by Ffion Colton
Ffion Colton is a graduate from Maynooth University and Dublin Business School and currently working in a summer internship with Network PRO, Evelyn Mc Glynn.
The latest Donegal Women in Business Network event was virtually held on Monday, 17th May. As usual, the event was kept “informal and very relaxed” as PRO, Evelyn Mc Glynn put it, but a wealth of inspiration and knowledge came from the five speakers on the night. Women from all over the world, including New York, Colorado and Scotland, came to hear the stories of women within the Network. The speakers spoke about how Covid impacted their business, and in many cases, actually ended up being a blessing in disguise, prompting them to maintain or step into the virtual world for the very first time.
The first speaker was Elaine Lingard from Emerald Education Centre, Bundoran. Elaine has been in business for almost five years. Pre-pandemic, she had been working both online and in person, offering Maths and English tuition to young people aged between 5 and 18. Elaine spoke of the power of networking and her gratitude for the DWIBN, attending Evelyn Mc Marketing’s Lets Meet for a Coffee events, in collaboration with DWIBN, every Wednesday morning, for the past 39 weeks. In the last year alone, Elaine has worked with individuals from Indonesia, Hong Kong, Australia, Japan, China, United Arab Emirates, Iraq, Oman, Qatar, Russia, Botswana, USA, Portugal, Malta, UK and Ireland. This was done by advertising in all the places she had usually done, but tenfold. Elaine really made a point of showing up online through blogging and social media, making sure everyone knew about her business. She states that this gave her a sense of authority in the eyes of her clients, instilling a sense of trust in her, as an expert in the education field.
Jacinta Callaghan from Jacinta Callaghan Art and Hairdressing, was the second speaker of the night. Introducing Jacinta, Evelyn commended her on her “incredible work ethic”. Leaving school at 16, Jacinta trained as a hairdresser in Peter Marks, Dublin. After opening her own salon at just twenty years old, Jacinta continued creating her wonderful art pieces whilst caring for her young family. When the pandemic hit, Jacinta had more time than ever before to create art and so, created an art gallery section within her salon, selling a number of paintings worldwide. Jacinta spoke of the joy she felt to be launching her new website in the coming weeks: jacintas.com. Jacinta is another committed member of the DWIBN. She credited her involvement in the Network and the support and training she has received from them and others, for her success thus far.
The third speaker of the night was Sinéad Rafferty. Sinéad is a career alignment coach at Sinead Rafferty Coaching and co-director of an educational tech company. She spoke of the importance of trusting the journey and taking action when it comes to getting your business to the place you want it to go. Working in two very different industries, she spoke of how in the case of her coaching, Covid has been great and allowed her to adapt to the online space and work with clients all over the world. She asserted that mindset is 99% of the picture and that it is crucial to keep positive and have resilience. Sinéad assured her audience that trial and error is OK and to embrace it in their own endeavours. When something doesn’t go right, it doesn’t mean it never will. She stated that “one or two words on your sales page can totally change everything”. Again, Sinéad said that keeping visible is crucial and that in many cases, your clients may not come looking for you, so you have to be present where they are.
The penultimate speaker of the night was Mihaela Iftime. Mihaela owns Bookkeeping Ireland and is the Assistant Treasurer of DWIBN. Mihaela offers bookkeeping and payroll services online to SMEs, teaching business owners how to keep their own books, or operating them on their behalf. Mihaela spoke of the important role the DWIBN played in her business during the Covid 19 pandemic. Networking, meeting new people and connecting through events saved Mihaela’s business. Every single event Mihaela attended, provided her with fundamental skills and knowledge that she then used to strengthen her business. She became a prominent figure on social media platforms LinkedIn and Facebook, using the channels to network and become visible online. Networking opportunities are everywhere right now, but Mihaela insists that it is not enough to connect; you must also be continuously visible for consumers and social media is the prime place to do so.
Gabrielle McGee was the final speaker. She is a trained psychotherapist with over 30 years’ experience in the field. As the owner of Break Through With Gabrielle, she worked from her clinic prior to Covid 19, but has recently pivoted her business online; working with numerous clients worldwide, including women in New York. Gabrielle spoke of the key role that influencer marketing played in her recent success, with one of Ireland’s top influencers giving her a shout out on Instagram. This led her to gain sixty new clients within 48 hours from all over the globe. Instagram has been a fundamental fixture in Gabrielle’s business as she works with a lot of millennial clients. This shows the importance of positioning yourself where your audience is based. Millennials (25–34-year olds) and Generation Z adults (18-to-24-year olds) are the most prominent Instagram users in 2021 (Sehl, 2021). Gabrielle firmly believes in women supporting women, stating “we are a force to be reckoned with and have the power to take over the world if we really put our minds together, to work together. We are unstoppable”.
Evelyn spoke about the supports on offer from Donegal Local Enterprise Office and how they had been part of the Network now for over 20 years. Each of the five speakers had received LEO supports in the past year and each one stressed how valuable this was to their business growth.
Below you will find the ladies one key piece of advice to fellow women in business:
Elaine: “Push yourself that extra bit. It has such a compound effect. It will increase your confidence, your visibility, your network and ultimately grow your business”
Jacinta: “Be willing to take the first step, no matter how small it is. Concentrate on the fact that you are willing to learn, and then absolute miracles will happen” – Louise Hayes.
Sinéad: “Dream Big FIRST. Don’t allow ifs and buts and logistics to get in the way of your vision. Dream big, let it flow and then figure out how to make it happen” and “Imposter Syndrome is not necessarily a bad thing, it shows you are on track to something. It shows that you have a certain level of self-awareness. The other side of the scale is much worse, where you are not aware of your competency levels”.
Mihaela: “No matter how hard it is, get out of your comfort zone, because that is pushing forward, and action is the key to go on to have success”
Gabrielle: “Do something you are really passionate about and something you really, really love so you don’t have to go to work at all ever! Secondly, get the women behind supporting you. Get power in the strength of each other. Support and champion each other”.
If you have been looking for support in your business, look no further.
Join the network today for only €50 per year, www.donegalwomeninbusiness.com, the best money you will invest in your business.
With over 220 members supporting and offering peer learning this really is a fantastic opportunity for women in business in our county and beyond.
One of the speakers, Mihaela Iftime, summed it up when she said, “Joining Donegal Women in Business Network is not an expense, but an investment”.
Working online can be lonely, especially when you work for and by yourself.
Each of these women in business have had phenomenal success in this year of Covid 19, and the network is the foundation that will see them continue to scale and grow.
Join today so that you can realise this in your business too!