Powerful, raw and uplifting stories were shared on International Women’s Day as the Donegal Women in Business Network joined forces with the Enterprising Women of Mid and East Antrim for a cross-border celebration.

The event, sponsored by Donegal Local Enterprise Office during Local Enterprise Week, was an evening that transcended simple networking and developed into a space for inspiring tales of perseverance.

Over 120 attendees, both men and women, gathered at the Inishowen Gateway Hotel in Buncrana to hear from MC Caroline O’Neill (Director of Digg for Success, Digg Mama, Digg Podcast) and key-note speaker Joanne Sweeney (CEO, Digital Training Institute).

Caroline O’Neill, Digg Mama and Joanne Sweeney, CEO of Digital Training Institute

Donegal Women in Business Network Committee members with Digg Mama: L-R: Elaine McInaw, Caitriona Sinnott, Sally Murphy, Lyndsey Reynolds, Larissa Feeney, Caroline O’Neill, Mary Crawford, Jane McLean, Jo Daly, Elaine Lingard, Susan Stevenson

The real magic unfolded in stories of bravery and grit shared by the speakers and attendees alike.

‘Digg Mama’ Caroline O’Neill, a social media growth expert and inspirational podcaster, brought her infectious energy as MC.

Caroline’s career has taken on many trajectories in just a short time, and she demonstrated how taking risks and stepping outside the box has brought her both learning experiences and untold achievements.

Caroline’s first brave step was leaving her career as an Occupational Therapist and opening a children’s clothing store. She had to make another series of courageous moves during the pandemic, which led her to found her social media growth company Digg for Success, charity Digg Deep for Kids, and flourish into a chart-topping podcaster.

“Great things happen when you are brave,” Caroline said.

Caroline’s story was empowering for people with burgeoning business ideas: “Anyone sitting in this room who wants to try something new, the best way to do it is to start, to learn and find out who can help you. Be brave, ask someone how it’s done.”

Caroline snaps some selfies with the crowd!

Keynote speaker Joanne Sweeney gave a searingly honest account of her life’s journey, how she fought tooth and nail to educate herself and build her business while raising her family.

Joanne’s life has involved many leaps of faith to freedom, and she shared deeply personal challenges that she has battled to become an award-winning businesswoman and three-time author. Attendees heard that, above all, her family has been her greatest success story.

Joanne shared that no matter what life throws at you, “using your smarts” and leaning into your strengths can help you find your niche. Joanne niched into government and public sector six years ago and has since captured the attention of agencies across the world.

Joanne’s story is still being written, and a standing ovation showed how much her words impacted the women and men in the room.

Meabh Conaghan – Enterprise Ireland, Brenda Hegarty – Donegal LEO, Larissa Feeney – Accountant Online and President of the Donegal Women in Business Network, Claire McDonough -La Maison and President of the Letterkenny Chamber, and Anne Blake – La Maison

The Donegal Women in Business Network was delighted to partner with the Enterprising Women of Mid and East Antrim this International Women’s Day. Kelli McRoberts, Chief Executive Officer at Carrickfergus Enterprise, led a lively networking musical chairs session that encouraged attendees to form new connections.

As Caroline said, community, connections and collaboration are the cornerstones of many businesses, and “Women do great things when they come together”.

Kelli McRoberts, Enterprising Women Mid and East Antrim

The Enterprising Women of Mid and East Antrim.

Networking Musical Chairs

From Caroline’s entrepreneurial journey to Joanne’s unwavering determination, the event brought home the message that, with bravery anything is achievable.

The membership of the Donegal Women in Business Network is open to all.  You do not need to own a business to become a member. To benefit from all that the Network has to offer, make sure you contact Caitriona Sinnott at caitriona@donegalwomeninbusiness.com or click to join.

See more photos from the event here:

Valerie McIlwaine, Ana McColgan, Evelyn McGlynn, Sinead McDaid, Shona Chambers

Networking Musical Chairs

Donna McDade and Dearbhla Kelly from Donegal ETB

Sumeeta Gupta, Foyle Kumon Study Centre and Patricia Greene, The Web Crew

Catherine O’Reilly, ATU Sligo

Elaine Lingard, Lisa Gibbons, Laura McCaffrey

Aisling Browne and Louise Grieve Doherty, Eclipse Cinemas Lifford-Strabane

Teresa O’Neill (Teresa Marie Handmade) and Jasmine Bride

Lauren McClean and Karen Mayne

Alison Dewar and Nicola Gavigan