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The West of Ireland is witnessing a revolution in entrepreneurship, driven by the creativity, determination, and resilience of its female business leaders. As we celebrate National Women’s Enterprise Day, it is evident that empowering women entrepreneurs will not only benefit the individuals involved but will also contribute significantly to the broader economic and social fabric of the West of Ireland.

The Western Development Commission has long been a supporter of female entrepreneurship and recognises it as a vital catalyst for regional development and economic growth. This article will explore some of the female leaders that are working to build a stronger female led business ecosystem in the West of Ireland.


Gillian Buckley, Investment Manager, Western Development Commission

Gillian Buckley, Investment Fund Manager

In the realm of finance and investment, Gillian Buckley stands as a beacon of support for female entrepreneurs. As an Investment Fund Manager at the WDC, her commitment to fostering female entrepreneurship and bridging the gender gap in business is exemplary. Through her dedication, expertise, and tireless efforts, she has empowered countless women to turn their entrepreneurial dreams into successful ventures.

Gillian Buckley is an accomplished professional with extensive experience in the finance and investment sectors. Her journey began with a strong educational foundation, acquiring degrees in finance, business management, and economics. Over the years, she honed her skills and expertise, solidifying her position as an influential figure in the investment landscape.

Mary McKenna co-founder Awaken Hub
Mary McKenna co-founder Awaken Hub

Mary McKenna, Co-Founder of Awaken Hub

Supporting Gillian and the WDC Investment team is board member and entrepreneur Mary McKenna. Mary is a prominent angel investor and the visionary co-founder of Awaken Hub. With a passion for supporting innovative startups and emerging technologies, Mary has made significant contributions to the entrepreneurial ecosystem. Her expertise lies in identifying promising ventures and providing strategic guidance to help them thrive.

Mary’s journey in the world of startups began with her role as a successful angel investor, where she invested in numerous early-stage companies, fuelling their growth and success. Her keen eye for potential and a deep understanding of market trends have made her a sought-after advisor for aspiring entrepreneurs.

In addition to her venture investment activities, Mary McKenna co-founded Awaken Hub, a platform dedicated to fostering innovation and collaboration within the startup community for women founders across the island of Ireland. Awaken Hub serves as a hub for startups, providing a supportive environment for founders to connect, share ideas, and collaborate on projects that have the potential to disrupt industries and drive positive change.

Mary’s commitment to empowering entrepreneurs and nurturing ground breaking ideas has solidified her reputation as a driving force in the startup world. She continues to make a lasting impact by bridging the gap between investors and innovative startups, facilitating meaningful connections, and shaping the future of the entrepreneurial landscape.

photograph of Dr Catherine Caulfield
Dr Catherine Caulfield, CEO and Founder of Ovagen

Dr. Catherine Caulfield, CEO and co-founder of Ovagen

Dr. Catherine Caulfield, a trailblazing female entrepreneur, serves as the CEO and co-founder of Ovagen, a groundbreaking company located in Mayo, renowned as the world’s pioneer in producing germ-free eggs. Catherine is at the forefront of Ovagen’s operational development, employing her astute business acumen to guide the company from its early research stages to a pivotal role in commercialization. Recognising the strong business potential, Western Development Commission were an early stage investor in Ovagen and continues to support to company.

Prior to her journey with Ovagen, Catherine co-founded Biological-Laboratories Europe Limited (BioLabs), where she demonstrated exceptional leadership and vision. With an enthusiastic and dedicated team, Catherine played a vital role in propelling BioLabs forward. Over a remarkable 30-year tenure at BioLabs, she held various management positions, rising to the role of CEO, a position she held for 14 years. Under her guidance, BioLabs experienced an impressive 800% revenue growth. When the company was acquired in 2002, Catherine played a crucial role in seamlessly integrating the new structure, overseeing strategic, financial, and operational leadership.

Dr. Caulfield’s influence extends beyond her direct business ventures. She has held several significant board memberships, showcasing her dedication to promoting female leadership and entrepreneurship. Notably, she contributed her expertise to the Boards of Enterprise Ireland, The Irish National Accreditation Board (INAB), The National Standards Authority of Ireland (NSAI), The Irish Council for Science Technology and Innovation (ICSTI) and Croi Heart and Stroke Charity. In 2009, she earned a well-deserved appointment to the Governing Authority of the National University of Ireland, Galway. Catherine’s remarkable achievements in the field of natural science industries were acknowledged when she received NUI Galway’s prestigious Alumni Award for Natural Science in recognition of her demonstrated excellence.

The future is indeed promising, as these trailblazing women continue to carve a path of success for generations to come.