Leading Irish women in business to address Inspiring Women Entrepreneurs event at University of Galway

By Steven Galvin - Last update

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Three of Ireland’s leading female entrepreneurs will provide insight into their experiences of starting and growing a successful business at an Inspiring Women Entrepreneurs event on the University of Galway campus this month.

Entrepreneurs Gráinne Mullins of Grá Chocolates, Louella Morton of TestReach and Dr Vanessa Creaven from Spotlight Oral Care will give an address and answer audience questions at the event at O’Donoghue Centre for Drama, Theatre and Performance at 6pm on Wednesday, April 24.

Inspiring Women Entrepreneurs is now in its second year and is supported by Enterprise Ireland and KPMG. Those attending the Galway event will have the opportunity to apply for the Inspiring Women Entrepreneurs support programme itself.

The programme aims to ignite a flame among women with entrepreneurial ambitions to start a business but who may not have yet taken steps towards making their aspiration a reality. It is designed to appeal to women from a range of backgrounds who are seeking a change of direction, including female professionals and women in senior corporate positions, or those with doctoral and postdoctoral qualifications.

Research tells us that almost one in five women in Ireland aspire to start their own business and the programme is focused on encouraging women to follow through on their entrepreneurial ambitions and establish businesses that are scalable, innovative, and focused on export markets.

The April 24 event is just one of a range of events around the country aiming to inspire future female entrepreneurs and inform them about the programme.  The Galway event is being hosted by IdeasLab and J.E. Cairnes School of Business & Economics at University of Galway. Tickets are free but those hoping to attend are requested to register in advance as spaces are limited. Places can be booked here.

Galway native Gráinne Mullins founded artisanal Irish chocolate company Grá Chocolates in 2020. A former winner of the Euro-Toques Young Chef of the Year, she was included in the prestigious Forbes ‘30 under 30’ list in 2023 and has been selected as Ireland’s representative at the Global Creative Business Cup, a worldwide competition for creative start-ups, which is due to take place this summer in Copenhagen.

Galway’s Dr Vanessa Creaven established Spotlight Oral Care with sister Lisa in 2016 to provide clients with a range of vegan, non-toxic oral care products. The company’s products are now on sale around the world.

Computer science graduate Louella Morton set up TestReach alongside business partner Sheena Bailey in 2014. The company now directly employs more than 120 people and provides end-to-end online examination assessment solution for corporations and education and training organisations. Louella will participant via video.

The event will be overseen by Dr Natalie Walsh, Director of Entrepreneurial Development at IdeasLab, and Dr Rachel Hilliard, Senior Lecturer in the Department of Management at J.E. Cairnes School of Business, University of Galway.

MC for the evening is Paula Fitzsimons, the founder of Inspiring Women Entrepreneurs and national director of a range of business development initiatives including Going for Growth, Starting Strong, ACORNS and Back for Business.

The Galway event is the latest in a series of Inspiring Women Entrepreneurs events taking place across the country in 2024, including a number in Dublin that have already taken place. 

Some of the upcoming events will take place at Dundalk Institute of Technology on May 8, Irish Management Institute (IMI) on June 21, and the Institute of Chartered Accountants Ireland on June 26.

Key to the overall programme itself is the panel of Inspiring Women Entrepreneurs who have all volunteered their time and have been selected based on their professional experience, their backgrounds in corporate life and academia, and their experience building innovative companies across a range of sectors.

Besides those speaking on the 24th April, panel members include: Áine Kerr, co-founder of Kinzen; Áine Denn, co-founder of Altify; Andrea Doolan, co-founder and CEO of Atlantia Clinical Trials; Dr Anne Cusack, co-founder of Critical Healthcare; Dr Barbara Anne Murphy, Head of Equine Science at UCD and Chief Science Officer at Equilume; Dr Emmeline Hill, Professor School of Agriculture and Food Science at UCD and founder of Equinome; Fidelma McGuirk, Founder and CEO of Payslip; Jennifer Corley, founder of EquiTrace; and Leonora O’Brien, founder of Pharmapod.

Founder of Grá Chocolates, Grainne Mullins said:

“April 2024 marks exactly four years since the idea of Grá Chocolates was created from a simple idea in a small kitchen. Never in my wildest dreams could I have imagined the incredible success that Grá Chocolates has become. 

“I am delighted to share the Grá Chocolate’s story, the challenges, the triumphs, the moments of uncertainly and sheer joy. If my story can ignite an entrepreneurial flame in another, I would be delighted.”

Director of Entrepreneurial Development, University of Galway, Dr Natalie Walsh, said:

“At the University of Galway’s IdeasLab, we are proud to host the Inspiring Women Entrepreneurs event — a celebration and amplification of female entrepreneurs and leaders. More than just an event, this gathering serves as a catalyst that inspires women to envision and achieve great success.

“Across our ecosystem, our collective female-focussed programmes and initiatives have already made a significant impact by supporting women as they take their first entrepreneurial steps. We eagerly anticipate seeing more female entrepreneurs from the West rise and excel, supported by the Inspiring Women initiative.”

National Director of Inspiring Women Entrepreneurs, Paula Fitzsimons, said:

“The objective of this compelling and inspiring initiative is to increase the number of female- led innovative businesses of scale, focused on export markets. Through the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM) research, we know that more women in Ireland are aspiring to start new businesses and that the rate of early-stage female entrepreneurs that aspire for significant growth is also increasing. 

“Building on this fertile ground, we want to introduce the possibility of an entrepreneurial career to particular groups of high achieving women that may not have considered it previously and where we believe untapped, entrepreneurial potential lies.”

Log onto www.inspiringwomenentrepreneurs.com for more details.


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Steven Galvin

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