GMIT Innovation hubs launch second cycle of 'Empower' programme for successful female entrepreneurs

Photographed at GMIT Mayo Campus iHub "The Spirit of" Event - EMPOWER Explore were from left to right : Maria Staunton, (GMIT iHub Manager); Vicki O'Toole (MD of JJ O Toole's Ltd) Aine Mulloy (Co Founder of Girlcrew); Lorraine Corcoran (Co Founder Horizon and owner of Cosmetic Creations); Donna Kennedy (best selling author and founder of We Summit),  Carole Coleman (journalist, broadcaster and speaker who was MC for the evening), Alison Cowzer (Co founder of East Coast Bakehouse) and Norah Patten (selected to take part in a unique scientist-astronaut training programme in Florida). On course to be first Irish Person in Space. Founder of Planet Zebunar. Photo : Keith Heneghan

Photographed at GMIT Mayo Campus iHub "The Spirit of" Event - EMPOWER Explore were from left to right : Maria Staunton, (GMIT iHub Manager); Vicki O'Toole (MD of JJ O Toole's Ltd) Aine Mulloy (Co Founder of Girlcrew); Lorraine Corcoran (Co Founder Horizon and owner of Cosmetic Creations); Donna Kennedy (best selling author and founder of We Summit), Carole Coleman (journalist, broadcaster and speaker who was MC for the evening), Alison Cowzer (Co founder of East Coast Bakehouse) and Norah Patten (selected to take part in a unique scientist-astronaut training programme in Florida). On course to be first Irish Person in Space. Founder of Planet Zebunar. Photo : Keith Heneghan

As part of a drive to increase the number of female entrepreneurs in Galway, Mayo and Roscommon, GMIT Innovation Hubs will deliver a second cycle of their regional programme called "Empower", commencing in October, across the region.

Funded by the Department of Justice and Equality and the European Social Fund, the Empower programme aims to fast track female-led businesses by addressing specific challenges hindering their development.

A main priority for the programme is to ensure that women with start-up ideas realise their full business potential. While female entrepreneurs and women in the workplace have progressed in Ireland in recent years, the rate of women starting their own businesses is still lower than it might be, so that female-led businesses remain an under-developed source of economic growth and jobs.

In Ireland, men are twice as likely to set up their own businesses as women. While the rate of entrepreneurship for women in Ireland is seventh highest in Europe, men are still much more likely to inspire and motivate the next generation of engineers, astronauts, scientists and innovators. The Empower programme aims to help tackle that.

Maria Staunton, Manager of the Empower programme at GMIT, explained: “During my time in GMIT’s Innovation Hubs I recognised the gap in the number of female versus male entrepreneurs. We don’t get enough females coming forward to look at developing their ideas. I really believe female-led businesses are an under-exploited source for economic growth and jobs. Like most countries, Ireland has more male (63% ) than female (37% ) entrepreneurs. However, this gap is decreasing and through EMPOWER, GMIT aims to further decrease this further by delivering a valuable programme that will benefit and support female entrepreneurs across Galway, Mayo and Roscommon.

The EMPOWER programme will help identify market opportunities, build confidence and assess skills to implement ideas and scale businesses.

At the recent first cycle of Empower held in GMIT held on the theme of Discovering your True Passion and Purpose, with Carol Coleman as MC, speakers Alison Cowzer from East Coast Bakehouse, Vicki O’Toole from J.J. O’ Toole and Donna Kennedy, Best Selling author, took to the stage to talk about their own experiences and how they built their businesses.

Cowzer discussed developing a biscuit making operation in Drogheda, managing Brexit challenges, being a Dragon on RTE’s Dragon’s Den, what skills to look for in a promoter and key areas in a business proposition.

O'Toole talked on being propelled into the position of MD in a family business when her husband passed away, not understanding the ins and outs of business but yet having to learn very quickly and growing that 100-year-old Packaging Business to the €10 million turnover that it is today. She is currently a finalist in this year’s E&Y finals in October.

Kennedy talked about her own experiences and challenges she faced and how she overcame those challenges to go on to turn her life around to the success it is today. She is a bestselling author, business and life coach and speaker.

They were followed by speakers Norah Patten (Aeronautical Engineer ) Aine Mulloy (Founder of Crewgirl ) and Lorraine Corcoran (Co-Owner of Cosmetic Creations ). All three ladies are from the West and Patten is on track to become Ireland’s first person to go into space. She is one of 12 participants from around the world selected to take part in a unique scientist-astronaut training programme in Florida. She talked about things such as zero-gravity training flights and the hard work and dedication involved in this. She also has her own start-up called Planet Zebunar, which is all about inspiring and motivating the next generation of engineers, astronauts, scientists and innovators. She was also a participant in the national New Frontiers Entrepreneur Development Programme.

Mulloy talked about the networking concept called GirlCrew and how the company developed and scaled the app, gaining market traction in several countries, with a base now in San Francisco. She also touched on obtaining and attracting investment and how best to do that.

Corcoran talked about buying Cosmetic Creations with her husband Aiden, their own interests in always developing new products (being engineers ) and how they have grown that business to recruit additional employee numbers.

“I hope our September event has inspired both male and female entrepreneurs to start a business and those established businesses to expand. I also want to thank our Funders the Department of Justice and Equality and the ESF, Mayo Local Enterprise Office, Lionbridge and GMIT for supporting the event", concluded Maria Staunton.

The GMIT iHubs (established in 2006 ) are two Innovation Hubs based on the GMIT Campuses of Galway and Mayo. The iHubs provide entrepreneurs with office space, mentoring, business development supports, and streamlined access to GMIT’s Research and Development capacities – the supportive environment to progress business ideas from concept to commercial success. See http://www.gmit.ie/gmit-innovation-hubs

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