Female entrepreneurs and budding businesswomen from across Waterford are being encouraged to look to the future and register for this year’s National Women’s Enterprise Day after the line up for the event was announced.  The Local Enterprise Office (LEO) initiative, now in its 15th year, will be hosted by founder and broadcaster Aine Kerr.

Traditionally National Women’s Enterprise Day has taken place locally with LEO Waterford putting on events for female businesswomen across the county and those who may have a business idea they want to get off the ground.  However, the event went online in 2020 due to restrictions and will take place online again this year. 

The free event, titled “Build The Future”, takes place online on the 7th October and will feature some of Ireland’s best known female entrepreneurs including the likes of Aimee Connolly of Sculpted by Aimee, Rachel Doyle of The Arboretum and Sharon Keegan of Peachy Lean, who was recently supported on Dragon’s Den UK.

Tracy Cullen is co-founder and owner of HandHeld Technologies in Waterford. HandHeld Technologies provides high tech software systems for mobile workers in the food and beverage production, waste management and medical sectors.

Tracy explains why she feels NWED is so important, “It is events like this which inspire new start-ups. By listening to inspirational stories and people, entrepreneurs realise that it is possible to take control and run your own business.

 Tracy Cullen Handheld

At the Web Summit in 2019, we were inspired by AWS Director Werner Vogels who explained that in the future business to business software would be developed as bundles of features for clients to choose from, rather than complete linear products.  Our eyes were opened, and we could see the future of our business, but we had just spent 18 months developing a cloud-based offering.

We started HandHeld Technologies in early 2018 and had invested a lot of time and money already. Then the pandemic hit, and we were losing clients by May 2020. Most of whom were in the food service sector and whose supply chain had been shut down.  That’s a real threat to the survival of an early-stage business.

It was then we saw the pandemic as an opportunity and took inspiration from Vogels, and started from scratch rebuilding our entire product, delivery process and cost structure.

Now we’re in the process of re branding, establishing a new digital marketing and trialling process with the help of the Local Enterprise Office.  We feel optimistic for the first time in a long time about where we're going how we're going to get there.

Throughout this whole adventure both my husband and I faced considerable personal health issues, but because it is a family business we just had to keep going. We started to take every day as a new day and every set back as a potential opportunity and really celebrate our wins.  Although the consumer to business landscape is growing rapidly it has taken some time for the business to business landscape that we operate in to gain confidence.

While the Pandemic payment support from the state helped keep our doors open, it was the Priming Grant support from the LEO that allowed us to make the strategic decisions that would enable us to grow our business. We hope in the near future to repay the faith that's been shown in our business by becoming a European leader with global ambitions in the portable data field.”

The day’s programme will cover a whole host of areas on how to build the future of a business covering topics like, how to get started, internationalization, finding new markets, trading effectively online, sustainability and innovation.  This will be coupled with breakout rooms for networking and a host of one-to-one advice clinics for any business issues. 

New figures released by the Local Enterprise Offices, who are funded by the Government of Ireland and supported by Enterprise Ireland and the Local Authorities, have shown that the amount of women engaging in entrepreneurship and business supports continues to rise. 

In 2020 over 47,000 women engaged in training and upskilling with their Local Enterprise Office.  This was a huge jump on 2019 as 23,466 female entrepreneurs took part in training that year.  In 2020, 50% more females engaged in training and upskilling with their Local Enterprise Office than their male counterparts (30,000). 

Jacqui Gaule, Senior Enterprise Development Officer said; “National Women’s Enterprise Day has always been a day of celebration of the very best in female entrepreneurship and highlighting the strength of that community.  This year is no different, but we are very much looking forward.  How can we help female entrepreneurs in Waterford sustain and develop their businesses and ideas going into the future?

“The last 18 months have created huge problems for businesses all across the county but also great opportunities and businesses have to grasp those.  NWED is going to look at all those areas where you can build your business for the future, what areas you need to look at and what supports are there to help you do that.  Everyone who registers and attends on the day will not only spend it with a fantastic community of female entrepreneurs and experts from around the country, but they will learn how to build their business or business idea for the future.”  

Other participants on the day include Gerry Duffy who will be conducting an energizing session, Jenny Melia and Sheelagh Daly from Enterprise Ireland on Internationalisation and New Markets, Entrepreneurs Academy’s Noel Davidson on creating connections, Designer Aoife McNamara on starting a business and a host of others covering all sorts of topics from finance to trading online.  

Those looking to attend National Women’s Enterprise Day can find more information and register for free here and join the conversation online using the hashtag #NWED