88% of female entrepreneurs on development programme pivoted during Covid-19

9th November 2020

G4G 2020
Pictured at the launch of the programme are left to right: Olivia Lynch, Partner KPMG; Chupi Sweetman-Durney, founder of Chupi, former Going for Growth participant and now a Going for Growth Lead Entrepreneur; Julie Sinnamon, CEO Enterprise Ireland

• Figures show the seismic changes made by businesses during pandemic
• Ambitious female entrepreneurs sought for 13th cycle of award-winning Going for Growth programme

Almost all of those on a development programme for ambitious female entrepreneurs pivoted in the last few months as a response to challenges raised by Covid-19.

A total of 88% of participants on the Going for Growth programme reported that they pivoted their businesses to adapt to current circumstances.

The figures, which were gathered in their end of cycle survey, show the resilience and determination of the entrepreneurs on the programme – and the value of the peer support they received while participating.

The survey also found that eight participants from the programme started exporting for the first time – which is quite a feat during a global pandemic.

Going for Growth participants found that the roundtable sessions translated into practical changes in their business. All participants said they would recommend the programme to others.

Going for Growth is a six-month part-time programme, supported by Enterprise Ireland and KPMG, which assists ambitious female entrepreneurs to achieve their growth aspirations. The call is open today (Monday Nov 9) for applications from female entrepreneurs who would welcome peer support to take their businesses to the next level. This is the 13th year of Going for Growth and more than 750 female entrepreneurs have so far taken part in the programme.

The programme is seeking applications from female entrepreneurs – across all sectors – who are strongly focussed on growth. Ideally, businesses should be well established and trading for at least two years. Applications will also be considered from highly innovative entrepreneurs with significant growth expectations at an earlier stage of their development if they have already generated some sales. (Eligibility criteria in notes below)

Sixty places will be available for the 13th cycle of Going for Growth, which will run from January to June 2021 and the deadline for applications is Friday, December 18th. There is no charge for those selected. Anyone interested is encouraged to register on the website goingforgrowth.com and a link to the application form will be sent to them.

One female entrepreneur who participated in the last cycle is Sonia Neary, CEO of Wellola, which delivers secure video consultation and patient portal solutions. The company, established by Sonia in 2016, had been focussed on the mental and community healthcare market in Ireland and the UK but pivoted quickly during the Covid-19 pandemic to launch a secure patient communication portal, in collaboration with the HSE Digital Transformation Team, to protect front-line workers.

Their video consultation portal (www.eirecare.com) was designed for GPs, as a tool to triage patients to protect both patients and clinicians. The stand-alone platform, based on technology tried and tested by Wellola, was developed in just four days, and launched on St. Patrick’s Day 2020.

Since then Wellola has continued to adapt its business model and has just announced two strategic partnerships. The company is integrating with artificial intelligence platform - EBO.ai - to offer greater inclusivity and accessibility to their portal. It is also collaborating with Think Biosolution, an innovative Irish company offering disease prevention and remote monitoring platform for geriatric patients.

Wellola CEO Sonia Neary says:
“It is crucial that businesses are willing to adapt – not just during events such as global pandemics. One shouldn’t underestimate the value of listening to our customers and keeping them close, so we can deliver on their needs. Being part of Going for Growth was hugely valuable for me during a year when there was so much change happening.

“It was essential to be able to communicate with like-minded people who were going through the same experiences. Being an entrepreneur can be a lonely experience so having the support of those people who were in my group – and our Lead Entrepreneur Susan Spence of SoftCo — was invaluable. And in 2020, we all needed that extra bit of support – both commercially and personally.”

Those selected for the Going for Growth initiative join interactive round table sessions led by Lead Entrepreneurs. The Lead Entrepreneurs are successful business women with personal experience of growing a business. These high-profile business leaders volunteer their time to encourage participants to set and achieve personalised goals and milestones to address the opportunities and challenges they face in driving growth in their businesses.

Some of this year’s Lead Entrepreneurs include four previous Going for Growth participants: Dr. Anne Cusack, Critical Healthcare; Chupi Sweetman-Durney, Chupi; Gillian O’Dowd, Azon Recruitment Group and Oonagh O’Hagan, Meagher’s Pharmacy Group.

The other Lead Entrepreneurs are: Fidelma McGuirk, Payslip; Fiona O’Carroll, experienced intrapreneur and non-Executive Director; Monica Flood, formerly Olas IT and Susan Spence, SoftCo.

Áine Denn, co-founder and formerly of Altify, and Breege O’Donoghue, formally of Primark, will lead Continuing the Momentum round tables. This is a further development programme for former participants of Going for Growth.

Julie Sinnamon, CEO Enterprise Ireland, says:
“Enterprise Ireland is very proud to partner with Going for Growth and sees great synergy with the focus of this initiative on helping women-led businesses to become more resilient and to scale nationally and internationally.

“Supporting ambitious business women to start and to grow enterprises is a priority for Enterprise Ireland. A key objective of Enterprise Ireland’s Women in Business Action Plan is to strengthen the diversity of management teams in existing businesses and to further increase the number and the impact of female-led business, for the benefit of the economy.”

Olivia Lynch, Partner KPMG, says:
“Entrepreneurship is critical to Ireland’s economic stability and future growth. We know that more men than women start businesses in Ireland, a trend which suggests there is huge untapped potential in our population that could contribute to the future success of the Irish economy.

“At KPMG, we work with many businesses in overcoming challenges and creating opportunities, and we are delighted to extend this support and expertise to female entrepreneurs who are responding to the current challenging market circumstances. We are proud to continue our support for this exceptional programme and to recognise the key role of the Lead Entrepreneurs and the continued innovation and drive of so many female entrepreneurs.”

Going for Growth has been designed and is being implemented by Fitzsimons Consulting, specialists in areas related to entrepreneurship and growth.

Paula Fitzsimons, founder and managing director of Fitzsimons Consulting, said:
“The peer support that the participants get from each other and from the Lead Entrepreneurs is invaluable. The way the participants have pivoted, identified new opportunities, and changed to meet the needs of their market, shows great resilience and a true entrepreneurial spirit. The strength of the network, developed over the last 13 years, has proven to be a great resource in challenging times, as it is when the environment is more benign.”

Notes to Editors:

• About Going for Growth
Going for Growth is an initiative to support female entrepreneurs, regardless of sector, who have been trading for at least two years and are seriously committed to growing their businesses. Designed and developed by Paula Fitzsimons, Fitzsimons Consulting, twelve Going for Growth cycles have already taken place since the pilot in 2008, with over 750 female entrepreneurs from across the country taking part in the initiative to date. For more information please visit www.goingforgrowth.com.

• Eligibility criteria
Applications will be considered from female entrepreneurs across all sectors who are located in the Republic of Ireland. Businesses of all sizes will be considered if a strong growth ambition can be demonstrated. The applicant should already be the owner-manager of a business of which she is a major shareholder and key influencer and should be working full time on the business. It is expected that the business will have been trading for at least two years. In exceptional cases, a business at an earlier stage can be considered.

• Starting Strong
In exceptional cases, businesses at an earlier stage will be considered if it is felt that the business is highly innovative, plans to have export customers and the entrepreneur has significant growth ambitions. If accepted, these participants are included in the ‘Starting Strong’ element of the programme.

• Lead Entrepreneurs
Successful businesswomen who have committed to become voluntary Lead Entrepreneurs for the next cycle of Going for Growth. You can read more about the voluntary Lead Entrepreneurs here 

• Previous participants
Some of the past participants include: Dr Vanessa Creaven, Spotlight Oral Care; Leonora O’Brien Pharmapod; Mary B Walsh, Ire Wel Pallets; Aine Kerr, Kinzen; Jennifer Rock, The Skin Nerd; Avril McCarthy, Derrycourt Cleaning Specialists; Mary Sadlier, Coole Swan, Jeananne O’Brien, Artizan Food Company and Sonia Neary, Wellola.

• Profile for Sonia Neary available here

• International Recognition for Going for Growth
Since 2009 the merits and excellence of Going for Growth have been recognised repeatedly by the EU, OECD and European Institute of Gender Equality. In 2015, Going for Growth was awarded the European Enterprise Promotion Award, Investing in Entrepreneurial Skills. In 2016, the initiative was included by the EU and OECD in a compendium of examples of innovative initiatives. The entrepreneurship tool for policy makers, released by the EU and OECD includes Going for Growth as a case study 

Check out www.goingforgrowth.com for more details.
For more information or to arrange interviews, please contact Paula Fitzsimons on +353 87 2774385 or Martha Kearns at StoryLab on +353 87 2720212