Donegal ambassador and business leader Deirdre Mc Glone tells about the new project that is reawakening her entrepreneurial spirit.

Donegal hoteliers Deirdre McGlone and Marc Gysling have fallen for a new business venture.

It was love at first sight on Valentine’s Day, celebrating their wedding anniversary, when they were taken by a charming 700 year-old Mill in the south-west of France. The private holiday rental was for sale and seemed to fit perfectly into the couple’s ‘retirement’ dreams – if you call building a new business retirement!

Le Moulin sur Célè, nestled in the heart of the Midi-Pyrénées region of south-west France

It’s been a year since the Gysling family announced the sale of Harvey’s Point. But the purchase of Le Moulin sur Célè has reinvigorated Deirdre’s entrepreneurial spirit, and she’s excited to make the move to this special venture while remaining rooted in Donegal life. 

Deirdre told “Marc and I always had a dream someday to retire to France, but our priority of course is the kids being at school and our family loving and living in Donegal.

“We are really excited about this project and we hope to build Le Moulin brand so that it is synonymous with quality and exceptional customer service. In addition to offering Le Moulin as a holiday rental, we also hope to host wellness retreats. We believe that we can sprinkle our own kind of magic on Le Moulin”

Marc Gysling and Deirdre McGlone

Covid-19 has put the travel world on hold, but this has given Deirdre and Marc time to enhance the five star standard of the residence and focus on targeting the Irish, European and American markets in the future.

“It all ties in with my continued involvement in tourism, promoting Donegal in France and vice versa,” Deirdre said.

The business will command their complete attention this year, which is why Deirdre has announced a decision to step aside as President of the Donegal Women in Business Network. She will also take a backseat as a Lead Entrepreneur with ACORNS, the initiative supporting early stage female entrepreneurship in rural Ireland.

Such dedication would be exactly the type of guidance Deirdre might offer one of her many business mentees. 

“I’m going to put my heart and soul into this, it’s like everything, like Harvey’s Point, I like to do things fully and completely and give it my all,” she said.

The Donegal Women in Business Network 20th Anniversary Conference in October 2019
Donegal Women in Business Network PRO Evelyn Mc Glynn, Secretary Trish McGinley and President Deirdre McGlone visiting Dail Eireann in May 2019

Deirdre will remain a key part of the Donegal Women in Business Network as an ambassador and patron. 

“I would love to stay involved because I am so proud of the Network and I believe that it offers great support for businesswomen in Donegal,” she said.

Three and a half years of leading the DWBN and thriving off the energy of events has been a pleasure for Deirdre. The network, which has close to 200 members, marked its 20th anniversary year in 2019.

“A stand-out moment from every event is to see the camaraderie and genuine support that women have for each other. It was always a source of pride to see the events organised by Trish McGinley (Secretary), Evelyn Mc Glynn (PRO) and other committee members, so well attended.

“Donegal Women in Business has always been a support network for women with an interest in business as well as being in business. We want to appeal to women of all stages in business and of all ages and all sectors.

“I think Donegal is a shining light for many other networks, it’s a great success story for Donegal. It is giving a voice to women in Donegal, a voice that’s being heard,” she said.

Members of the 2020 Donegal Women in Business Network Committee, L-R: Evelyn Mc Glynn, Sally Murphy, Deirdre McGlone, Trish McGinley, Sheila Russell, Janine Sullivan, Leah Fairman, Rachel Wasson, Julie Szabo, Stella McGroarty and Anne Tuohy. Missing from photo: Larissa Feeney

Another indication of the growing confidence and ambition of local women in business was the high level of interest in ACORNS.

Last year, Donegal had the highest number of applications for the ACORNS initiative and in the five years since it started, over 40 Donegal businesswomen have participated in the programme.

Every businessperson in the country is facing challenges due to Covid-19. Ever the resourceful thinker, Deirdre recognises that there are opportunities for some amidst the upheaval.

“The whole situation is giving everybody time to reflect. A lot of ACORNS and people in early-stage business are using this time to tweak their business model.

“For women in business, it has been a great opportunity for women who have been so busy in business that they were not getting more balance at home. Balance is key.

“Some businesses have also flourished from being flexible and diversifying. But I know a lot of people will not be able to do that, and that is to be understood as well.”

Donegal Female entrepreneurs awarded places on the 2019 ACORNS 5 programme – (L-R) Joanne Butler OURganic Gardens, Carlene Lyttle Sailespin, Avril McMonagle Meantóir, Deirdre McGlone Lead Entrepreneur, Meg O’Gara Megnificent Creative, Nicola Gavigan Seclusion Spa, Sinead Fox The Salty Fox Coffee Shop, Marie Hutchinson Mojo Yoga and Wellness Studio.

After 30 years in hospitality, Deirdre’s foremost thoughts lie with those in the tourism sector who stand to be hit hardest by closures and restrictions. But there could also be opportunities in the hills of Donegal, she said.

“My heart goes out to people in tourism, but I do think the domestic market will recover, once people can travel in Ireland, I think the loyalty factor will come in again and people across the country will support businesses that need support now more than ever.

“I would be confident that Donegal will continue to be a desired destination, in fact, more so now because people will less and less want to visit busy cities, less people can, and will, go abroad. After a very long pause, there will be a big boom of sorts in domestic travel and weddings towards the end of the year.”

Deirdre’s business challenge lies further afield this time, but she is travelling with a unique confidence and knowledge that she has absorbed from other Donegal women in business.

She said: “Our new project will be involve managing people and welcoming guests in a different country. It will take a lot of what I’ve learned over the years at Harvey’s and from women in business, it all stands in good stead.

“I’m ready for my next business challenge myself, for 12 months I didn’t miss not having my own business but there was a natural entrepreneurial spirit lying dormant. It’s back now.”

Deirdre McGlone