Stories & Lessons From Our All-Star Female Entrepreneurs

Our All-Star Female Entrepreneurs at the AIBF coffee morning putting their hands up to #ChooseToChallenge.

In honour of International Women’s Day, our CEO Elaine Carroll hosted an open coffee morning for our All-Star female entrepreneurs. Since this year’s theme is #ChooseToChallenge, they openly shared their own challenges and experiences as women in business, providing some interesting insights and lessons. Below are 13 takeaways from our All-Stars.

Michelle Johnson, ASA Marketing
Michelle Johnson, CEO at ASA Marketing, and
# 1 Be valued for what you are and what you have achieved rather than who you are – Michelle Johnson, ASA Marketing

“I can resonate with the idea of being the daughter and having to forage our own way forward and for people to get to know us in our own right and not just as the daughters. I moved from Cork to Dublin and when I got to Dublin, nobody knew I was the daughter, I could just be myself and make my own networks and get my own contacts and start from nowhere.”

Teresa Lewis, Country Representation at Mauve Group.
Teresa Lewis, country representative at Mauve Group.

# 2 Women have a great understanding of the balance between  home life and work – Teresa Lewis, Mauve Group

“Mauve is made up of predominantly women, and we have such a strong leader, our CEO is a fellow Welsh lady, like myself, Ann Ellis and she’s amazing because she really gets that people need to sometimes prioritise family so she’s worked well with each and every one of us. She has a great understanding.”


Catriona Kirwan, Catriona Kirwan Coaching
Catriona Kirwan, Executive and Life and Neuro-Wellness Coach at Catriona Kirwan Coaching.
# 3 Our challenges don’t define us, they are there to make us stronger – Catriona Kirwan, Catriona Kirwan Coaching

“My biggest challenge was having a child with a disability and not being owned by that and shifting the mindset to ‘this is a challenge for me’ rather than ‘this owns me and consumes me and it’s my every waking moment’. Our challenges don’t define us, they are there to make us stronger.”


Lisa Cohalan, Lisa Cohalan PMU
Lisa Cohalan, PMU Artist at Lisa Cohalan PMU.
# 4 Don’t be afraid to reinvent yourself – Lisa Cohalan, Lisa Cohalan PMU

“I have a masters degree in marketing and was working in that field before I went back to study beauty and learned about everything to do with permanent makeup. I set up my business in 2012. I really had to reinvent myself and create a work-life that suited my family now I have an award-winning business.”

Wendy Ryan, DMS
Wendy Ryan, Managing Director at Data Storage and Mangement (DSM).
# 5 Mothers are true role models for their children – Wendy Ryan, DSM (Data Storage Management)

“My mother made a commitment to herself that all of her children would get as much education as possible. We all went to college and went into various careers in our lives. What she didn’t achieve in life, she overachieved with her children. She also made it that there was no difference between the girls and boys which prepared me well for my career life.”

Helen McCormack, Helen McCormack Estate Agents
Helen McCormack, Owner of Helen McCormack Estate Agents.
# 6 When women support each other, men notice & support women even more – Helen McCormack, Helen McCormack Estate Agents

“As women, we carry on, we go to work, we’re mothers, we provide for our families, and we see that as normal and sometimes, we don’t want a badge for it. It’s lovely when women come together and say well done and then do it to each other. We teach people subconsciously and consciously how to treat us by how we treat each other.”

Eileen Fleming, Owner of The Buff Day Spa.
Eileen Fleming, Owner of The Buff Day Spa.
# 7 Women wear a lot of different hats – Eileen Fleming, The Buff Day Spa

“That’s the fun of being a business owner, I relish change, I couldn’t do the same job. Everything we have to do each and every day is completely different to the day before.”


Hannah Whooley, CW Applied Technology
Hannah Whooley, Marketing Executive at CW Applied Technology.
# 8 Overcome your own internal situation – Hannah Whooley, CW Applied Technology

“At the start of my career, I worked on a team that was primarily men so I was the only marketing person working with a team of all male salespeople. They were lovely people but I had to overcome my own internal situation.”


Mary Finn, Connect4Work
Mary Finn, Owner and Manager at Connect4Work.
# 9 We’re like a spider at the centre of our net – Mary Finn, Connect4Work

“Sometimes getting to work on time or 5 minutes late can be an achievement. When I worked in a job where I had to go to a desk outside of the home, I would have felt like I had done a day’s work by the time I got there and then on my way home, I’m switching from work mode to home mode.”


Joelle Coade, ACET
Joelle Coade, MD at ACET.
# 10 I had to prove myself – Joelle Coade, ACET

“We are a family owned business and my mum opened the school over 46 years ago. I was the daughter for a long time and I had to prove to everybody that I could do the job.”


Alison McMurtrie, Idunn Consulting
Alison McMurtrie, Founder of Idunn Consulting.
# 11 Build up your resilience – Alison McMurtrie, Idunn Consulting

“I came from a background in oil and gas which is predominantly men. I was given some advice to find a female role model to follow and to help me. I started looking for women in other industries with similar mindsets and challenges. It’s challenging to go it alone.”


Grainne Ryan, Sunrise Financial Planning
Grainne Ryan, Financial Adviser and Company Director at Sunrise Financial Planning.
# 12 Assert yourself & know that you good enough – Grainne Ryan, Sunrise Financial Planning

“I often found people would be surprised when I would come to a meeting because I worked with my dad and they would think it would be him coming in. You just have to kind of assert yourself that bit more and know you are good enough.”


Mairead O'Donnell - Polar Ice Tech
Mairead O’Donnell, Director at Polar Ice Tech.
# 13 Women are more emotionally intelligent and nurturing – Mairead O’Donnell, Polar Ice Tech

“One thing I am extremely proud of is we made our first female hire about two weeks ago. She sent me such a wonderful text thanking me for organising something for her. Her role is so key for the company. She was so nervous about returning to work and doing a great job and joining a team of mostly men and she was just as much of a resource for me as a woman.”