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Over 1,000 expected at National Women’s Enterprise Day events across the country to ‘open doors to new markets’

Minister Mary Mitchell O’ Connor to officially open National Women’s Enterprise Day at the Dublin Regional Event, encouraging more female entrepreneurs to ‘open doors to new markets’

60 successful female entrepreneurs sharing their own business stories at 15 events

‘Open doors to new markets’ is the theme for this year’s National Women’s Enterprise Day (NWED), which will be officially opened by the Minister of State for Higher Education, Ms. Mary Mitchell O’ Connor T.D. at the Dublin Regional Event in Leopardstown later this morning.

The LEOs have invited 60 successful female entrepreneurs, including Mary-Ann O’ Brien of Lily O’ Brien’s Chocolates, Caroline Keeling of Keelings and Sammy Leslie of Castle Leslie Estate, to share their business stories at events in Donegal, Sligo, Leitrim, Mayo, Carlow, Laois, Tipperary, Cork, Cavan, Monaghan, Meath, Dublin, Kildare, Wicklow and Waterford.

In 2016, the 31 Local Enterprise Offices (LEOs) across the country jointly supported 14,300 female entrepreneurs. Today’s events demonstrate the LEOs’ commitment to continue to encourage more female-led businesses to grow and expand into new markets internationally.

Ahead of today’s event, An Tanaiste and Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation, Frances Fitzgerald, T.D. said: “The events taking place around the country today are a true celebration of the potential and achievements of women in business. Today, women can get close to, and examine, real stories and successes of other female led start-ups. National Women’s Enterprise Day, organised and run by the Local Enterprise Offices, is the ideal opportunity for those female entrepreneurs thinking of starting or expanding their business to learn from other successful businesswomen. Women make a huge contribution to business in Ireland, creating innovative enterprises that are focused on growth and exports in every town and village across the country. I want to encourage more women to set up businesses across our regions and I would encourage you all to avail of the many supports available from your Local Enterprise Office”.  

In advance of the today’s event at the Leopardstown Pavilion in Foxrock, Co. Dublin, Minister Mitchell O’ Connor said:

“As we celebrate National Women’s Enterprise Day across the country today, our vision is for Ireland to be among the most entrepreneurial nations in the world and to be a world-class place for women to start and grow a business. The Government, through the Local Enterprise Offices and Enterprise Ireland, have put a suite of supports in place to help achieve this vision. These include the Competitive Fund for Innovative Micro Enterprises, a new Technical Assistance for Micro Exporter grant and the Lean4Micro programme. My message for female entrepreneurs today is that when you’re opening doors to new markets, find out how supports from your Local Enterprise Office can ‘unlock’ your company’s growth potential.”

Preparations for Brexit will be to the fore at today’s NWED events and the Manager of Enterprise Ireland’s Brexit Unit, Anne Lanigan, is also speaking at the Dublin event later today. She said: “Brexit is a very significant challenge to Irish businesses. We expect long term, structural and disruptive change. Our strong recommendation is to prepare for a hard Brexit and prepare now by taking actions that will strengthen your business irrespective of the outcome of Brexit. Diversification or expanding reach is a key element of Enterprise Ireland’s 2020 strategy and is a very effective way to strengthen and grow your business. To mark National Women's Enterprise Day, we are encouraging more female-led companies to start opening doors to new markets and  have a wide range of comprehensive supports in place to assist client companies in doing this.”

Speaking on behalf of local authorities, Philomena Poole, Chief Executive of Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council, said: “Today, across the country female business owners and entrepreneurs will highlight the successes and energies that are required to drive a business forward. We encourage women entrepreneurs from all counties to engage with their local authorities, through their Local Enterprise Offices and avail of the supports that are on offer.” 

The very first National Women’s Enterprise Day took place in 2007 and the initiative is still as important as ever, according to Sheelagh Daly, Chair of the Network of Local Enterprise Offices. She said: “Studies show that women still have a higher fear of failure when it comes to starting a business and can lack confidence in their own skills and knowledge. To help address this, the Local Enterprise Offices are teaming up with sixty successful female entrepreneurs to share and celebrate their stories and to demonstrate how every woman can open doors to new markets and what supports are there to help.”

This year’s other Ambassadors include Frances McArdle of Height for Hire; Caitlin O’ Connor of Accelerating Performance; Deirdre Fee of Medical Mobility; Irene Queally of Pip and Pear; Oonagh Monahan of Alpha Omega Consultants; Sinead Gillard of Jinny’s Bakery in Leitrim; and Margie Burns of Aviation Selection Consultants.

They’re joined by Ireland’s Best Young Entrepreneur - Ciara Clancy of Beats Medical; Lady Chanelle McCoy of Chanelle Medical; Fashion Designer Heidi Higgins, Dr. Xuemei Germaine of MicroGen; and Fionnuala Ardee of Kilruddery Estate Enterprises.

Other entrepreneurs sharing their success stories at National Women’s Enterprise Day events include Ramona Nicholas of Cara Pharmacy Group; Róisin Hogan of HIRO by Róisin; Sonya Lennon of Courtney Lennon; Niamh Sherwin Barry of Irish Fairy Door Company; Margaret O’Connor of Quigleys Bakery; Moira Dunne of; Gillian Doyle of Cerebreon Technologies and Deirdre McGlone of Harvey’s Point Hotel.

Information about National Women’s Enterprise Day and the supports on offer through the Local Enterprise Offices is available through and


For all media queries around National Women’s Enterprise Day, please contact Engage Ireland

Sarah Bohan on Tel: 01 427 8388 / 087 65 39936 / office

Notes to Editor:

Photography Note:

Reproduction-free images from National Women’s Enterprise Day are available from Leon Farrell of Photocall Ireland from 12 noon on Thursday, October 12th 2017 .

Photographers at other NWED events around the country will also be syndicating reproduction-free images to picture desks today.

*Source: Global Entrepreneurship Monitor for Ireland (2016). Report prepared by Paula Fitzsimons of Fitzsimons Consulting & Colm O’ Gorman of Dublin City University.

Page 44: “An estimated 1,800 men and 1,100 women were involved in a start-up every month in Ireland in 2016 [new business owners].”

Summary of all NWED events, taking place on Thursday October 12th (organised by the Local Enterprise Offices).


A dinner event organised by LEOs in Carlow, Kilkenny and Wexford at the Woodford Dolmen Hotel. Featuring: fashion tech entrepreneur Sonya Lennon, Dr. Xuemei Germaine of MicroGen Biotech, Karen Keane of Bean & Goose, Maura Bell of the Irish National Heritage Park and Caroline Wafer of EASE.


A LEO Cavan evening event over dinner at Hotel Kilmore. Featuring: Frances McArdle of Height for Hire, Mairead McGuinness MEP (First Vice-President of the European Parliament) and Brenda Donohue, RTE TV & Radio Presenter.


A half-day event with lunch organised by LEOs in Cork North and West, Cork City, South Cork and Kerry at the Inchydoney Lodge and Spa Hotel in Clonakilty. Featuring: Deirdre Fee of Medical Mobility, Fiona Gratzier of Unislim, Lorraine Higgins of Retail Excellence, Alina Ui Chaollai of Tayto Ireland and best-selling author, Attracta Burke.


A LEO Donegal event in association with the Donegal Women in Business Network at Dillons Hotel, Main Street in Letterkenny. Featuring: ‘Managing your Time and Money’ guest speakers, including Moira Dunne of Be Productive and Gillian Doyle of Cerebreon Technologies, and Rose Kervick  - formerly MD of and now a business consultant and investor. 


A day-long event organised by LEOs in Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown, Fingal, Dublin City and South Dublin at the Leopardstown Pavilion. Featuring: Ciara Clancy of Beats Medical, Jeanne Mahony of Hope Beer, Sarah Kiely of Sadie’s Kitchen, Julie McLoughlin of Jano Design, Róisín Hogan of HIRO by Róisín, Samantha Kelly of The Tweeting Goddess, Rebeka Kahn of Rebeka Kahn Artwear, Celine Mullins of Adaptas Training, Anne Lanigan of Enterprise Ireland, Sue O’Neill of the Small Firms Association.


A LEO Kildare full-day inspiring event with networking lunch and mentoring at Kildare Village in Kildare Town. Featuring: Mary-Ann O’ Brien of Lily O’ Brien’s Chocolates, Karolynn MacHale of the Aria Boutique Naas and Lee-Ann McCarthy of Kildare Village.


A half-day event over lunch organised by LEOs in Laois, Offaly, Longford and Westmeath at the Heritage Hotel Killenard. Featuring: Heidi Higgins - Fashion Designer, Ramona Nicholas of the Cara Group, Bernice Moran of The Be Sweet Company, Margaret Jeffares of Good Food Ireland and Carole Coleman of RTE.


A LEO Leitrim morning event at The Landmark Hotel in Carrick On Shannon. Featuring: Moira Geary of The Recombobulator.


An afternoon event organised by LEOs in Mayo, Galway and Roscommon at The Lodge at Ashford Castle in Cong. Featuring: Caitlin O’Connor of Accelerating Performance and various speakers from the region, with Loretta Ni Ghabháin of Lorg Media as MC.


A half day event with lunch organised by LEOs in Meath and Louth at the City North Hotel and Conference Centre in Gormanston, Co. Meath. Featuring: Caroline Keeling of Keelings, Niamh Sherwin Barry of Irish Fairy Door Company, Róisín Hogan of HIRO by Róisín, Margaret Robb of Sweet Little Babies and Margie Burns of Aviation Selection Consultants.


A LEO Monaghan evening event with dinner at the Hillgrove Hotel on the Old Armagh Road. Featuring: Sammy Leslie of Castle Leslie Estate, Victoria Mary Clarke and Lisa Marie Clinton of Avail Support.


A LEO Sligo event at the Radisson Hotel in Ballincar. Featuring: Oonagh Monahan of Alpha Omega Consultants, Deirdre McGlone of Harvey’s Point Hotel and Ruth Daly of Sort-It Professional Training and Networking.


A day-long event organised by LEOs in Tipperary, Clare and Limerick at the Lakeside Hotel in Ballina. Featuring: Lady Chanelle McCoy of Chanelle Medical, Celia Holman Lee of the Holman Lee Model Agency, Catherine Duffy of Northern Trust, Rita Guinan of LEO Tipperary, Orlaith Borthwick of the Action Plan for Jobs Mid West, Margaret O’Connor of Quigleys Bakery, Tara-Lee Byrne of Wicked Wholefoods, Alison Banton of Brooke and Shoals, Stephanie Shine of Samco, Marion Murphy Cooney of Marion Murphy Cooney Designs, Aileen McGrath of One Little Studio, Ciana Campbell (MC) and Theresa Mulvihill (networking).


A LEO Waterford evening event with dinner in Faithlegg House Hotel. Featuring: Irene Queally of Pip and Pear, Terry Prone of the Communications Clinic, Linda Coyle, Grainne Walsh of Metalman Brewing, Sandra Whelan of Immersive VR Education, Deirdre Meaney of Wild Oats Soap, Yvonne Crotty of Willow and Wild, Beth-Ann Smith of The Lismore Food Company and Karen Tompkins.


A LEO Wicklow event with Afternoon Tea at Kilruddery House and Gardens in Bray. Featuring: Fionnuala Ardee of Kilruddery Estate Enterprises Ltd.

NWED Website and Social Media Accounts:

Website: / Twitter: @NWED / Facebook: @NWEDIreland / Hashtag: #NWED