Páirc Uí Chaoimh was a busy place on Monday last, 24th February, for the launch and showcase of the Women’s Rural Entrepreneurial Network (WREN).

The WREN Programme is delivered and coordinated by Ballyhoura Development and SECAD, and this event was the culmination of the WREN Programme which has been running for the last 3 years, and also served to launch the next WREN Programme which will run from 2020 to 2023.

Guest speakers included David Stanton, Minister of State of the Department of Justice & Equality, Paula Cogan, President of Cork Chamber of Commerce, and Tara Shine, from Change by Degrees.

Eileen O’Keeffe from Ballyhoura Development provided an outline of the supports provided through the Programme, which sees budding female entrepreneurs receiving training and mentoring in a range of areas, from business planning, to PR and marketing, and costing and finance. 

Ms O’Keeffe explained: “Whereas the last WREN Programme catered for 77 early stage start-up female entrepreneurs who had been in business for 2 years or less, the new WREN Programme will build on this by supporting not only women in the early stage of developing their businesses, but also those who are looking to grow and expand their existing businesses.  We believe that this 2-level programme will provide excellent learning opportunities for women from rural areas at all stages of their business development”.

Attendees also heard from two women who have taken part in the WREN Programme about their experience of progressing through the range of supports offered through the Programme, and how their businesses have developed as a result.

Paul Healy from the Rubicon Centre, a delivery partner in the last WREN Programme, painted a picture of a thriving environment for new female entrepreneurs, while Paula Cogan, President of Cork Chamber of Commerce, stressed the value of networking and peer learning, and encouraged female entrepreneurs to apply the networking skills which come so naturally to many women, to their new business operations.  

Dr Tara Shine, from Change by Degrees, drew on her own experiences to speak about the value of fostering female entrepreneurship and leadership and the importance of moving toward a circular economy.

The event was closed by Minister David Stanton, who commended the female entrepreneurs who had completed the WREN Programme, and highlighted the importance of the Programme in achieving the objectives of the National Strategy for Women and Girls 2017-2020, and in supporting women to achieve their leadership potential in the business world.

The Women’s Rural Entrepreneurial Network is a Female Entrepreneurship project co-funded by the Dept of Justice and Equality and the European Social Fund as part of the Programme for Employability, Inclusion and Learning (PEIL) 2014-2020.