The second cohort of women entrepreneurs on the EMPOWER Start Programme in GMIT iHubs marked their completion of the course by taking part in a final pitch session, Dragons Den style, in the GMIT Galway campus recently (14 January).
Fifteen women pitched their business to a panel of judges comprising Gillian Buckley (WDC), Diane Nevin (Galway Business School) and Tony O Kelly (New Frontiers at GMIT) to win funds from the Western Development Commission (WDC) along with enterprise space in iHubs or Roscommon County Council Building and membership to Network Mayo, Roscommon or Galway.
Cepta Mahon, founder of Cookalicious, emerged the winner with runners-up including Olga Klofac, Fairy Specs, Assumpta Gallagher, Best-Practice, Caitriona Fahey, O/T Coach, Lou Brennan, Lou Brennan Design, and Anita Patil.
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Gillian Buckley, Investment Manager with the Western Development Commission who chaired the judging panel, said that the calibre of entrepreneur and businesses presented was very high, and complimented GMIT for taking the initiative to develop a bespoke programme that encourages and support female entrepreneurship in the region.
Maria Staunton, EMPOWER Manager, was delighted with the businesses that took part in the second cycle of the EMPOWER Start Programme: “This year we had over 80 ladies applying to the EMPOWER Programme. These ladies who pitched today all have a very bright future ahead of them. They all had to carry out extensive market research during the programme testing the viability of their idea. They also learned other skills such as marketing, sales, finance, social media and pitching their business ideas at the end of the Programme. We worked with them on developing their confidence and developing a good support network.”
“I, along with other State agencies in the region, look forward to working with them to progress their businesses. I thank the Department of Justice and Equality and the ESF for their support, and also the Local Enterprise Offices and other agencies such as the Western Development Commission for their support today and WestBIC. The enormous response to the EMPOWER Programme highlights huge demand: over 170 women have applied for the EMPOWER Programmes (Start and Growth) since it began back in 2017. Sixty -four ladies have participated on both programmes, with 41 completing the Start programme.
About EMPOWER: The EMPOWER Programme is run by the GMIT Innovation Hubs and aims to fast track female-led businesses based in the West by addressing specific challenges hindering their development. EMPOWER is funded by the Department of Justice and Equality and the European Social Fund. It has two parts; EMPOWER Start for early-stage ideas or businesses less than a year old, and EMPOWER Growth for females in Business for two years or more. EMPOWER Start takes place one day a week over 12 weeks, and EMPOWER Growth takes place one Saturday a month over a year.
EMPOWER Start is designed to test innovative ideas for market acceptance. This FREE programme is delivered part-time by start-up experts. This allows participants to balance their family commitments while at the same time planning and developing their new business. The classroom-based programme rotates between Galway, Mayo and Roscommon.