Hi my name is Olwen Dawe. I think I probably always knew I’d work for myself – but wasn’t entirely sure when it would actually happen. Like many others struggling to make a decisive choice at university time, I had vacillated between journalism, commerce, arts, law, HRM and PR. A little career schizophrenia seemed to be problem.
Having lolled away many summers post-exams, the year of my Leaving Certificate proved to be a defining moment for me, as I discovered something I was passionate about. Encouraged by my parents [for that, read – ordered] to get a summer job, as opposed to spending countless hours ogling MTV, I ended up working in a young Telecoms company, and quickly working my way up the line. Needless to say, my decision to defer university wasn’t received with great delight, but when I did actually choose to return, I felt I’d made the right decision.
The experience of being at the central point of an SME’s growth defined my career for me. I loved how dynamic the experience was, how many different ‘hats’ we all wore and how strategic decision-making could really shape the business’s trajectory. I was also hugely focused on the role of individual capability in driving business forward and the necessity for unity in every aspect of how the organisation operated.
With my people-focus, I left the SME world and headed for roles with large MNCs before deciding that HRM wasn’t for me. I returned to small business, and added to my project management and communications repertoire, before finally taking the plunge into self-employment, just over two years ago.
When I set up Irish Business Intelligence, my chief aim was to support small business to communicate more effectively, to achieve more in their business through clearer strategy and to ensure that they were doing business better than their competitors. It was hard to label what I actually meant, what was my value proposition? I’d worked in HRM, CRM, Marketing, Operations across retail, finance, telecoms, professional services and manufacturing… how did that add value? Put simply, I wanted to help SMEs do business better… to harness entrepreneurial capability.
Nowadays, support for small business and SMEs is more critical than ever before. We all regularly hear of the important role SMEs will play in redeveloping the Irish economy, and this is an honest sentiment. However, the critical issues are centred on a more cultural shift towards seeing entrepreneurship as a career choice, and one which can be fulfilling when you know how and can develop your own potential with the right supports.