In the Spotlight: Some inspiring women entrepreneurs from Ireland
Amidst the captivating beauty of Ireland, also known as the ‘Emerald Isle’, another remarkable aspect shines brightly – the flourishing community of women entrepreneurs. Ireland’s enchanting landscapes and picturesque sights are matched by the dynamic growth of ambitious women business leaders.
With an array of policies and schemes dedicated to supporting their ventures, the journey of women entrepreneurs in Ireland has seen significant progress. From funding to personal development and networking opportunities, the country offers a nurturing environment for women-led businesses to thrive and expand. Embracing their entrepreneurial spirit (over 1,400 women launch new businesses every month), places Ireland among the top European countries for early-stage women entrepreneurs.
The rate of women taking part in entrepreneurship efforts in Ireland sets the country on the 8th position in Europe. Let’s explore the growing impact of these visionary leaders as they shape the future of business in Ireland.
Here are some inspiring women entrepreneurs from Ireland.
> Tara Beattie, Co-Founder, Mange Tout & Prepsheets.com
Backed by over twenty years’ experience in setting up and running successful hospitality operations, Tara Beattie is an innovation-driven entrepreneur. She was involved in setting up a fine dining restaurant in 1998 and a new SAAS company, Prepsheets.com in 2021. It was in 1998, that she and her husband Brian first set up Mange Tout Limited, as a fine dining restaurant. As Mange Tout became an award-winning restaurant, she went full-time into the family business.
Soon after opening the restaurant, the couple identified a gap in the event catering market, for a high-end operator in Ireland. And so in 2002, they moved from a fine dining restaurant to a fine dining caterer, called The Caterers, still trading under the original Mange Tout company. In 2007 The Caterwaiter was established to supply professional staff to the hospitality sector. And this company has gone from strength to strength and even a management buyout in 2020.
> Kate Beckett, Founder, Optima Speech Therapy
Kate Beckett, the founder of Optima Speech Therapy, is a speech and language professional, and she works to empower parents to deliver an easy-to-use service for speech therapy at home. This bridges the gap between identifying an issue and receiving face-to-face speech therapy. She is also bringing a full range of custom-made resources to the speech therapy market, including the first child speech sound avatar DARA (Digitised Automated Realistic Articulator) on her YouTube channel.
When parents reach out, she sends them an assessment document containing ‘fun’ activities to carry out and video their child doing at home; then the parents return the videos to Kate, who compiles a report in which she advises on the appropriate speech and language programme. Launched in June 2021, the company’s success is available on the Wicklow based speech therapist’s YouTube channel, on which Kate posts instructional videos for parents and children on how to work on language activities and how to produce specific speech sounds. Through her website, she sells resources to other speech and language therapists, teachers and assistants.
> Laura Bonner, Founder, Muff Liquor Company
It was after returning from London that Laura Bonner set up her business – The Muff Liquor Company in Co Donegal. She spent six years in London, working in the real estate sector, and then become Director in UK, for an Australian company catering to the Chinese market.
Very clear that she loves Ireland, she would not have left the country, if the recession didn’t hit way back in 2008. Since she was a teenager she knew what she wanted to do – ie owning a company like The Muff Liquor Company that produces Irish spirits (which is part of her family heritage). Once she moved ahead in her career, she knew it was time to return home and follow her dream.
The Muff Liquor Company produces premium potato-based Irish spirits, which was inspired by her grandfather, Philip McClenaghan, who used to make poitin. The business was launched in February 2018 with Muff gin and followed that with Muff vodka. Now they are selling in multiple countries all over the globe.
> Katie Brandon Byrne, Founder, Lil & Izzy
A turning point in her life was when Katie Brandon Byrne, from Bray, Co Wicklow, stepped away from her career as a global buyer for Primark to launch Lil & Izzy, a sustainable, organic clothing brand for children and babies, in August 2019. She was inspired to become an entrepreneur after the birth of her second daughter, Isabelle, who suffered from eczema. She found it difficult to get baby clothes that didn’t irritate Isabelle’s skin. Plus suitable clothing sent by her brother in Australia, was too light for the Irish climate.
So, she decided to design the clothes herself and started Lil & Izzy – named after her daughters, Lily and Isabelle. From the outset, she wanted to ensure that her clothing range would be ethically-made and aesthetically pleasing. Besides using organic cotton, Lil & Izzy only uses water-based and eco-friendly dyes and prints. Incidentally, all the illustrations on the clothing are inspired by her children’s imaginations and their daily lives. For example, a collection featuring mermaids and swans, was inspired by living beside Bray harbour and feeding the swans there each day during Covid-19 lockdown.
> Linda-Gene Byrne, Founder, The Holding Pond
Imagine the situation – Irish consumers were spending €5bn a year with online retailers, of which €3bn was leaving the country to non-indigenous companies. When she realized this, she felt compelled to try reverse this trend!
The former sales director with Green Isle Foods set up her company The Holding Pond, an outlet for Irish-made crafts, pottery, homewares, jewellery and more, on Valentine’s Day 2020, shortly after moving her family to her husband’s home place on the Hook peninsula in Co. Wexford. She always loved buying Irish-made goods and she saw there was a gap in the market for a one-stop shop for indigenous products. Irish shoppers were spending billions online every year and a large proportion of that was leaving the country. Aiming to “bring these sales home” she forged ahead. While the initial offering was strictly online, Linda-Gene has since set up a number of pop-up shops in the South East.
Her process is very detailed – she meticulously researches each of the product makers, ensuring that those featured by the Holding Pond come from all across the island of Ireland. They plan to move ahead in the future by establishing a greater online presence.
> Laura Cavanagh, Co-Founder, Be Our Guest
Laura Cavanagh became interested in computer programming, when she was studying for her psychology degree in UCD. And what started out as a hobby ended up becoming her future career. She worked full-time as a computer programmer in Dublin before moving to work in Australia for five years.
Laura always had a desire to set up her own business and, in fact, had established one when she was in her 20s before her career took off. On returning home to Buncrana, Co Donegal, she decided to ‘go alone’ again and set up an app development company called Glitterbug, with her partner Colin Vaughan. While working on Glitterbug, they developed their own eco-friendly wedding app, called Be Our Guest.
Be Our Guest is a one-stop shop for weddings. It is a mobile platform where couples, suppliers and guests can communicate with each other. It allows couples to design digital invitations and build a community through a microblog, while guests can RSVP through the app – and even choose their meals too.
The app was launched in a beta format in 2019 and the couple spent 2020 (when wedding ceremonies had decreased, as a result of the Covid-19 lockdown), actually building the product and focusing on strategy.