Women from across the west and northwest attended a celebratory event in Salthill last Friday (23 September 2022) marking the completion of EMPOWER II, the female entrepreneurship programme delivered by Atlantic Technological University (ATU) Innovation Hubs (iHubs).

Chaired by Susan Hayes Culleton CFA, better known as ‘The Positive Economist’, the event was attended by female founders who completed both the START and GROWTH programmes.

Keynote speakers were Galway natives Ailbhe and Isabel Keane of Izzy Wheels, an Irish company creating stylish wheelchair wheel covers. The sisters have won over 20 international awards including the EU Prize for Women Innovators 2021, Forbes 30 Under 30, and the Accenture Leaders of Tomorrow Award. Ailbhe Keane spoke about Izzy Wheel’s journey to success and shared valuable insights into life as female founder. Isabel Keane spoke about working with a disability and gave advice to employers on the language to use and actions to take to support people with disabilities in the workplace.

Other speakers were Nadine McCarthy, Transformative Leadership Coach, Niamh Ryle, HomeCheck and Catherine O’Grady Powers, Glen Keen Estate. Both Niamh and Catherine are past participants of the EMPOWER I cycle who now run successful national and international businesses.

Attendees enjoyed a workshop called “Theory U” delivered by Nadine McCarthy, encouraging them to reflect on the past and plan for the future of their businesses. The attendees put in practice the pitching techniques and networking learned on the programme and were reminded of the importance of ongoing collaboration and mutual support for women in business

Sandra Divilly Nolan, Programme Manager for the EMPOWER II cycle, says: “Our recent event in Salthill was a celebration of our inspiring female founders and all they have achieved in business to date. The guest speakers educated and inspired our attendees. It also provided an opportunity for the participants to network with their peers and make valuable connections for the future.

“The EMPOWER programme was established by Maria Staunton and it has been my privilege to deliver the second EMPOWER cycle with Maria and the team as we helped these female entrepreneurs to flourish over the past two years. We have had such a diverse range of businesses take part in each programme and it has been just wonderful to see the talented participants grow in confidence as they reach professional milestones.

“The EMPOWER programme is a free initiative run by the Atlantic Technological University (ATU) Innovation Hubs that aims to promote and fast-track female entrepreneurship. It is open to applicants from the counties of Galway, Mayo, Roscommon, Sligo, Leitrim, and Donegal and is a strong source of economic growth for the region.

Over 450 female founders applied for 65 places on the EMPOWER II cycle, those who completed it travelled to Galway to celebrate the completion of the programme”.

“The importance of the EMPOWER programme, not only to these women as individuals, but to the economic future of the entire Western Region is abundantly clear, and I sincerely hope that the funding application for the third cycle will be successful.”

EMPOWER delivers two distinct programmes. START is designed for those with an idea who are seeking to validate their business concept while GROWTH is for established entrepreneurs wishing to scale and grow.

Funding for the EMPOWER II programme was granted by the Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth and the European Social Fund Agency and an application is to be made for funding to advance a third cycle of this incredibly beneficial programme.

L to R: Back Row: Nadine McCarthy, NMC Coaching, Dublin, Maria Staunton, Manager of the ATU iHub Mayo, Susan HayesCulleton, The Positive Economist, Cork, Ailbhe Keane, Izzy Wheels, Galway, Brian Reynolds, EMPOWER Business Mentor, Mayo
Front Row: Declan Droney, Business Consultant, Galway, Isabel Keane, Izzy Wheels, Galway, Sandra Divilly Nolan, EMPOWER II Programme Manager, ATU iHub, Galway