It takes a special type of person to become an entrepreneur. You need to be unafraid of risk and failure, steely in your determination to succeed, and be a jack of all trades, from marketing to production to accounting. It can be exhausting, challenging, and very scary, especially during the last year. 5.2 % of women in Ireland are established entrepreneurs compared to 11.8 % of men, but in the last 20 years, the amount of female entrepreneurs has grown 114% worldwide. Here are five Irish female entrepreneurs to watch out for this year.
- Norma Dineen
Norma Dineen and her husband Tom produce a range of award-winning cheeses on the family’s Bó Rua Farm in County Cork using milk from their herd of Montbeliarde and Friesian cows. Named in honour of the rust-coloured Montbeliard (Bó Rua is Irish for ‘Red Cow’), the cheese is made from March to October when the cows are out on pasture.
Since their launch in May 2019, Bó Rua cheeses have received numerous awards including Gold at the Blás na hÉireann Irish Food Awards for Best Irish Hard Cheese. Since the Covid-19 pandemic hit they have pivoted from supplying Bó Rua Farm cheese to the catering industry to supplying specialty food stores and the multiples nationwide. They also now retail directly online through their web shop. It’s clear that Bó Rua Farm is only getting started and Dineen is one of the big female entrepreneurs to watch.
- Lisa Larkin
Lisa Larkin changed her career and moved from Dublin to Kilbeggan in Co Westmeath to set up Durrow Mills. This was because she wanted to produce a flour that was gentle on the system, healthy and nutritious, and organic. She realised that flour is in so many products and she didn’t want to settle for something low quality. With a huge rise in people experiencing digestive issues related to foods, in particular wheat, she realised that an alternative was needed.
Her core products have been a range of organic sprouted flours for retail, and also for trade such as bakeries and food service. Her most popular flours are her three types of sprouted wheat – fine milled, coarse milled and a blended bakers mix. She also makes sprouted rye, buckwheat, and spelt. They sell directly to both retail and trade customers, and are also selling through two distributors since the start of the year. Durrow Mills is currently in the process of launching a new e-commerce website to maximise their online demand, which has particularly grown since the Covid- 19 pandemic this year.
- Louella Morton
Louella Morton’s background is in the education technology sector, where she strove to deliver significant benefits through harnessing the power of technology. Set up in 2014 by Louella and co-founder Sheena Bailey, TestReach bridges an acute gap in developing corresponding technologies to assess courses, without recourse to traditional test centres, exam papers, and face-to- face interviews. These traditional methods of assessment were not feasible at the level required to meet the significant increase in demand worldwide.
TestReach provides an online assessment solution incorporating test authoring, test assembly, test delivery, marking, moderation, and results issuing. Any kind of test can be easily created and rolled out, and there is extensive marking and moderation functionality. It is very secure, scalable, and cost effective. They have found themselves becoming increasingly useful as the Covid-19 pandemic pushed a great deal of assessments online.
- Sonia Neary
2020 was a busy year for Wellola CEO Sonia Neary, who reoriented quickly during the Covid-19 pandemic to launch a patient portal with the HSE (Health Service Executive). The company, established by Sonia in 2016, had been focused on the mental and community healthcare market in Ireland and the UK. However, during the Covid-19 pandemic, they quickly pivoted to launch a secure patient communication portal to protect front-line workers. This was done in collaboration with the HSE Digital Transformation Team.
Wellola currently serves over 600 individuals and organisations in Ireland and the UK, particularly in the allied and mental healthcare spaces. 2020 was a busy year for Wellola, who also launched a secure online communication portal for the British Association of Counsellors and Psychotherapists, and was awarded a place on the competitive and prestigious NHS G-Cloud 12 Framework to service the NHS. In 2019, Neary was honoured to represent Ireland as a finalist in the global Women in Tech Awards in Paris and to accept the Integrated Care award from the Irish Medical & Surgical Trade Association on behalf of Wellola. She is an advocate for greater gender diversity in entrepreneurship and enhancing support networks amongst female founders.
- Derval O’Rourke
Former sprint hurdles athlete and Olympian Derval O’Rourke is the founder of the Derval.ie healthy lifestyle platform for practical advice about food, fitness, and wellness. As a three time Olympian and former world champion, Derval O’Rourke certainly doesn’t need any introduction to an Irish audience. And her background in the world of athletics uniquely positions her to have a voice of authority in the world of fitness, food, and wellness.
Established in 2017, Derval.ie is a healthy lifestyle platform where she shares her learnings from her former athletics career, as well as life as a busy mother and business-owner.
The website uses an innovative subscription-based model that offers members an affordable platform, where they gain access to expert advice and community support. While other online platforms focus on either food, fitness, or wellness, Derval.ie has a unique blend of advice from a range of experts on all three. As we all move to becoming more aware of our health and wellness, this platform is sure to prove popular in the coming years.
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