Mayo women entrepreneurs attend EMPOWER II closing event

Attending the EMPOWER II Closing Session were, from left, Helen Nolan, Spraoi agus Spórt, Donegal, Denise Rocks, Little Green Growers, Galway, Asumpta Gallagher, Best Practice, Galway, Rita Oates, Rita Oates Artist, Roscommon, Suzanne Carney, Anatomy Physiotherapy, Mayo, and Emer Flannery, Kocoono, Mayo. These founders have completed the EMPOWER GROWTH 2020/2021 program. Photo: Mike Shaughnessy

WOMEN from across the West and North West attended a ceremony in Salthill that marked the completion of EMPOWER II, the female entrepreneurship program offered 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 had completed both the START and GROWTH programs.

Keynote speakers were Galway natives Ailbhe and Isabel Keane from Izzy Wheels, an Irish company that makes stylish wheelchair wheel covers. The sisters have won over 20 international awards.

Ailbhe Keane spoke about Izzy Wheel’s journey to success and shared valuable insights into life as a founder. Isabel Keane spoke about working with a disability and gave advice to employers on language to use and measures to support people with disabilities in the workplace.

Other speakers included Nadine McCarthy, Transformative Leadership Coach, Niamh Ryle, HomeCheck and Catherine O’Grady Powers, Glen Keen Estate, Louisburgh. Both Niamh and Catherine are former EMPOWER I cycle participants who now run successful national and international companies.

Attendees enjoyed a workshop entitled Theory U, presented by Nadine McCarthy, which encouraged them to reflect on the past and plan for the future of their business. Participants put into practice the pitching and networking techniques learned in the program and were reminded of the importance of continued collaboration and mutual support for women in business.

At the EMPOWER II closing event, from left, were Sandra Divilly Nolan, EMPOWER II Program Manager, ATU iHub, Galway, Catherine O’Grady Power, Glen Keen Estate, Mayo, Maria Staunton, ATU iHub Mayo Manager, and Niamh Ryle, HomeCheck, Galway. Photo: Mike Shaughnessy

Sandra Divilly Nolan, Program Manager for the EMPOWER II cycle, said: “Our event was a celebration of our inspirational female founders and all they have achieved in the business to date. The guest speakers informed and inspired our participants. It also provided attendees with the opportunity to network with like-minded people and forge valuable connections for the future.

“The EMPOWER program was created by Maria Staunton and I was honored to run the second EMPOWER cycle with Maria and the team as we have helped these women entrepreneurs thrive over the past two years. We had such a diverse range of companies participating in each program and it was just wonderful to see the talented participants grow in confidence as they reach professional milestones.”

She continued, “The EMPOWER program is a free initiative from the Innovation Hubs at Atlantic Technological University (ATU) that aims to promote and accelerate female entrepreneurship. Open to applicants from counties Galway, Mayo, Roscommon, Sligo, Leitrim and Donegal, it is a powerful source of economic growth for the region.

“Over 450 female founders have applied for 65 places in the EMPOWER II cycle and those who have completed it have traveled to Galway to celebrate the completion of the programme.

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


EMPOWER supplies two different programs. START is for those who have an idea and want to validate their business concept, while GROWTH is for established entrepreneurs looking to scale and grow.

Funding for the EMPOWER II program has been granted by the Department for Children, Equality, Disability, Inclusion and Youth and the European Social Fund Agency and an application for funding is needed to move forward with a third cycle of this incredibly useful programme.

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