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8 Female Business Owners & Entrepreneurs to Watch in 2019

Updated: Jan 25, 2023

Female entrepreneurs have made remarkable strides as business owners in Ireland.

We’ve compiled a list of some seriously impressive Irish women who are making waves both at home and abroad. These women are helping to drive gender equality as well as helping to inspire others to do the same and make a difference.

Nora Twomey: Co-founder & Creative Director of Cartoon Saloon

First up is Nora Twomey, an Oscar-nominated animator and the Creative Director of Cartoon Saloon.

The Cork native, who dropped out of school at the age of fifteen, co-founded the Kilkenny-based company in 1999 with Paul Young and Tomm Moore. Twomey is best known for the stunning Oscar-nominated films The Secret of Kells and The Breadwinner, which was produced by Angelina Jolie.

Nora has been hailed as ‘one to watch’ by Variety. Her second feature for Netflix ‘My Father’s Dragon’ is expected to be released in 2021. Twomey is an excellent example of someone who didn’t excel academically but followed her passion and went on to achieve incredible things. We can’t wait to see what she does next!

Mary O’Brien: Founder of videoDoc

Mary O’Brien founded videoDoc, the Irish leading digital healthcare provider in 2014. The company is designed to offer quick and convenient access to Irish Medical Council registered Doctors online via your computer or mobile phone. The online doctor service has contracts with both the VHI in Ireland and the NHS in the UK.

Due to demand, the company plans to double its workforce this year from 26 to 55 people. Silicon Republic reports the business has grown more than 2,000pc since January 2017.

Last year, O’Brien was selected to take part in US-based BlackBox Connect, a Google-backed event for business founders. Only 16 people from around the world are chosen to attend the two-week immersive programme in Silicon Valley. Mary also took home the Entrepreneur Award at the Women In Tech Awards. O’Brien says videoDoc is actively looking at opening an office in the United States so watch this space.

Niamh Bushnell: Founder & CEO of TechIreland

If you have an up-and-coming Irish tech business, Niamh Bushnell needs to be on your radar. After a stint as Dublin’s first Commissioner for Startups, Niamh set up TechIreland in 2017 to help people and businesses to discover, connect and benchmark Irish innovation.

The independent, not-for-profit that maps and tracks all product innovation in Ireland is on a mission to tell the story of Irish innovation to the world.

Bushnell champions female entrepreneurship. In 2017, TechIreland tracked €84.3M in female founder funding. Last year, the company launched the €100M Campaign to track €100M in funding for women in Ireland. TechIreland is also expanding their role to help female founders connect directly to each other for support and mentoring around fundraising.

Karen Dwyer: Founder of MS to Success

Karen Dwyer is an empowerment coach and speaker. In 2012, she encountered “the greatest challenge of her life” when she was diagnosed with the incurable disease, Multiple Sclerosis.

Today, Karen is now living symptom free. In mid-2018, the Malahide native set up MS to Success, a community designed from the lived experience and knowledge of an MS diagnosis. Karen says the 360 support roadmap of empowerment “will teach people to value their lives once again”.

The new venture is expected to officially launch later this year. In the meantime, you can find out more about Karen’s journey and MS to Success here.

Hannah Saunders: Director & Founder of Hannah Saunders PR

Dublin-born and now London-based, Hannah Saunders has been making waves across the pond for the past number of years. After working in both Dublin and New York in the Public Relations and Influencer Marketing Industry, Hannah launched Hannah Saunders PR in May 2016.

Saunders believes her previous association with internationally recognised brands such as Gillette, Avon and Five Guys enabled the young, creative and determined company to be born.

The firm has an inherent passion for leveraging Irish brands in the UK and beyond. Clients include Spotlight Whitening, Freddy jeans, Peter Stringer, Laura Wright, égaliTEE by Ashley James and Charlotte Crosby’s Flique Cosmetics. More recently, Hannah helped launch the PS Loves Easilocks in Penneys and Cheryl’s range of hair extensions with Easilocks. Hannah Saunders’ star is certainly on the rise.

Sonia Deasy: Co-founder & CEO of Pestle & Mortar

Sonia Deasy set up skincare brand Pestle & Mortar in 2014 as a secondary business. The Kildare native was already running a portrait studio with her photographer husband.

During her time in the portrait studio, Deasy noticed a need for a product that would treat dry and dull skin so she drew on her Indian herbalist heritage along with the knowledge of her biochemist sister to develop Pestle & Mortar.

The Irish brand’s Pure Hyaluronic Serum was soon noticed by international Beauty Editors, which has led Sonia to now be a familiar face on US shopping channel QVC. Pestle & Mortar has since grown to include more award-winning products, including a new eye cream. In 2018, Sonia was named Entrepreneur of the Year at the Image Businesswoman of the Year awards. We expect 2019 to be even bigger for the mum-of-six. Watch Sonia share some nuggets of wisdom below:

Ciara Scanlan: Co-founder & Director of MART

If you’re familiar with the Rathmines area, there’s a good chance you would have noticed an old fire station with a red door facing the main street. There are no fire trucks inside waiting to battle an inferno. Instead, the space, which opened in 2016, is filled with art and is the home of MART.

MART is an arts organisation founded in 2007 by friends Ciara Scanlan and Matthew Nevin. The company is the largest supplier of independent, affordable space for arts, cultural and creative community in Dublin city. The pair have curated over 100 artists through previous exhibitions, events, festivals and art fairs across Ireland, the UK, Europe, the USA and Japan.

MART now has two art galleries, eight studios and over 120 members. Speaking recently to District Magazine in November, Ciara said: “There’s a freedom in designing your own path and building something yourself. Sometimes you feel like it’s going to collapse and then some days you think, ‘We’re going to be ok. But it has given us so much experience.”

Alongside a newly-launched large exhibition programme, MART is also launching a pilot contemporary Irish arts centre in LA this summer. You can find out more about MART here.

Dr Fiona Edwards Murphy: CEO & Co-founder of ApisProtect

There’s been a lot of buzz surrounding Dr Fiona Edwards Murphy’s bee monitoring tech company. In 2013, Fiona began her doctoral research into the applications of sensors and networking in honey bee hives. Her project received international recognition – most recently awarded the Sodexo WMB Female Newcomer Award 2018.

Following this project, ApisProtect was born, moving the use of technology in beehives into the commercial sphere to provide insight for beekeepers to prevent honey bee loses and increase productivity.

The Cork firm rolled out its technology to 200 beehives across the world in 2018. ApisProtect is set to create 25 jobs over the next three years following a €1.5 million investment boost last year. You can find out more about Fiona’s story here.


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