EMPOWER, the women’s entrepreneurship programme delivered in GMIT’s Innovation Hubs to women in Galway, Mayo and Roscommon, has been allocated over €300,000 in funding to extend delivery of the successful programme to counties Sligo, Donegal and Leitrim.

The funding is part of an overall €1.5m budget allocation to promote gender equality and migrant integration announced earlier this week by the Minister for Justice and Equality Charlie Flanagan and David Stanton, TD, Minister of State at the Department of Justice and Equality with responsibility for Integration, Immigration and Equality), for a total of five female entrepreneurship projects providers (EMPOWER being one) across the country.

EMPOWER is currently delivered in the west of Ireland by GMIT iHubs and is managed by Maria Staunton who says: “This new funding will mean that EMPOWER will be able to increase its footprint to include Sligo, Donegal and Leitrim. It means we can now also deliver this innovative programme to women through our partner’s institutes in the Connacht Ulster Alliance (CUA) – IT Sligo and Letterkenny IT.

“We set up EMPOWER back in 2017 in response to demand in the region and have since been inundated with requests from women seeking to undertake this programme. Sixty-four businesses have been set up by women who completed the course. 146 people are employed full-time in these businesses and seven part-time. 94% of the programme participants have a third level qualification. We therefore decided to resubmit another application for EMPOWER and were awarded with the funding. We are looking forward to rolling it out to women from the three additional counties.

The EMPOWER Programme has two components. “EMPOWER Start” is designed to test innovative ideas for market acceptance. It is for females with an early-stage idea or in business less than one year.

This free programme is delivered part-time over 12 weeks by start-up experts. This allows participants to balance their family commitments while at the same time planning and developing their new business. The current programme rotates between Galway, Mayo and Roscommon, and now is set to extend to Sligo, Leitrim and Donegal. Learning is classroom-based. The opportunity is to test startup idea(s) for customer acceptance.

EMPOWER Growth is focused on women who are already in business (2 years +) and are now looking to scale and grow by providing support from peers, mentors and role models. The programme will be based on peer to peer learning and delivered by industry experts. It has been delivered over 11 half days on Saturday, once a month.


Caitriona Watters-Crehan, Founder of PrepareMe, EMPOWER Start 2017-2018, says: “The Empower Start programme allowed me to access supports and information to take my idea to production and begin testing and improving the concept. It opened my eyes to the importance of laying strong foundations in order to establish and scale. It also gave me an opportunity to explore my own resilience and to have the extremely valuable support of like-minded women. It was a thoroughly enjoyable programme and certainly paved the way for me to have a successful application for New Frontiers Phase 2 which I am now on. The support of my peers in Empower and Maria continues to be a hugely beneficial outlet to both me and my company.”

Niamh Ryle, Founder of Homecheck.ie, EMPOWER Growth 2017-2018, commented: “I found the EMPOWER GROWTH programme to be a fantastic experience. Goal setting at each monthly meeting helped me to focus and made me accountable for my own progress. Speakers were interesting, relevant and inspiring and Maria, our co-ordinator, was so helpful, creating connections for me to relevant people and businesses. It was also great to be in a group of like-minded ladies who were a source of inspiration, wisdom, encouragement and fun. Thanks, Maria, Declan and all the ladies on EMPOWER GROWTH 2017/2018.”

For further information and to apply for EMPOWER, please email, ihubmayo@gmit.ie or telephone 094-9043198

Galway-Mayo IT, IT Sligo and Letterkenny IT are working towards becoming a Technological University for the west and northwest of Ireland.