International Women’s Day 2021: Women who mean business

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Today of all days, it’s so important to shine a spotlight on women achieving excellence. Whether that’s in the fields of art, technology, business, sport or whatever your occupation, female achievement is always a cause for celebration. The Irish women in business that we have highlighted have embodied this year’s theme, #ChooseToChallenge and have risen to the top and conquered every hurdle.

Without female voices, contributions and ideas, we only see half of what we as people can do. Women bring a totally different perspective to the table and our voices should be valued. Check out some of these Irish women in business who have been empowered to share their stories this International Women’s Day.

Jennifer Rock, Founder and CEO of The Skin Nerd and Skingredients

Jennifer Rock is an award-winning skin tutor, dermal facialist and bestselling author, and the CEO and founder of the multi-award-winning Skingredients® skincare range, The Skin Nerd® educational skin platform and Skin Nerd Network® online skin consultations and store.
‘International Women's Day is a day to celebrate the women in business and the women who support them. I believe it's integral to not reflect solely for one day but to allow International Women's Day to enable further conversations and inspire networks of support. Women in business are on a similar mission and will face some of the same hurdles and having a sounding board and a space to rejoice in each other's success and learnings are invaluable and incredibly empowering.’ – Jennifer

Margaret O’Rourke, Founder of MoMuse

Margaret O’Rourke, one of AVOCA’s designers and the founder of MoMuse, a Dublin-based jewellery brand that embodies the ideals of modernist design, believes International Women’s Day is a time to focus on supporting women:

“Many of my friends are women in business, and I believe in the saying ‘behind every successful woman is herself’.” Margaret advises women going into business to conduct their market research and find their niche in that market by taking time to understand their customer and their needs. She says: “Delivering a quality product and service is essential to building a sustainable business. For me, very strong customer service and having a dedicated and trustworthy team behind me is one of the pillars to supporting my business.”

Most importantly though, Margaret says to surround yourself with good people, be prepared to work hard, and to believe in yourself.

Maria Reidy, Managing Director at Maria Reid events and founder of Signature Rentals

Maria Reidy Signature Events is a full-service event management company that offers a bespoke service for clients including tech giants, global consumer brands and private clients.

‘International Women’s Day is a great opportunity to raise awareness about the need for gender equality and the unconscious biases many of us have when it comes to gender. As a female CEO, I recognise the need for women – especially those just entering the workforce – to have female role models and see that leadership roles are obtainable.’ – Maria

Virtue Shine, Designer, Emerald and Wax Designs

Emerald &Wax specialises in wearable art and slow fashion. Virtue’s ‘Fall in Love’ collection is inspired by ‘people, places, shapes and patterns that I have fallen in love with throughout my life so far. One example is the Odeley Kimono coat, named after my grandmother who inspired my love and passion for African prints. The names of the pieces are some very personal and full of memories. There’s also of course my love for bold prints and patterns that brings a bit of playfulness, joy and originality to the designs.’

‘These wax prints are a little bit of my childhood that I carry with me always, and a piece of my Ghana. I draw on this Ghanaian upbringing to bring the art and colour of traditional wax prints to European design, delivering what I like to describe as wearable art for today’s confident woman and also for women looking to bring colour into their everyday lives and wardrobes.’

Now living in Galway, on the West Coast of Ireland, she finds herself driven to design and produce each garment so that it is the essence of the Emerald & Wax brand.

Keira and Dairine Kennedy, Founders of KDK

The sister duo behind KDK luxury scarfs established in 2012, Keira and Dairine Kennedy shared some of their insights for women thinking of setting up their own business. Their key advice would be to “start small and get feedback from family and friends. Don’t wait for everything to be perfectly lined up, it never works out like that! Just start.”

Today, KDK are known for their colourful and luxurious cashmere and modal scarves inspired by everyday lives and their surroundings, featuring Irish and global hot spots, with patterns and prints to add a pop of colour to your outfit.

Erica Sheehan, Founder of Homespun

Erica Sheehan is the Dublin-based entrepreneur behind the award-winning Irish health food brand, Homespun. Food has always been her true passion, so turning this passion to a healthy food business was natural. Speaking on her business, Erica says: “Homespun literally spun out of my kitchen, hence the name. I love wholefoods and combining nutritious ingredients to make great tasting products with innovative twists. Healthy eating doesn’t mean a compromise on taste; everything we make is really wholesome but tastes indulgent.”

Erica’s Homespun products are growing, and she is constantly adding to the product range, including the recent launch of the Chicory Root Syrup, a low sugar alternative to honey that is also plant-based and high in prebiotic fibre.

Speaking on the importance of having a supportive network, Erica feels very fortunate to love her work and to be part of a tribe of supportive women in her personal and professional life every day, saying “there is an incredible community out there which female entrepreneurs can tap into.”

Florence Olufemi-Ojo, Lifestyle blogger, founder M.I.O prints

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Established in November 2018, M.I.O- Prints is a lifestyle and fashion brand with a focus on bold and colourful prints.

In staying true to her roots, she chose African prints popularly known as Ankara and Kente. As well as hair bonnets and headwraps, some of their products include a selection of robes, fans and aprons.

They are passionate about natural hair care and skincare, with most of their products either being lined or full satin materials.

Sinead De hOra, Award-Winning Intuitive Specialist

Sinead is a multi-award-winning Intuitive Specialist, Author and creator of Droplets Podcast and founder of treatment creations. As seen in Vogue, Tatler and ELLE magazine.
I have the power to speak my truth, to share a message of healing, intuition and love. A message that was masked and suppressed for generations. Today, I celebrate all of the women who have gone before me that have cleared this path so that the pure message can finally come through.’ – Sinead

Charlene Flanagan and Niamh Ryan, Founders of Ella & Jo Cosmetics

"For me its a chance for women to stand in the spotlight & be recognised for all of the amazing things they contribute to society across so many industries and areas. A chance to highlight the silent heroes that make such a huge impact in the areas they work & live. A showcase for the girls of tomorrow that whatever you can dream you can be." – Niamh

"International Women's day for me is choosing always to uplift and inspire and proactively go out of my way to lift other women up, to challenge how they see themselves, how they speak about themselves, and what they see as possible for themselves, paving the way for future female generations like my 3-year-old daughter Anna." – Charlene

Sharon Keegan Founder and CEO of the award-winning Peachylean.com

An entrepreneurial leader with 20 years of management and sales experience, she manages marketing advertising and retail businesses.
"This International women’s day, 2021, will be even more special. A global crisis has magnified in abundance the power of the female workforce and can give us such great inspiration to celebrate women and female leaders as heroes. To think on IWD last year we had no idea how much we would be tested as mothers, daughters, sisters, colleagues and friends. As women we stepped up, 85% of us taking the hit on home-schooling and childcare duty’s stepping away from our roles and earnings for the greater good." – Sharon

Barbara Paldus, CEO Codex Beauty and Tracey Ryan, MD & Master Formulator at Codex Beauty Europe.

Codex Beauty is a global collective of beauty brands founded by Barbara Paldus with the aim of bringing a unique, curated collection of the very best beauty products from around the world to a conscious and skin savvy consumer. Tracey Ryan is now both the European General Manager for Codex Beauty and the master formulator for The Bia Collection.
“IWD for me is a day to pause, celebrate what it means to be a woman, reflect on the achievements of previous generations that allow me the opportunities of today, and dream the future that I can help build for the next generations.” – Barb Paldus
“International Women’s Day for me is both a celebration of the achievements of women and a reminder that there is still work to do to fight gender inequality worldwide.” – Tracey Ryan

Valerie Osborne, Advanced Skincare Specialist and Owner of Elysium Day Spa, Moycullen

With over 25 years’ experience in advanced aesthetic skincare, Valerie is one of the most trusted skincare specialists in Ireland.
"A global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women’… However for me it more about my community and the amazing business women that I am surrounded by on a daily basis. We have a core group of women in business in Moycullen who collectively support each other’s efforts and where possible share collaborations based on a foundation of shared purpose, trust and appreciation. To me, it is about support and doing what we can to provide a platform to help forge positivity and impact positive change for women." – Valerie

Janna Ronert, CEO & Founder of IMAGE Skincare/Hush & Hush

In an industry complicated by unnecessary chemicals, IMAGE Skincare founder Janna Ronert set out to create products powered by smart botanicals and high percentages of safe, proven active ingredients – something she couldn’t find on the market. As an aesthetician battling rosacea, Janna believed that all women deserve simplicity, value and results when it comes to their skincare – and deserve their best skin possible. She also put her knowledge and research of ageing, skincare, beauty and wellness to formulate Hush & Hush, a line of luxury nutraceutical and healthy living products.
Today, the IMAGE CEO is a mother of twins, a public service advocate, and an international health and wellness speaker who inspires women around the world with her passion, dynamism and leadership

Samantha Sweet, MarComms Director and Co-Founder

Samantha Sweet has championed the nail industry since her teens! Having proudly represented (and loved) CND™ for almost 30 years, Sweet Squared was firmly founded with all the values taught to her through the Nordstrom CND™ Family.

“There’s no better moment than right now, to be a woman in business.  It is hugely important to honour women that are inspiring others, through strength and passion.  It’s a privilege to enjoy and forge ahead what we do on a daily basis in business; to do it with fun, passion, meaning, inspiration and in a healthy, positive way. To mentor others is a joy and a necessity so that they too have the confidence to walk their own path and find their own destiny!”

Vanessa Doyle, Designer at AVOCA

Speaking on what inspires her daily, AVOCA designer, Vanessa Doyle, says: “As a creative, I'm truly grateful for the inspiration that surrounds me in The Mill in AVOCA Village. I can see why the Wynne sisters loved the place so much! There is colour everywhere, from the red kites in the sky to the misty valley way down low, with hints of spring peeking through.”

In the early 1900’s, The Mill at AVOCA was given a new lease of life by the Wynne Sisters of Co. Wicklow. They bought the business and introduced the use of vibrant colours and new weaving patterns. The sister’s creation of signature colour lines is still the brand’s signature today.

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