Despite national recognition of female entrepreneurs, Ireland suffers from a low number of women engaged in business startups. The GMIT Innovation Hubs have started offering a new regional Programme called the “EMPOWER Programme” to help increase the number of female entrepreneurs in Galway, Mayo and Roscommon. This project is funded through ESF Programme, co-funded by the Irish Government and the European Social Fund as part of the ESF Programme for Employability, Inclusion and Learning 2014-2020.
There are two separate parts to the EMPOWER Programme.
- EMPOWER Start, is to test innovative ideas for market acceptance.
- EMPOWER Growth, is to grow existing businesses. The EMPOWER Programme aims to fast track female led business by addressing specific challenges hindering them.
Some of the differences between men and woman start-ups are:
- Women launch businesses out of necessity where as men typically are driven by spotting opportunity or gaps in the market place.
- Females are more risk averse
- Males overestimate their own skills whereas females underestimate theirs which emphasises confidence as a key skill that needs to be developed.
Key Drivers Males Females
Opportunity 39% 26%
Fear of Failure 37% 48%
Necessary Skills 58% 37%
Together they present barriers to women starting or growing businesses. The programme aims to identify opportunities, build confidence and assess skills to implement ideas or scale businesses.
EMPOWER “Start” is for females with an early stage idea or in business less than one year. This FREE Programme will be delivered part-time over 12 weeks by start-up experts. This allows participants to balance their family commitments while at the same time planning and developing their new business. The programme rotates between Galway, Mayo and Roscommon. Learning is by lecture and doing. The opportunity is to practically test your idea for customer acceptance.
Fitzsimons and O’Gorman (2016) observed over half of female entrepreneurs are focused solely on the home market, compared to one third of men. They also observed a big difference between male and female entrepreneurs regarding their expectations to employ people within the next five years (74% of men compared to 62% of women).
EMPOWER “Growth” is focused on females who are already in business (2 years +) and are now looking to scale and grow by providing support from peers, mentors and role models.
This Programme will be based on peer to peer learning and delivered by industry experts. It will be delivered over 11 half days on Saturday, once a month.
The EMPOWER Programme aims to tackle these scaling issues by providing the necessary tools and skills to grow businesses, opportunities to network and learn from peers in a supportive environment.
Both Programmes offer specific mentoring and networking opportunities.
The EMPOWER Programme was launched on Wednesday 13th Sept 2017 in The Connacht Hotel in Galway, from 4.30pm – 7.30pm where high profile speakers such as Chanelle McCoy (Chanelle Pharmaceuticals and Dragon’s Den), Breege O Donoghue (ex CEO of Primark and Chair of the Design Council of Ireland) and Evelyn O Toole (Complete Laboratory Solutions and Ernst & Young Finalists 2017) along with other female entrepreneurs will come and tell their stories. Tracy Piggot will MC the evening.
The aim of the event was to inspire more early stage females to start a business and established businesses to expand. Women also in business were encouraged to come along to see what opportunities may arise. Challenges and opportunities faced by female entrepreneurs will be discussed on the evening before and after the event.
Another event took place in Sept 2018, run by EMPOWER. The theme of the evening was ‘Discovering your True Passion and Purpose’ with Carol Coleman the MC for the evening. Alison Cowzer from East Coast Bakehouse, Vicki O’Toole from JJ O’ Toole and Donna Kennedy, best-selling author and speaker, took to the stage to talk about their own experiences and how they built their businesses. Later that evening, Norah Patten (aeronautical engineer ) Aine Mulloy (founder of Crewgirl ) and Lorraine Corcoran (Co-Owner of Cosmetic Creations) also shared their start-up experiences on stage. The event was co-funded by the Irish Government and the European Social Fund and also by the Mayo Local Enterprise Office.
The GMIT iHubs (established in 2006) are two Innovation Hubs based on the GMIT Campuses of Galway and Mayo. They provide, the entrepreneur, with office space, mentors and support environment to progress your idea from concept to commercial success.
* Fitzsimmons and O’Gorman (2016), the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM) Ireland
Maria Staunton has been spearheading this new Programme ‘From my time at the Innovation Hub I have noticed and recognised the amount of female and male entrepreneurs coming through the doors. We don’t get enough females coming forward to look at developing their ideas. I really believe female-led businesses are an underexploited source of economic growth and jobs. We can make a difference in this area and deliver a Programme of value that will benefit and support female entrepreneurs in Galway, Mayo and Roscommon’. Sixty four females have currently completed Cycle 1 and Cycle 2 of the EMPOWER Programme with business ideas ranging from Fashion, Cosmetics, Software applications, Health etc.