Date Article Written: Friday, November 27, 2020
EMPOWER Start, the women’s entrepreneurship programme, commenced full online delivery this month (Nov 2020) through iHubs across the campuses of the Connacht-Ulster Alliance (CUA) of GMIT, IT Sligo and Letterkenny IT.
Co-funded by the Government of Ireland and the European Social Fund as part of the Programme for Employability, Inclusion and Learning 2014-2020, the first ever EMPOWER Start programme ran in GMIT’s Innovation Hubs in October 2017 for women in Galway, Mayo and Roscommon. Such was its success that applications were extended to the North-West counties of Sligo, Donegal and Leitrim earlier this year (2020).
Maria Staunton, Manager of the GMIT iHub and EMPOWER co-ordinator for the region, says: “The formation of the Connacht-Ulster Alliance (CUA) allowed this to become a reality and we look forward to even more exciting opportunities the planned-for Technological University (TU) will bring to the region, as the CUA partners work on completing their formal submission to Minister Harris, seeking approval to become a TU.”
“We received a lot of enquiries from people in the North West due to the success of the first two cycles that had already been run in the West, so EMPOWER II was then extended to the wider region. This will, no doubt, be one of many programmes promoting and supporting businesses and startups in the region.”
Separately, GMIT is pleased to announce that Sandra Divilly Nolan, Manager of the GMIT iHub EMPOWER Programme, has been appointed to the board of the Western Development Commission (WDC).
Maria Staunton, Manager of the GMIT iHub Mayo and EMPOWER regional co-ordinator, says: “We are delighted at the GMIT iHubs to see Sandra appointed onto the WDC Board. GMIT is always very supportive of the important work the WDC carry out especially in terms of balanced regional economic development, investment funding and remote working.”
The Western Development Commission (WDC) is a statutory body established in 1997 to promote social and economic development in counties Donegal, Leitrim, Sligo, Mayo, Roscommon, Galway and Clare. It has a statutory obligation to advise the government on issues that impact on the western region and to promote government policy directed at improving social and economic standards.
Sandra Divilly Nolan, BEng, MBA, is an entrepreneur with over 20 years business experience. Following an initial career as an engineer, she acquired her first fashion retail business in 2000 and established a second business in 2002. In 2005 both businesses were finalists in the SFA National Awards for ‘Achievement, Innovation and Excellence in Small Business’. In 2010 Sandra set up an e-commerce business which she ran for 10 years, gaining access to a global marketplace.
In May 2020, Sandra joined the team at the GMIT Innovation Hub as EMPOWER Programme Manager, promoting female entrepreneurship in the West and North West of Ireland and supporting these entrepreneurs to start, grow and scale their businesses. Sandra says: “I welcome the opportunity to play a part in the future of the WDC as they deliver their ‘Work Smart, Live Better’ strategy for the period 2019 – 2024. The remit of the WDC is to foster and encourage economic and social development in the Western Region. Within the GMIT iHubs there is a wealth of knowledge to address the challenges and opportunities facing entrepreneurs in the region.”