Evelyn McGlynn and Leah Fairman

One visitor on the day, a Donegal mother who is working from home, came away with marketing and social media advice for her creative business. She told Donegal Woman: “The more I looked into starting my own business elsewhere the more negative feedback I got. This is the first time I’ve felt welcome. I love how it’s all about women excelling.”

Visitor Sinead Hanlon leads an exciting life as a Chartered Engineer and techno/house DJ and was impressed by the event: “I came in here with zero expectations and discovered an open and welcoming group of professional women. I learned a lot more about focus and business acumen.”


Each exhibitor shared with Donegal Woman one piece of key advice they would give to any woman who is starting up in business.

Grace Ann Mc Garvey – Grace Ann Consultancy:

Mentor and business coach Grace Ann Mc Garvey, Grace Ann Consultancy: “Go for it! If you are thinking of setting up in business find yourself a good mentor that will encourage you and keep you focused. You have to believe it’s possible and believe in yourself and network with organisations like the Donegal Women in Business Network!”

Evelyn Mc Marketing and Toni Forrester, CEO at Letterkenny Chamber

Marketing consultant and PRO of DWIBN Evelyn McGlynn (Evelyn Mc Marketing), said “Business is about people so learn how to network properly, follow through when you say you will and always try and do a good deed for someone else in business, and bring positive energy to everything you do!”

Marie Shields, Lottie Dolls

Marie Shields, Communications Manager with Lottie Dolls, said “Be patient and consistent, keep plugging away and your efforts will start to gather momentum – ask questions, and also work hard and be kind because a loyal network is critical to any career!”

Leanne Austin and Angela Mulreany, AccountantOnline.ie, said “Don’t be afraid to ask for help. It’s okay to ask for help about accountancy. If you get help at the beginning you’ll be set up for success with your business.”

Eileen Sweeney, AIB Letterkenny

Eileen Sweeney, Business Customer Advisor at AIB Letterkenny said that she and her team are there to help new businesses with a free Business Start-Up Package, free banking options and a MyBusiness toolkit suite of apps to help them grow.

“We have seen an increase in women coming into business who would work from home. The nice part of my job is that I cam provide advice to help start-ups succeed with the help of the bank and local organisations.” Eileen said.

Lynn McLaughlin

Lynn McLaughlin, founder and Human Resources partner at Fortius HR said, “Be prepared for long hours and hard work, but it’s worth it all.”

Isabelle Picard and Arantxa Lopez

Isabelle Picard, who works with the language service provider ID Languages, said: “Widen your opportunities and don’t forget to seize all the opportunities in the European market that are right next door to you.”

Sinead Rafferty Coaching

Sinead Rafferty, career and life coach with Sinead Rafferty Coaching: “Dream big. Don’t try to figure out step two without taking step one.”

Sarah Barr, New Beginnings Counselling

Sarah Barr with the New Beginnings Counselling Service said: “Ignore self-doubting thoughts as much as possible. Trust yourself, believe in yourself and follow your passion.”

Rachel Gallagher

Rachel Gallagher, solicitor at F. Gallagher & Co. Donegal Town, advises businesses who are leasing that having a good comprehensive lease in place is hugely important.

Julie Szabo, north west chiropractic

Julie Szabo, North West Chiropractic, said: “Be able to manage your time and focus your business. Don’t try to do too many things that might overwhelm you.”

Shona Chambers

Shona Chambers, Financial Advisor with John McColgan Financial Services Ltd., said: “Protecting your income is the most important financial decision you can make for yourself, your family and your business. It’s the foundation of all good financial plans.”

Lorraine Boyce

Lorraine Boyce, Female Physiotherapist, said women in business should learn time management: “Learn to pace yourself, business is about relying on the resources out there and getting a good promotion strategy and sticking to it.”

Emma Porter

Emma Porter, founder of Vivid Performances School of Speech and Drama, often works with small business owners and entrepreneurs. In the world of public speaking, Emma said: “Be well-prepared for any speech and imagine only one person in the front row – your best friend – and talk only to them.”

Get Up & Go

Eileen Forrestal with Get Up & Go publications and events was there to inspire everyone to achieve their goals, whatever they may be.

Camilla Meegan and Kieran Kelly

Camilla Meegan, co-owner at DNK Productions said: “It’s important to get your image and personality out there. Let people see you, who you are and what you’re about.”

Moira Ní Ghallachóir

Moira Ní Ghallachóir, business advisor with mng.ie, said “Believe in what you are doing.”

Fiona O’Reilly

Fiona O’Reilly, the Creative Director at On the Dot graphic design company said, “Take it slow, trust you gut and surround yourself with positive people. Keep focused on your main business goal and don’t get distracted.”

Catherine Lyster

Catherine Lyster, a DWIBN committee member and careers advisor highlighted all the events, support and fun elements of joining the Donegal Women in Business network. “I would encourage everyone interested in business to sign up, it’s €40 and it’s the best €40 you’ll spend this year.”

Rachel Wasson

Rachel Wasson, Employment & Enterprise Project Officer with DLDC, said the first step women should take is to “Know if there is a demand for your business.”

Find out all about the Donegal Women in Business Network on their Facebook page or email donegalwomeninbusinessnetwork@gmail.com