To coincide with National Women’s Enterprise Day that takes place on October 13 this year, Topic brings you this feature on Women in Business. Our feature gives local business women the opportunity to showcase their businesses and will hopefully be an inspiration and encouragement to other women who might be thinking about starting their own business enterprises.
The Gender Gap
While our feature only showcases a few women in business in the Midlands, we are happy to note that the numbers are growing and females are finding their willpower to take their business ideas those few steps further to establish solid businesses.
Ireland has the third-highest rate for early-stage female entrepreneurs across Europe. This is in line with Enterprise Ireland’s 2025 ambitious target to increase the number of female-led companies growing internationally by 100%. Currently, the gender gap between men and women in early-stage entrepreneurs is at its narrowest. This is borne out by the Global Enterprise Monitor (GEM) Report 2021 which states that early stage female entrepreneurial activity has increased from 7.5% in 2018 to 11.3% in 2021. Backed by the Irish Government the National Women’s Enterprise Day is a highly effective enterprise promotion strategy and provides a highly accessible, interactive and engaging showcase for female entrepreneurship, innovation and business.
The Local Enterprise Offices are hosting full day programmes throughout Ireland to celebrate, promote, encourage and stimulate female entrepreneurship across Ireland. Along with Enterprise Ireland, the Local Enterprise Office provides a wide range of help, incentives, training, and development programmes to female entrepreneurs all year round but National Women’s Enterprise Day allows the spotlight to shine specifically on female entrepreneurship.
The events attracts widespread media attention and opens the prospect of entrepreneurship to women who may not have considered it before, highlighting what support is available. It provides valuable networking opportunities and connections with industry experts, and it celebrates the achievements of women in enterprise. The programmes are designed and led by women and many of the events are sold out months in advance, such as the one in Glasson Lakehouse Hotel in Westmeath. There are events happening in other parts of the Midlands that you might be lucky enough to be able to book, check out the venues online on www.localenterprise.ie
Have you got a bright idea?
There’s a saying “don’t put off ‘til tomorrow what you can do today” and that’s the advice anyone will give you if you have a solid business idea that you believe in and want to pursue.
Your first point of contact should be your local enterprise office, to talk about the idea and see how you’d work through the steps of setting it it up. It may only be the first step but it’s the most important one. Good Luck!
Denise Buckley – Sugar Plum Sweetery
Sugar Plum Sweetery hit the ground running back in June with the launch of their boutique store in Mullingar. After launching their website over the last few weeks this now takes their business to a national and soon to be international audience. Denise Buckley (owner) explains that Sugar Plum Sweetery is an online business with a shop where they make their own fresh chocolate and delicious sweet products.
Entrepreneurial Mullingar woman Denise spotted a gap in the local and online market over the last number of years and worked hard on developing the concept throughout this time. Having previously spent her career with luxury brands such as Brown Thomas and Kildare Village, Denise identified that there was a niche in the market for a unique online gifting brand and an experience driven store.
Denise set up Wholesome Kitchen with her husband David in Mullingar over 3 years ago and her focus now is to develop Sugar Plum Sweetery into a national and international brand. In Sugar Plums, their Master Chocolatiers create unique and delicious fresh chocolate product daily in their Wonka style Chocolate Factory based in Mullingar. Sugar Plum Sweetery is a magical curation of Pick & Mix sweets, fresh chocolate and homemade baked products with an array of beautifully presented gifting options for adults and kids alike.
“It has always been my dream to set up a business that I’m truly passionate about. I always had a fascination with chocolate, confectionary & all the wonderful things you can create. My vision was to create a brand that was special and to create an experience. My advise for others looking at setting up a business would be to gain as much experience as you can & just do it. A quote that has always inspired me is. ‘The biggest adventure you can ever take is to live the life of your dreams’ & I guess this is what setting up a business means to me.”
Joy Kennedy – Aura Hair Specialists
Joy Kennedy is the proprietor of Aura Hair Specialists in Castlepollard, a spacious hair salon with a very busy Scalp & Wig Clinic.
The salon was founded by her very successful mother, Marian, and has been under Joy’s care since 2000. In her family, female role models are the norm! ‘My mum was trained in hairdressing by my aunt Gretta and then my mum trained me!’ Joy believes in maintaining the integrity of the clients’ hair with her methods. She says “There’s an unbelievable amount of science involved in a hairdressing career. It takes physics to create a haircut, chemistry to mix chemicals and biology to help with the hair and scalp.”
And she’s delighted that hairdressing is now recognised as a level 6 qualification, the same as a plumber or electrician trade. In 2016, Joy opened her bespoke Scalp & Wig clinic where she endeavours to facilitate clients suffering from autoimmune and other disorders causing Alopecia and for clients undergoing treatment such as chemotherapy. For privacy, the clinic has its own entrance and fully equipped private consultation rooms.
She prides herself on her attention to detail and customer care along with transparency in wig pricing. She believes that wigs and hairpieces should be as natural as possible and is a provider of pieces from top quality names including Ellen Wille, Dening and Gisele Mayer.
“I have found that while undergoing treatment, some clients are finding they’re not entitled to a medical card so I welcome Minister Humphries announcement of a new grant scheme launched in May this year which will facilitate those who slip through that crack. I have been placed on the panel as a provider and am delighted to be able to help.”
She also is registered with the HSE as a vendor for the Medical card grant and completes the required paperwork on behalf of the client.
Tara Wylie – New Star Financial Management
With two lenders leaving the Irish Mortgage Market, the importance of engaging with a Financial Broker you can trust has never been more relevant confirms Tara Wylie at New Star Financial Management, who have been offering mortgage broker and financial advice to customers throughout Ireland for over eleven years.
Maintaining a completely customer focused business model, the seasoned business woman places emphasis on looking after both her new and existing customers, which regularly results in regular referrals from happy clients. “We always make sure to look after everyone who comes to New Star, whatever their financial needs may be.”
Tara believes in the little things of business, “If you look after people how you would want to be looked after, you’ll do well. When a customer moves into their new home, they get a hand-written New Home card and a bottle of wine. If we get a referral we’ll send out a small thank you present to whoever initiated the referral. We also regularly get “thank you” cards in return which is a nice morale boost for the Team.”
Customer service is a core element to the success of New Star and it is something which Tara sees as a high priority for her own business and should be to any other business which wants to gain customers. “At the moment with all the chaos and uncertainty in the world, customers want to be seen and heard and connect with someone who cares about the things that are important to them, be that buying their first home, or sorting out their financial affairs..” Looking to the future, Tara’s expanded team in Mullingar will continue to offer their trusted service to customers for many more years to come.
Lorraine Healy – Funeral Director
While we may not know many female Funeral Directors in the country, located in Rochfortbridge just outside Mullingar is Lorraine Healy Funeral Director Ltd, (T/A John Healy Funeral Director). Lorraine took over the running of the business after her father passed away in February 2021. Having worked along side Johnny and indeed behind the scenes for many years, Lorraine learned all aspects of running the business from her late father.
Lorraine is a very busy lady as she is also currently running John Healy Coach Hire Ltd. as well as the Funeral Directors. Lorraine’s first love is the funeral business and Lorraine always gives 100% when called upon, in what she says is such an important service she feels honoured to provide within her community.
Speaking to the Topic about how she finds the role of a funeral director and more specifically a female funeral director, Lorraine said, “For me, being female is secondary to the service I provide. Sometimes those who don’t know me, are surprised that I’m the face of John Healy Funeral Directors but having worked side by side with Dad for many years, I also feel the community trust me to look after their loved ones at such an important and sad time for them.”
Lorraine added “when I first started helping Dad, I found great comfort in knowing we were easing some of the most difficult times for families who have lost a loved one. I always try to make this difficult period for the families and friends stress free for them, knowing so well what they are going through. I assist with organising the funeral Mass, singers, flowers, grave preparation and anything else the family may require.
“I take great pride in my role as Funeral Director, it is something that I am very proud of but I know I’ve had a great teacher and I am honoured to continue the great work for John Healy Funeral Directors.”
Kamalika Ranasingha – Multyfarnham Cookery School
Kamalika Ranasingha, the smiling face of Multyfarnham Cookery School grew up on the beautiful island of Sri Lanka.
Speaking with Topic last week, Kamalika told us, “From a very early age, I was fascinated by cooking. My mum had a bakery and a restaurant where I gained all my baking knowledge and also, under the watchful eye of my grandmother, I created lots of dishes.”
Kamalika trained and qualified as a chef and won many culinary competitions over the years in the countries she has travelled and worked in, along with her husband Dayantha, who is also a chef.
Twenty years ago Kamalika and Dayantha came to live in Westmeath and nine years ago, Kamalika’s dream to start a cookery school was fulfilled when they started Multyfarnham Cookery School. In that short time, Multyfarnham Cookery School has won cookery school of the year three times, the latest award just a couple of months ago.
During lockdown when things changed, Kamalika focused her energy and created her first cookery book, entitled ‘Kamalikas Recipes – with Love’, which Kamalika tells us “are recipes for special people in my life”. They also took to giving cook along classes online and these were very successful as they now have an overseas audience. She says “Always try and turn things into a positive story when things don’t actually work to plan.”
Kamalika is grateful and thankful to her parents, her husband, their son and for “everyone’s love and encouragement.”
Kamalika’s advice for all young girls out there is “No matter what happens focus on your goals. Sometimes it might seem hard and difficult even unachievable but do not give up.”
Anne-Marie Hannon – Blackhall Financial Services
Established for over 15 years Blackhall Financial Services has developed a reputation of being a friendly, professional and ethical firm of Financial Brokers based in Mullingar. “We are well respected by clients, business owners and fellow professionals who rely on us to provide quality financial advice with an exceptional level of service.”
Financial advice means much more than just buying life cover or mortgage protection when your bank says you need it or investing in a pension just to save tax. Now, more than ever, Financial Advisers are an essential resource. From advising on the most suitable savings and investment options to budgeting or planning for retirement. Financial planning by a competent professional brings all the pieces of your financial life together.
Anne-Marie joined the team in Blackhall Financial Services in 2007, and became a Director of the Firm in 2015. In 2017 Anne-Marie achieved her Master’s Degree in Financial Services with the Institute of Bankers, in conjunction with UCD, along with a Graduate Diploma in Financial Planning and her Certified Financial Planner qualification.
Most financial advisors are in the business of managing client assets in one capacity or another, either as a broker, planner, money manager or insurance agent. The trick is to find a truly competent and trustworthy advisor who embraces a sound investment philosophy and can help you to reach your financial goals within the limits of your risk tolerance and time horizon.