Today is International Women’s Day - so what better day to share words of wisdom from local women on work, life and connections.

Ballybofey & Stranorlar Chamber of Commerce interviewed prominent business women in the Twin Towns and asked what insights and words of wisdom they would pass on to entrepreneurs following in their footsteps.

Annemarie McGeehan from Rite Financial Solutions, Bernie Mcguire from Stitch It Bernie, Carmel Barron from O’Malley Scanlon, Edel MacBride from Knitfield, Emer Reilly from The Book Centre, Margaret Griffin of The Bookkeepers NW, Siobhan McCauley from Conkers Ballybofey have between them well over 60 years of business experience.

We spoke to them recently about their journeys and asked ‘what advice would you give to someone just starting out?’

Stitch it Bernie at the Villa Rose and Jackson’s Hotels Wedding Fayre, January 2018

Siobhan McCauley of Conkers Restaurant and Paddy Mc Menamin

‘Sew on Sunday, rip it out on Monday’ says the old adage. For Bernie Mcguire it’s important to keep time for yourself and make sure life isn’t all about business. Both she and Siobhan from Conkers always keep Sunday for themselves and her family.

All the women agree that work/life balance is hard to achieve, and that flexibility is more important than balance. School runs, Weather days and last-minute illnesses mean that schedules always need to change. Having a great team around you that you can rely on – whether that’s your partner, or your staff – is really important. They all agree that choosing the right staff for your business is vital.

Annemarie McGeehan

Annemarie puts it… ‘trust your staff – really know what their strengths are. Don’t be afraid to invest and train in them. That will allow you to delegate more and focus on the things you love’.

Carmel Barron makes sure her customers come first. ‘Be honest and do your best for your customers. Don’t BS. Always, always go with your gut feeling and do what you think is right. If in doubt, treat people the way you would like to be treated yourself.’

Carmel Barron

Siobhan at Conkers agrees. She puts her success down to consistency and building up Conkers reputation locally before the boom. ‘During the boom there were a lot of strangers. When the downturn came, what kept us going was the locals. They’ve always been our biggest support – having a good, local reputation is very important. That and having the right team. Everyone here pulls together and takes responsibility.’

There is strong advice on the financial side too. When you are making pieces to order Edel advises, ‘If what you do has real value and is necessary to your client they will pay happily upfront. Regular clients will pay healthy deposits..’

Edel Mac Bride

Carmel harks back to sensible advice from her father, ‘Never get your business in debt – if you can’t afford it, you don’t need it.’ As Edel says ‘A business with a 10% margin is thriving, but not if the bank is getting that in interest, then only the bank is thriving. By the way if you are making more than 10% I would like to invest.’

Margaret Griffin and Emer Reilly are keen to encourage others to follow their gut. Emer advises, ‘If you think you can do it, you can do it. Listen to the advice of others, but only take what you need from it.’ Margaret says, ‘go for it. It’ll always be at the back of your mind if you don’t. Make a list of pro’s and con’s. I do it with everything – for setting up, going into partnership, moving into new premises’.

Siobhan agrees – “If it’s in your head, do whatever makes you happy. If you want to try it, do it”’. She also points to her favourite quote, painted in large letters on the walls at Conkers, ‘It’s hard to fail, but it’s worse never to have tried to succeed’. (Theodore Roosevelt)

Perhaps Bernie sums it up best, ‘Believe in yourself and put the work in yourself. No-one else will do it for you’.

For more information and advice from the Ballybofey & Stranorlar Chamber of Commerce, contact Leah Fairman at