Business leaders in fashion and finance appeared at a special event last Thursday which highlighted the need for more female entrepreneurs in Ireland.

Donegal needs more female entrepreneurs and the female-led businesses already in the county need to be encouraged to act locally but to grow globally – that was one of the key messages from the National Women in Enterprise event held in Burt last week.

The event – one of 16 held across the country – heard Brenda Hegarty, Assistant Head of Enterprise in Donegal, explain that the number of women in enterprise in Ireland and in Donegal is under represented.

Brenda Hegarty, Assistant Head of Enterprise in Donegal opening last week’s National Women in Enterprise Day event in Donegal.

Ms Hegarty said: “The gap is narrowing, but it is still too high. Men are twice as likely to start a business than females.

“We need to encourage more female led businesses to act locally and grow globally. This is particularly important given our peripheral location and the recent uncertainty over Brexit. Thinking globally and acting locally is the key to the success of the local economy.”

‘If females started a business at the same rate as men in 2017 there would be 8,000 new businesses in Ireland’ – Brenda Hegarty, Donegal LEO

She also explained that in Donegal only around 16% of the Local Enterprise Office’s client base is from female-led businesses, adding that 28% of male entrepreneurs as opposed to just 9% of female entrepreneurs expect to have 10 or more employees in 5 years.

“The figures are stark, but events like the National Women in Enterprise event will help shine a light on the issue, address the gap and hopefully inspire more females to start and grow a business in Donegal,” she said.

Thursday’s event held in An Grianan Hotel in Burt also heard from a panel of speakers including global expert in the business of luxury fashion, Máire Morris; Larissa Feeney, founder and CEO of; award-winning designer Heidi Higgins and international fashion industry expert, Jenny Holloway of Fashion Capital in London.

National Women in Enterprise Day Guest speakers: Brenda Hegarty, Larissa Feeney, Máire Morris, Heidi Higgins, Jennifer Holloway and Grace Korbel

In her address, Larissa Feeney of urged those in attendance to always treat their business as a business from the very start.

“If you are just starting out there are things you need to consider, like whether you should be a sole trader, a partnership or a Limited Company, but you also need to treat your business as a business from the very outset,” Ms Feeney said.

‘Write down your goal and then work towards your goal, that will mean the decisions you make in your business will align towards that goal,’ – Larissa Feeney, CEO

LYIT Fashion with Promotion students: Nekita Hennessy, Erin Clerkin, Eimear Kane, Jemima Kirwan and Daryll Oa

Jenny Holloway urged those in attendance to feel the fear – and then do it anyway.

Explaining that she would talk about “spectacular failures,” she advised women not to let fear of starting put them off trying to start their own business.

‘Failures do occur, but you just brush yourself down and then you make it work the next time’ – Jenny Holloway, CEO Fashion Enter

Jenny, also announced details of a huge opportunity for fashion businesses involved with the Creative Coast initiative in Donegal to link into an exciting opportunity in London in 2019.

Anna Campbell (Bogbean Designs), Margaret Gillespie (Crochet Maker), Fiona Herbst (Jewellery Design) and Bernie Murphy (Bernie Murphy Textile Artist) at the National Women in Enterprise Day event in Donegal

In her address Máire Morris insisted there was never a better time than now to be a small, independent business.

‘There are still too few women in business, but there are opportunities for women to resonate with consumers – so many of whom are women. With every change comes opportunity and it is much easier now than ever for small brands to get to global markets’ – Máire Morris, Director Morris Fashion Consultancy

Award-winning designer Heidi Higgins urged businesses thinking globally to make sure they produce to global standards. She also highlighted the importance of building a brand.

“I entered every competition there was, it was a great way of building a profile and getting exposure,” she said.

Panel Discussion with Máire Morris, Larissa Feeney, Heidi Higgins and Jenny Holloway

With that in mind, Brenda Hegarty reminded those in attendance that applications for the Donegal Business Awards are currently open and she added that businesses should also make sure they are aware of the full range of supports and services on offer from the Local Enterprise Office.

Ms Hegarty said: “We are delighted for instance that this event had the additional support of the Enterprise Europe Network (EEN) – the largest support network for SMEs combining international business expertise with local knowledge. Businesses in Donegal seeking to find out more about EEN should contact Eileen Kelly at the Local Enterprise Office.”

Details of the Donegal Business Award contest and details of supports and services available from the LEO are available from the website  –

Local Enterprise Office Donegal is supported through co-funding from the Irish Government and the European Regional Development Fund 2014 – 2020. To contact the Local Enterprise Office in Donegal, log on to or phone 0749160735.

Rachel Wasson (DLDC) representing the Donegal Women in Business Network at the National Women in Enterprise Day event in Donegal