Empower Webinar 1/3: Panel Discussion

In this podcast you will hear live interviews from three women Mary McKenna, Lorraine Heskin and Niamh McKenna on their experiences of being entrepreneurs scaling a business and the drive it takes to get there.

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This podcast exists thanks to the Empower program which helps fast track female-led businesses. 



"Very often women need to be pushed over the cliff. Have the confidence that you will fly. As you gain experience, you will have the confidence to jump off your own cliffs in the future" 

Dr Orla Flynn - President of GMITOrla Flynn GMIT Profile

On the 8th of September 2020, Susan had the opportunity to host The Empower Explore webinar 2020, a female-led event focusing on enabling women in business to fast-track their success by connecting with a network of women who are on a similar journey. 

The Empower Programme is run by the GMIT Innovation Hubs and is aimed at women in the west of Ireland who are either in the early stages of their business (18 months or less) or those who are looking to start scaling their business. Those behind The Empower programme have kindly allowed us to share the audio recordings from this year's webinar, showcasing the incredible women who spoke at the event, the knowledge and support shared throughout the day. 

In this episode, you will hear from the first three guest-speakers interviewed by Susan; Mary McKenna (Founder of Awaken Hub social enterprise in Ireland) Lorraine Heskin (Founder and CEO of Gourmet Food Parlour) and Niamh McKenna (Co-Founder and Head of Impact at ChangeX).


"It's all about the adventure. You should really only be doing this if it's also a bit of fun along the way because there's a lot of hard work to be done"

Mary McKenna - Founder of Awaken HubMary McKenna

The first speaker of the webinar was Mary McKenna, an experienced entrepreneur of several business ventures. As an Angel investor, Mary has been on both sides of the table when it comes to fundraising investment for a business and offers the insights she has gained from her own experiences. Here is some of the advice she shared during her conversation with Susan:

  1. Know which type of investors you're looking for and start early.
    Mary encourages anyone who has decided to seek out investors to be aware that the process might be longer than you think, sometimes taking up to nine months from the networking stage to when the money is in your hands.
  2. Do your homework!
    Often business owners will give away too much too quickly, won't understand the language of investing and aren't aware of the financial aid offered in the form of grants before they jump right to giving away vast amounts of equity. Mary advises all entrepreneurs to take your time to research what is already available to you and ensure you know exactly what you're looking for from potential investors.
  3. Watch out for people who are wasting your time.
    It is a hard truth that often people's intentions do not match their actions. Mary notes to be aware that not every potential investor will be 'the-one' and there comes a time when you will need to "pop the question". No matter how many coffees and dinners you go on with someone, sometimes there is just no chemistry, and that applies to business too!


"Challenges will arise, some days are good and some are bad but it's how you deal with it as a team is what matters" 

Lorraine HeskinLorraine Heskin Profile

Following Mary McKenna was Lorraine Heskin, Founder and CEO of Gourmet food Parlour, a chain of restaurants employing over 300 people across its 10 locations. Their ethos is to "produce healthy, nutritious, affordable food sourcing local ingredients and using local suppliers where possible". 

At the core of every great business are the values that keep it grounded, Lorraine's discussion with Susan focused greatly on the importance of maintaining a company's culture as the business grows and expands. Lorraine admits that the values at the core of her business can often get lost in the day-to-day challenges of running each restaurant, however setting up each department and restaurant with people who align with the values of the business is key to ensuring that each difficulty can be resolved and can strengthen the team even more. 


"Ideas that work often struggle to scale"

Niamh McKennaNiamh McKenna Profile

 Niamh McKenna is Co-Founder and Head of Impact at ChangeX, a 'marketplace for social change', connecting people with proven ideas for strengthening communities with the resources needed to start them. While the focus of ChangeX is to help scale ideas for the improvement of life-on-earth, the scaling of the business itself has been a key part of ensuring the scalability of the projects they are trying to help. 

In Niamh's interview, she goes through many of the difficulties she and her co-founders faced in the growing of their business, from the very early stages to building connections with bigger clients today. As businesses scale, some elements of the business practice must change. Whether that be taking a more hands-off approach with clients and projects or re-evaluating your business model to ensure sustainable revenue that will support you as you grow. Niamh's insights show the possibilities of non-profit organisations to scale sustainably and maintain their core values, and if they can do it, so too can you!


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The Empower Explore programme: Learn more about the different programmes, services and help available from The Empower Programme. This programme addresses specific challenges that hinder females and helps to fast track female-led businesses.

Awaken Hub: Get involved with Awaken Hub today and learn about the world of investment, build your profile for potential investors and funding streams and grow your network.

Gourmet Food Parlour: Learn more about Lorraine Heskin's restaurant franchise. Find your nearest location, avail of their catering service or follow along on the journey as her businesses continue to grow and thrive!

ChangeX: Use ChangeX to start, spread or invest in ideas that transform communities across the world. Start by exploring their website and learning more about the impact you can have and the social change you can make. 


Empower Initial Interview Morning Session (54.35 MB)Empower Initial Interview Morning Session (54.35 MB)



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