More than 380 events took place around Ireland last week to celebrate Local Enterprise Week 2017, with 14,500 small business owners and aspiring entrepreneurs in attendance.
I was lucky enough to attend three of those events. On Monday I made my way to the picturesque Springfort Hall, just outside of Mallow, for the ‘Starting Local, Growing Global’ Women in Business Conference. The event promised ‘real stories’ from six female entrepreneurs, and it certainly didn’t disappoint.
The story of health food company Cool Beans was delivered by co-founder Sarah O’Connor who kickstarted the morning by getting all those in attendance to remove their shoes and partake in a few moments of mindfulness.
Sarah’s story of ups, downs and more than a sprinkle of hard work was emulated in the lively panel discussion which followed, made up of ceramic artist Siobhain Steele, eQuiddity founder Ingrid De Doncker, Caroline Workman of Hederman Smoked Salmon and Louise Ryan of Ball & Socket.
After some informal networking – and much-welcome coffee – Noelle O’Connor, CEO of Tan Organic, took to the stage to share her story. And what a story it was. Noelle’s raw honesty captured the room as she took us on her awe-inspiring story of outstanding successes and heartbreaking defeats. What a journey, what a business woman.
My next Enterprise Week stop was at Fermoy for a joint Local Enterprise Office and NRG Networking Group hosted ‘Speed Networking’ event, where we were warmly welcomed by Joan Kelleher of the LEO Cork North and West and Clodagh Glavin, Chairperson of NRG Networking Group.
J.J. O’Connell of Plato Business Support & Development Network gave the gathering a great talk on effective networking, following which we engaged in some rigorous speed networking! I’m delighted to say I left with some useful contacts and some promising leads.
After a quick dip back into the day job, I made my way to my second event of the day at Cork’s Institute of Technology – A seminar by the MA in Public Relations with New Media class entitled ‘Smart Communications Using New Media’. The seminar formed part of CIT’s Innovation Week.
I must confess that after an early start and long day, not to mention the rush-hour evening traffic and relentless March downpours, I was possibly craving my bed more than the CIT Nimbus Centre’s seminar room by the time I made my arrival. However, after a quick coffee pick-me-up, I took my seat in anticipation for the excellent line-up of speakers.
The first speakers of the night were Brendan Keary Jnr. and Olan Hodnett from Kearys Motor Group, one of Ireland’s largest motor dealerships. They talked us through their innovative use of social media as a promotional and marketing tool, showing some great examples of video content.
Interestingly, Kearys social media focus for the next six months will be on growing their profile on Instagram. A clever move by the group considering Instagram is now Ireland’s fastest growing social media platform with 28% of the population having accounts.
Next up (and no stranger to a stage) was Rebecca Kemp from the Rose of Tralee International Festival management team. It was interesting to hear Rebecca speak about how such a traditional festival had embraced new media to reach new audiences.
Rebecca was followed by Editor for Landmark Digital, Jill O’Sullivan, who manages the digital teams of Breakingnews.ie and the Irish Examiner. Jill explained the impact of new media on journalism and in particular how difficult it was to re-establish the bottom line in terms of advertising and revenue.
The wonderful Gina London was the final speaker for the evening, sharing her policy of ‘Go, Grow and Show’ in building communications in business. Gina is an Emmy-award winning former CNN Journalist and International Communications Consultant.
Now based in Cork, Gina helps businesses to craft digital techniques for effective communication. She believes today’s executives need to connect by telling their stories online and leading by example. You cannot underestimate the power of showing personality, she claims. Coming from someone who captivated the audience from the moment she took the microphone, it’s hard to argue.
As I made my way back out into the cold dreary night, although tired, I felt a sense of excitement about the future of my business. As a social media consultant, I spend a lot of my days trying to promote (and sometimes, convince) businesses of the virtues of investing in new media communications. Many are still dubious, some even think it’s ‘just another fad’.
After having the pleasure of spending a few hours of my week with a mixture of innovative, hard-working and awe-inspiring entrepreneurs, I felt recharged and invigorated. To see how brands, such as the Rose of Tralee, have adapted and utilised new media to move entire organisations into the 21st Century, gives a sense of how far we have come as a society.
The moral of my Enterprise Week is that whether we like it or not, or whether we feel comfortable with it or not, technology and communication methods have changed. New media is here to stay, only to be replaced by even newer media. Businesses only have one choice to make today and that’s to embrace it and continue the march forward – because if you’re not moving forward….
Karen Twomey is a freelance PR & Social Media Consultant who specialises in online campaigns and social media training. For further details check out her website www.communicationshub.ie