Upwards of 100 business women (and some very welcome men) gathered in the National Software centre in Cork on Thursday evening last to network, learn and listen to some local and national female role models. The theme of the event was Business Women Can – Inspiring Success, and it certainly lived up to its title!
Mary McKenna , Managing Director of Tour America, was the keynote speaker on the night and she shared her career peaks and troughs over the last twenty years .She equates her customer dataset as being the Tour America ‘fan base’ She spoke of the importance of team, culture and positive attitude in any business. Equally she touched on the ‘fail fast’ theory – it is normal to make mistakes in business but it is critical to recognise them early on and not get brought down by them. Mary referenced Tour China which was not a success for her and how she pulled the plug on it as soon as she saw the writing on the wall.
Mary spoke very movingly about her own near brush with mortality a number of years ago where she had a 50:50 chance of survival after a car accident. Subsequently, she ran the New York City Marathon and believes it is really important to ‘give back’. She also gave reference to the importance of business awards and the need for business women to push themselves forward and apply for such accolades.
The panel discussion was next on the agenda where some very frank and honest exchanges were put on the table. The panellists included Mary Hopkins, Hopkins Communications; Yvonne Barry, Quintas; Carmel O’Keeffe, Dress for Success; Helen O’Dowd, Virginia Health Foods and Mary McKenna. The panel was facilitated by Doug Munro, Head of products, propositions and deposits at Ulster Bank SME Banking. There was unanimous agreement that hard work, sacrifice and some calculated risks along the way are some of the key ingredients to running a business. Passion and determination are other qualities which each of the guests had in abundance.
Fiona Kingston, Programme Director of Business Women Can, closed the formalities of the evening noting some of the key themes discussed over the evening – mentoring, passion, culture, team, people, confidence and self belief. Hopkins communications kindly gave €500 worth of services for free to the lucky winner of the business card draw, Total Bickram Yoga The audience was a diverse mix of small businesses, corporate, strategic partners, professional services, external ambassadors. Over some tea, wine and food lots of business contacts were made and ideas shared and already plans are in place for.