A strong spirit of motivation and empowerment was felt at the Donegal Women in Business Network’s annual conference on Wednesday 13th September. Here are some of the stand-out moments:
The DWIBN Connect to Grow conference was a celebration of ambitious local women from all walks of life and all stages of their careers. Keynote speakers, exhibitions and discussions over coffee presented opportunities for women to share their experiences, build connections and learn from each other.
The impressive Harvey’s Point Garden Suite was cast in empowering pink lighting, pink lady apples decorated the tables and every guest received a warm welcome from DWIBN President and hotelier Deirdre McGlone.
Speaker and Economist Susan Hayes-Culleton was in awe of the network and all the attendees at the conference. In her energising talk on how to ‘think big and move fast’, she said the future looks bright for the businesswomen of Donegal.
Susan shared invaluable advice on to form your own sales team for free – as every woman already has people around them wholeheartedly willing to work for them, to share the message of their business and help them connect with others.
“If you need a role model, look to the left and right of you” – Susan Hayes-Culleton.
As a successful entrepreneur, Susan said the power of the Irish, and the Donegal Diaspora, can be the key to boosting business abroad.
She told the women to never give up on their dreams because of the time it will take, because the time will pass anyway.
“Action always beats intent,” – Susan Hayes-Culleton..
Majella O’Donnell served as a source of assurance for many women in the room. She shared her personal experiences of hardship, stress, and life in the public eye to help women see the bigger picture. Her talk was based on the three principles of the day: listening, learning and sharing.
Majella said listening is the biggest show of love and respected people can give to each other.
She looked at today’s busy and ever-connected online world to explore the importance of sharing. Be present in the moment, tweet after, was a guiding tip Majella gave for the social media users.
Majella said sharing experiences can help others in many ways. Shaving her head on national television highlighted her cancer battle and the battle of countless other women, all the while raising funds for the Irish Cancer Society. Sharing her husband Daniel, she joked, makes many women happy (which she said she is fine with, as long as he comes back to her at the end of the day!).
Majella shared her motto – “Be honest and true to yourself” to advise women that they needn’t always work to please others.
Majella made strong points on her publicised life, and said that having a good opinion of yourself will trump any perception others may have.
“I’ll always be as beautiful as me,” – another saying Majella lives by.
Majella also gave guidance on wellbeing for businesswomen. Speaking from her experience of depression and her charity Donegal Mind Wellness, she emphasised that everyone needs to know how to manage stress.
She told everyone not to forgot to take time to ‘just be’ and give their minds and bodies the attention they need.
Speaker Paula Fitzsimons told all the women they had brave hearts, and to take courage and confidence from their determination to succeed.
Paula, who established the Going for Growth programme for female entrepreneurs, said there were more women start-ups in 2016 than ever before. She said 1,100 a month set up a new business in Ireland, which gives way to countless role models for other women.
— DonegalWomenBusiness (@DonegalWB) September 13, 2017
A panel discussion with three diverse businesswomen strengthened the message that having clear goals and good relationships can make business dreams happen.
Nikki Bradley (Nikki Bradley Speaks), Edel MacBride (Edel MacBride and Knitfield), and Finn NiFhaolain (Finn’s Fit Food) discussed how they built their businesses. Edel gave an insight into expanding business abroad, connecting in the creative industry and the importance of having a winning passion.
“There is a power in who is sitting next to you,” Nikki said, as she recounted how the best opportunities came to her through talking to others.
Finn stepped up from working as a freelance chef to an author and blogger and spoke about striking a balance between work and life. There is always an hour in the day, she said, that people can take to fulfill their passions.
Finn said that taking time to work ON your business rather than IN your business is essential for growth.
Evelyn McGlynn, PRO of the DWIBN, shared her unique enterprise story on Molly’s Eggcellent Enterprise. The basic business story of a woman who sells eggs from her farm was full of advice which can be applied to every start-up. Molly even has to deal with the menacing threat of Brexit the fox!
Evelyn’s own story of how she evolved from a housewife to a PR and marketing consultant is one that connected with many women. Evelyn dealt with her self-belief doubts and identity crisis to become a leading businesswoman in Donegal and an influential and inspirational member of the network.
Brenda Donagher of Rural Enterprise Skillnet compared the event and provided snippets of lessons she learned on her own business journey. She faced down those who doubted her ‘Novel Idea’ bookshop in Donegal, and eventually built a flourishing business.
“Keep up encouragement with each other, for me it was invaluable,” Brenda said.
— Sheila Russell (@SheilaRuss80) September 13, 2017
Connect to Grow marked a momentous year for the business network. The committee were applauded for their tireless work in organising the day and welcoming so many new members over the year. After the event, the team toasted to their success and looked forward to flourishing even more to make their mark in Donegal’s world of enterprise.