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An ideal world is one free of bias, stereotypes, and discrimination, and one that champions diversity, equality and inclusivity. Idealistic? Maybe, but impossible? Certainly not. It’s this global levelling of the playing field that International Women’s Day (IWD) highlights annually.

As Embrace Equity is the theme of International Women’s Day 2023, what better time to highlight the many ways that Connected Hubs support female entrepreneurs.

While equality in all its forms is undoubtedly essential, equity is the key. Equality gives each person or group of people the same resources or opportunities. Equity, on the other hand, recognises that each person has different circumstances, and allocates the precise resources and opportunities needed for them to reach an equal outcome.

Read on as we share just a few stories of female entrepreneurs in our network and how our hubs have been supporting them on their journey.  With over 300 hubs in our network and supports such as bespoke start-up programmes, collaborative work environments and inclusive facilities, we believe that hubs have a key role to play in delivering equity to women across Ireland.

Sarah Dullea, Sarah's Art of Beauty
Sarah Dullea, Sarah's Art of Beauty

Inclusivity at The Impact Hub @ Crann, Cork
A modern, fully-inclusive and accessible professional co-working space in Ovens, Ballincollig, The Impact Hub @ Crann was designed with the needs of every possible person in mind and demonstrates an ethos where everyone is welcomed, included and valued.

This inclusive environment is something beauty salon owner Sarah Dullea has experienced first-hand. Sarah, who has spina bifida, had previously worked in a number of salons that could not facilitate her wheelchair. “The Crann centre has been great,” says Sarah. “They have been so supportive. Every detail, including exactly how I wanted the layout to be, was taken into account.”

Sarah’s Art of Beauty is an accessible and inclusive space, open to everyone with full physical ability and limited physical ability, such as wheelchair users. “The space makes it easier for me to work with my clients and provides a comfortable and safe experience for both me and my clients. There are also plenty of accessible parking spaces.”

Sinéad Ryan, Little Fitness
Sinéad Ryan, Little Fitness

Supporting charities and social enterprises at the Social Innovation Hub, Ballymun

At co-working hub Innovate Communities in Ballymun, a particular welcome and support is given to social entrepreneurs and enterprises, start-ups and NGOs. These clientele all have one thing in common – they create positive change in their communities. Not only does this hub support female founders, many of those founders go on to help create equity for others.

Founder of social enterprise Little Fitness and hub-user Sinéad Ryan, is one such person. A fitness programme that’s inclusive of all children and families living in emergency accommodation, family hubs and wherever children may come up against barriers within their community, Sinéad teaches fitness classes in an educational way using different themes, skills and games each week.

Bringing Little Fitness programmes to a number of centres across Dublin, the enterprise is currently participating in Incubate for Growth, a 10-month programme based in the Ballymun hub.  ”The mentoring, on a personal and business level, has been pitched right for me and helped me navigate the social enterprise space.”

Cynthia Baloula, CB Media
Cynthia Baloula, CB Media

Fresh starts at gteic Gaoth Dobhair agus gteic Béal an Mhuirthead

For a Dublin-based Parisienne and a Dubai-based Irish expat, two hubs in Gaoth Dobhair (Gweedore) and Béal an Mhuirthead (Belmullet) became great catalysts for change.

French woman Cynthia Baloula left Dublin City at the end of the first Covid lockdown. Settling on beautiful Mayo for a fresh start with her husband and one-year-old, the Gaeltacht hub gteic @ Béal an Mhuirthead with its hot desks, co-location and office spaces was just what Cynthia and her business needed. She is Managing Director at CB Media, a video production agency and video production coaching service.  “On arrival at our new home, I was pleasantly surprised to discover the gteic, it was the perfect place and I benefited from funding which enabled me to recruit two local employees, and meeting business owners and employees from other companies enabled me to create friendships and collaborations.”

Helen Burke, Teambase Ireland
Helen Burke, Teambase Ireland

For Helen Burke, the Donegal hub gteic @ Gaoth Dobhair was a real find after moving back to the area from Dubai with her family in tow. “Meeting the team at gteic has been a game-changer for me. I never imagined that I could be an entrepreneur.”  Helen initially had the germ of an idea for a business, “when I talked to the team here, they encouraged me to go for it. They told me about supports I could get through Údarás na Gaeltachta. I applied for a feasibility study and was delighted to get it.”  Now Helen’s the founder of Teambase Ireland, an InsurTech strategic partner focusing on insurance and employee benefits, digital products and solutions, and works a few days a week from the coastal Donegal hub. ”Without the team here at gteic, I wouldn’t have had the confidence or experience to follow this dream. My long-term goal is to create jobs in the local area and to bring economic value through my business.”

Liswa McDonald and China Soribe-Nwosu; Umoja linn
Liswa McDonald and China Soribe-Nwosu, Umoja linn

Fostering diversity at Dogpatch Labs

Renowned for its award-winning diversity and inclusion policy, Dublin’s Dogpatch Labs focuses on using its platform to elevate the incredible work done by those supporting underestimated groups – whether ethnic or racial minorities, young people, women or people with disabilities.

“Being connected to Dogpatch has strengthened our business network which at times has been an excellent source of new perspectives and ideas” say Liswa McDonald and China Soribe-Nwosu, founders of Umoja linn, a digital platform formalising the African fashion experience. Umoja linn have been through hub through programmes such as the APNI Lion’s Den Competition (of which they were finalists) and the NDRC Pre-Accelerator Programme.

Ashley Shack, Dogpatch Labs
Ashley Shack, Dogpatch Labs

Speaking about equity and what it really boils down to for women, Ashley Shak, Senior Programme Manager for Sustainability at Dogpatch Labs says: ‘‘Embracing equity’ means acknowledging the different experiences of women that may influence their ability to succeed and grow in their professional career’, the best way that hubs support embracing equity is by offering women a hybrid work arrangement. When women are given both flexibility and autonomy over what their workday looks like, this gives them the opportunity to see to other responsibilities that fall outside of their main job, all without jeopardising their career trajectory.”

Having worked for the UN during Covid in regions such as South Africa, Ashley is passionate about bringing her experience of sustainability to support start-ups in Ireland.

Ana Krys United for Changes & Providnyk
Ana Krys, United for Changes & Providnyk

Anna Krys, Co-Founder of United for Changes & Providnyk – an interactive map for people with mobility limitations in Ukraine, knows all about flexibility. Having spent time between Ukraine and Dublin from 2015 onward she is now back in Dublin and based in Dogpatch Labs due to the conflict in her home country. Anna brings her passion for equity with her. She is one the driving forces behind the ‘Global Inclusion Online Forum’ who’s mission is to unite people passionate about diversity & inclusion and to prove that DEI are tools for businesses and societies’ development and catalysts for growth.

Jenna Farrell, Scopey
Jenna Farrell, Scopey

New remote working supports provide opportunities in rural Longford

In Co. Longford, the Co:Worx hub is leading the charge for flexible and remote work by running Ireland’s first blended remote working training course with Grow Remote.

One person who has experienced all that this Edgeworthstown hub has to offer is Ukrainian children’s writer, poet, songwriter, journalist, translator and owner of Little Beetle Press publishing house and creative agency, Halyna Budilova.  Based in Longford since the war forced her to flee Ukraine, the hub has offered Halyna some professional and personal solace.  The author cites the fantastic people and connections she has made through the hub as hugely important, “as when I arrived, I knew nobody in the publishing sphere.”

“Clare put me in touch with all these great contacts including the Local Enterprise Office. All of a sudden, I’m in New Frontiers Phase 2, the NDRC Pre-Accelerator programme and working on Scopey full time. The dream is becoming a closer reality every day and the first version is going to be launched soon.”

Tréasa Fitzgibbon, Career Activist
Tréasa Fitzgibbon, Career Activist
Assumpta Gallagher
Assumpta Gallagher, Best Practice
Niamh Ryle, HomeCheck
Niamh Ryle, HomeCheck

Empowering entrepreneurs at iHub Mayo & Galway

The Empower Growth programmes, which support female entrepreneurs in the West and Northwest region, champion high-potential entrepreneurs and innovative business start-ups and scale-ups. Delivered out of ATU iHub Mayo and its sister hub, ATU iHub Galway City, it aims to promote and fast-track female entrepreneurship.

Career coach and strategist Tréasa Fitzgibbon joined the Castlebar hub after participating in the Empower Start Programme during 2020-21. Tréasa found that the programme helped facilitate vital introductions to other people working from the busy Mayo hub. Singing the praises of the hub environment when it comes to collaboration, social interaction and peer-to-peer learning, “from a personal perspective, working as a ‘solopreneur’ can be an isolating role, especially if you work from home full-time” says the Career Activist. “The iHub has allowed me to create a network of individuals with totally different businesses – this also allows me to learn from others.”

Another Empower programme alumnus and property survey specialist with her business HomeCheckNiamh Ryle found being part of ATU iHub Galway City inspiring and motivating, citing business supports and mentoring as a real advantage.

Owner-founder of Best Practice, a consultancy and training business working with healthcare professionals, Asumpta Gallagher completed both the Empower Start and Growth programmes.  “I have enjoyed many benefits of being connected to the iHub and receive continued support from the Empower Programme which I completed in 2021. I have made some excellent connections from this that continue to support me in my business. As a client of the iHub, I got access to an excellent intern in January 2022 who was a Business Systems student in ATU, I have since employed her part-time as she completes her final year in college.”

Hubs thinking outside the box in Wexford

When The Hub @ Bree was approached by Elizabeth Reville of Modern Day Curves for business support, they quickly thought outside the box. Elizabeth’s new retail business needed an opportunity to find a market, but as a startup couldn’t afford to take on a lease for a normal retail outlet. The team at Bree Hub pivoted quickly and offered one of their units as a short-term pop-up shop. Elizabeth now has a chance to establish her business in a town centre location with great footfall.  She says ‘Being part of the Bree Community Hub Centre has given me a great opportunity for more Customer footfall, being in such a great location there is always lots of traffic in the area also. The local community have been very supportive also which helps immensely with exposure to further possible clientelle.’