As over 300 business women gathered at the Hilton Hotel Belfast, Ulster Bank were proud to be the key sponsor of the 7th annual Women in Business NI conference. The MC for the day, broadcaster Claire McCollum, introduced WIBNI chair, Kate Marshall who welcomed the attendees and outlined the global ambition and leadership theme to the delegates.
As key sponsor of the conference, Ulster Bank’s Ellvena Graham outlined the ways in which Ulster Bank supports women, both in and out of the bank, including; Women In Touch, Business Women Can and key sponsorships.
The first keynote speaker at the event was Rosaleen Blair, CEO of talent acquisition and management solution company, Alexander Mann. From selling perfume in her garden as a 7 year old, to offering to meet clients at their offices, (not mentioning it was because she had no desk in her own office!), Rosaleen has always possessed an entrepreneurial streak.
Sharing her leadership thoughts, Rosaleen commented ‘as a leader you cast a long shadow’. You set an example for your staff and fundamentally impact on organisational culture. Rosaleen is a great advocate of supporting others in business; great people will find the time to support you. Coaches and mentors are important and a sponsor is great and makes room for you at the table. Don’t be afraid to find one.
Next up, Pete Boyle founder and CEO of jewellery business, Argento, shared his unique entrepreneurial journey.
It was a random act of kindness, paying a friend’s bill, that gave him his first taste of business, when he was repaid in mirrors and realised he could sell and make a profit. Pete established Argento’s reputation for quality and treating his suppliers well, building up a good name and running a sound business, this includes Pete’s attitude to always paying his suppliers on time, if not early. This approach, he believes, allowed him to become Pandora’s largest supplier in UK.
Imparting some advice to the delegates, pride has no place in business and when realising an error, Argento took action and changed and the business continues to evolve with time, keeping close to their customers.
Following Pete’s session, Joan Ballantine from University Ulster shared ‘where are we with gender equality’, through the findings of a project they are currently undertaking, which looks at barriers, enablers and best practice in the public sector of Northern Ireland.
A panel of leading business women, including Ulster Bank’s Shauna Burns and broadcaster Terry Prone shared their experiences and tips to the audience- how they started out, where they are now and what their ambitions for the future are.
Closing the first session, Finance Minister Arlene Foster recognised the importance of women in Northern Ireland’s economy. The first session of the WIBNI conference was followed with refreshments and break out mentoring markets. Look out for more on the second half of the conference…