We catch up on the celebrations, talks and key advice from a momentous day for local women in business.

If energy could be bottled, the enthusiasm of the Donegal Women in Business Network could be a new product for the Muff Liquor drinks company!

The dynamic women in business network celebrated their 20th Anniversary with a major conference at Lough Eske Castle on Tuesday, bringing over 200 men and women together for a day of talks, activities and connecting.

The Donegal Women in Business Network 20th Anniversary Conference – #LookingBackMovingForward

The event attracted people from all stages of business and life – with attendees ranging from two weeks to 93 years of age.

Presented by Ciara Doherty, the packed schedule heard from a variety of speakers and Donegal businesswomen who reflected on their past and looked ahead to their future. Indeed, the hashtag #LookingBackMovingForward became a trending topic on Twitter for the day as many topics set social media alight.

The theme highlights entrepreneurial women of Donegal through the ages who worked at both kitchen tables and in boardrooms, with many supporting a family enterprise and not realising that they were in business at all.

Meg O’Gara, Noreen D’Arcy, Evelyn Mc Glynn, Deirdre McGlone, Ciara Doherty, Laura Bonner and Sandra Devenney at the Donegal Women in Business Network 20th Anniversary Conference – #LookingBackMovingForward

President Deirdre McGlone said that the conference was an opportunity to look at how far the network has come and to be happy, proud and emotional about the future of women in business.

“The Donegal Women in Business Network is all about working together, being together, supporting each other and what a team we have,” Deirdre said.

Deirdre led the praises for DWBN Secretary Trish McGinley and PRO Evelyn Mc Glynn, who spearheaded all the 20th-anniversary events and co-ordinated the eBook. A print-edition book celebrating 20 years of women in business was launched on Tuesday, with an eBook soon to be available online.

Trish McGinley with the Donegal Women in Business 20th Anniversary eBook

Back L-R: Evelyn Mc Glynn, Trish Mc Ginley. Front L-R: Naomi Hegarty, Gabrille McGowan and Maria Murphy at the Donegal Women in Business Network 20th Anniversary Conference – #LookingBackMovingForward

Positivity reigned in all talks, and even the looming Brexit was interpreted as an opportunity.

Michael Tunney, Head of Local Enterprise, spoke about the challenges ahead for micro-businesses and small businesses in Donegal and said: “The critical opportunity that Brexit offers is that it should force us to think beyond the local and beyond the UK.” He told the entrepreneurs in the room to: “Raise your ambition, look at developing a sustainable business that gives you a good income.”

Crana Knits Founder Rosaleen Hegarty at the Donegal Women in Business Network 20th Anniversary Conference – #LookingBackMovingForward

Crana Knits founder Rosaleen Hegarty was the first speaker of the day. At 83 years of age, she had many entertaining and poignant stories to tell and a lot of wisdom to impart.

An icon of Irish knitting, the Buncrana woman has been in business for over 40 years and employed over 550 people in that time. Rosaleen advised the entrepreneurs in the room to focus on quality, delegation, positivity, and finding support from women in business.

The first panel included Eileen Sweeney of AIB Bank, Sally Murphy from Murphy Communications, General Manager of the Waterfront Hotel Martina Rafferty, Beanantees founder Alannah McGhee and Vice President of Systems at Pramerica Andrea McBride. The discussion explored finance, profits, international sales, work/life balance, teamwork, and marketing.

Panel Discussion at the Donegal Women in Business Network 20th Anniversary Conference – #LookingBackMovingForward

The panellists’ were asked for their key advice in business, which included the human qualities of: Confidence, knowing your limits, being yourself, being kind and telling the truth.

Keynote speaker Rosy Temple, Marketing Manager of Magee of Donegal, charted her career journey from arts sales to cold sales to building the brand of her family’s iconic business. Rosy talked about seizing opportunities and daring to explore. ‘Brave your own path’ and ‘Create your own benchmarks of success’ were some of Rosy’s key tips, while she said that every business person should take action for the environment.

Rosy Temple (Magee 1866), Rosaleen Hegarty (Crana Knits) and Laura Bonner (Muff Liquor Company) at the Donegal Women in Business Network 20th Anniversary Conference – #LookingBackMovingForward

The third keynote speaker was Laura Bonner, co-founder of the Muff Liquor Company. Laura’s story of chasing goals, overnight success and international expansion was packed with ups and downs and of lessons learned. The Inishowen woman was refreshingly open about her experiences over the past 19 months of building her brand, which is currently crowdfunding to facilitate growth in Asia.

Speakers and Panellists: Nicola Griffin (Seclusion Spa), Brenda Donagher (Rural Enterprise Skillnet), Karina Kelly (Content Llama), Cllr Niamh Kennedy, Barbara Edwards (BeCoached) and Niamh Walsh (Cushman & Wakefield) at the Donegal Women in Business Network 20th Anniversary Conference – #LookingBackMovingForward

Another engaging panel discussion was held with Laura Bonner, Designer Bernie Murphy, Brenda Donagher from Rural Enterprise Skillnet, Independent Councillor Niamh Kennedy, entrepreneur Karina Kelly from Content Llama and Niamh Walsh – an associate director with Cushman & Wakefield. Topics including risk-taking, scaling a business, funding sources and remote working.

The final talk of the day came from Sr Helen Kelly via video, with her message on life leaving a big impact on all.

The 20th anniversary Donegal Women in Business Conference was a memorable day of learning and sharing, but above all, it was a day for celebrating the success and development of Donegal’s businesswomen and to pave the way for more prosperity in the future.

Donegal Women in Business Network 20th Anniversary Conference – #LookingBackMovingForward

The #LookingBackMovingForward conference was kindly supported by Donegal Local Enterprise, Donegal County Council, Ireland’s European Structural and Investment Funds Programmes and the European Regional Development Fund.

The Donegal Women in Business Network’s 20th Anniversary Year is sponsored by Donegal Local Enterprise Office, AIB Bank, Harvey’s Point, Magee 1866, CoLab, The BASE Enterprise Centre, Waterfront Hotel, Pramerica and McElhinneys.