Ailish Connolly Liz Greehy Kilbaha Gallery

To coincide with International Women’s Day, The Clare Echo spoke with some of Clare’s top female entrepreneurs. We learn about the biggest challenges they have faced in business as well as their favourite moments of being a business owner.

In Part Two, we spoke with Ailish Connolly and Liz Greehy of Kilbaha Gallery, Caitríona Considine of Moher Cottage, Ruth Keane of Roots Hair Design, Maureen Harrison of Seoidín and Bríd O’Meara of Lahinch Coast Hotel.

Ailish Connolly & Liz Greehy, Kilbaha Gallery

Ailish Connolly Liz Greehy Kilbaha Gallery

Tell us about your business:
Our business is exhibiting and selling original art

What 5 words would you choose to describe your business?

Quality, Contemporary, Beautiful, Irish, Art

What are your most popular products or services?

Before Covid, our gallery also had a coffee shop and gift shop – both of which were extremely popular with our clients and visitors alike.  During covid we went back to only selling original art – and doing it mostly online,    however, as things ease we hope to get back to our full offering either this season or next.

What or who inspired you to start your business?

Starting our own business was initially borne out of a longing to be able to live and work here on Loop Head, to provide local employment and to be doing our bit for the local economy. Also, the family have been steeped within the art industry for many years so it felt like a natural progression to open the gallery.

What makes your products special?

Art is intrinsically special – an original work of art is a totally unique item to own. Each artist we work with, puts huge amounts of time and energy into every single piece they produce. Our artists are carefully chosen because of their extraordinary talent and their overall appeal. A piece of art is not just a beautiful, legacy item to own, with an important part to play in the interior design of your home, but also is collectable and likely to appreciate in value over time.

Do you think there are any issues for women in the workplace?

As a female led business, we are extremely conscious at all times of the various issues faced by women in the workplace and so we always go the extra mile always to ensure flexibility and fairness. We hugely appreciate the amazingness  of the female members of our team – without whom, we wouldn’t be here. We also hugely appreciate the men in our lives and their huge part to play.

What other female leaders do you admire and why?

We admire all women – from political and business leaders to nurses, to teachers, to carers, to stay at home mothers; to all women, everywhere, for managing to be incredible humans and to juggle a million things, despite the challenges we are all faced with every day

What place inspires you and why? 

The Bridges of Ross is a constant source of inspiration – a geological phenomenon that serves to remind us that nature is the world’s ultimate creator; beautiful, ever changing and awesome.

People may be surprised to know…

That Ailish has won a national trophy for her kenpo martial arts skills!!

What has been your favourite moment as a business owner?

There are so many highs and lows in business. Opening the doors for the very first time was an exhilerating and terryifing experience but probably our favourite because it was the culmination of many months of hard work to get there.

For more information about Kilbaha Gallery , please visit www.kilbahagallery.Com or follow them on facebook or instagram @kilbahagallery

Caitríona Considine, Moher Cottage

Caitríona Considine Moher Cottage

Tell us about your business:
From a cowshed to a café, Moher Cottage is now an award winning, must-stop gift and coffee destination store and attraction at the Cliffs of Moher in lovely Liscannor.

What are your most popular products or services?

Our coffee was voted Best in Ireland which is something we are very proud of, it goes perfectly with our lovely fudge made on the premises too.

Do you think there are any issues for women in the workplace?

Unfortunately our world is not one where genders are equal so for women in some workplaces you do see bias, stereotypes or discrimination. We work hard in Moher Cottage with a team of amazing women, and men too, and ensure we are equitable , inclusive and value everyone.

What tip would you give women who are starting a business?

If you have a dream, don’t ignore it, plan for it, get advice and have faith in yourself. Running your own business can be all consuming but so so rewarding

What other female leaders do you admire and why?

I admire so many female business owners and so many of them are in Clare all following their dreams. Such as Trena and Edel of the Snack Shack, Mary of Nozomi’s , Tina of Bambino’s, Ailish & Liz of Kilbaha Gallery, Bronagh of Burren Farm Experience, Maeve of Western Herd, Nuala of Ailiwee Caves, Natalie of Irish Crafts, Siobhan of St.Tola’s, Clara of Coastal Ceremonies, Annette of Small Print Ireland West, Sinead of Cheesepress and many many more. All amazing ladies with such drive and generosity too.

What place inspires you and why? 

Breathing in the wild sea air in Clahane in Liscannor is my true happy place. I love photography and the landscape in Liscannor and across north Clare is abundant in inspiration every day

People may be surprised to know…

I’m a proud Galway girl, born and bred, but was living in Dublin until I fell in love with the St.Brigid’s Well publican and farmer Kevin so there was no real debate about where we were going to live 😉 , he was rooted here in Liscannor for sure. I’m very blessed to live here now

What has been your favourite moment as a business owner?

In the middle of our first covid lockdown a business person I admire greatly Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook, posted about Moher Cottage on her Facebook page to her 2.2 million followers across the globe telling them how I adapted to selling online since the onset of Covid-19. This was phenomenal for MoherCottage.com. It was a very challenging time for all tourism businesses in rural Ireland but in particular in Clare so to have our work, to survive the crisis, highlighted on such a stage provided such a lift to us at the time.

For more information about Moher Cottage , please visit mohercottage.com or call 0872959096,

Fb:facebook.com/mohercottage,

Instagram @MoherCottage

Ruth Keane, Roots Hair Design

Ruth Keane Roots Hair Design

Tell us about your business?

I started Roots Hair Design over 30 years ago & we are in the same location today. We offer a full hairdressing service, including expertise in cutting & creative colouring.  We have diversified our offerings over the years & 15 years ago I created an additional business, offering a specialised wig service for cancer patients and people suffering from alopecia.   Ennis Wig Clinic has proved to very important side to our business, offering a service to cancer patients and those suffering from alopecia, that heretofore was not available in this region,

What 5 words would you choose to describe your business?

Professional, confidential, creative, caring and value.

What are your most popular products or services?

We are a Wella, Nioxin & Nayo Organic approved salon.  Our services include creative cutting & colouring, 12 week blowdries from up to date fully qualified stylists.  In Ennis Wig clinic, we offer a very wide range of wigs in both synthetic and human hair and also headwear..

What do you enjoy most about owning a business?

I get great satisfaction from seeing happy & satisfied clients leaving the salon each day. It also feels  good to be there for cancer and alopecia patients helping them through their difficult journeys

What or who inspired you to start your business?

My parents, P.J and Rita. They ran a very successful business here in Ennis for many years, and instilled an entrepreneurial spirit in me.

What makes your products/services special?

I fundamentally believe in the personal touch with great care & attention given to each client. Our stylists are in continuous training on new products and services which is very important to the latest trends.  A listening ear is also important.

What is the biggest challenge you have faced?

3 Recessions and I am still here to tell the tale……………

What tip would you give women who are starting a business?

Respect and value your employees. Up to date training is a must. It is important to embrace technology and always try to reinvest in your business. A good support network is also important.

What other female leaders do you admire and why?

All female leaders should be admired for where they are, it is not easy to get there.

How do you relax?

A nice bottle of wine and good company!

People may be surprised to know….

My age, which I am not disclosing!

What has been your favourite moment as a business owner?

The 10th, 20th and 30th anniversaries of opening my business have all been special moments for me, with many more to come!

What are your future plans and what do you want to accomplish in business?

I have achieved a lot over the last 30 years, with special thanks to all my very loyal clients and friends.  Lots done, more to do!!

Maureen Harrison, Seoidín

Maureen Harrison Seoidín

Tell us about your business:

Seoidín is a unique Irish jewellery brand that I started 25 years ago in O’Connell Street in Ennis. Our designs are always inspired by Ireland and it’s beauty. We now have 4 shops across the country in Clare, Limerick and Dublin and of course our online shop www.seoidin.com

What 5 words would you choose to describe your business?

I would say that Seoidín is unique, Irish, inclusive, creative and progressive.

What are your most popular products?

We have a few collections that are particularly popular at the moment and our most wanted pieces change from season to season. At the moment our antique ring and our pearl collection are proving really popular and our emerald coloured gems are always a winner.

What do you enjoy most about owning a business?

I always wanted to offer something unique to my customers, something that little bit different than what was already out there. Owning my own business means that I can deliver just that. I’d also say that building a fantastic community around my business, both with our loyal customers and the people that I work alongside, is really rewarding.

What is the biggest challenge you have faced?

Starting the business initially was a huge challenge and a big risk but when you have a dream, you just have to go for it. You can’t give up.

Do you think there are any issues for women in the workplace?

I believe that things have improved dramatically for women in Ireland in recent years. I would like to think that we have proved that we shouldn’t be underestimated and that we are more than capable of holding our own both in the business world and in general.

What tip would you give women who are starting a business?

Don’t overthink it. A chance not taken is an opportunity lost. Even if you fail, you will learn from the experience.

How do you relax?

In my spare time I love to run and partake in yoga classes.

What place inspires you and why? 

Lots of different things inspire me, like the coast of Donegal, as it reminds me of my youth, the Irish people and our culture and there are plenty of women in business that inspire me and challenge me to do better every day, in business and in daily life.

What are your future plans and what do you want to accomplish in business?

We never rest on our laurels and I think that’s one of the reasons Seoidín has been successful, we are always striving to improve and introduce new things. We are currently renovating our shop in O’ Connell Street in Ennis. It will be a fantastic Seoidín flagship and will reflect how far we have come since we started on O’Connell street 25 years ago. I cannot wait to reveal the finished product.

Bríd O’Meara, Lahinch Coast Hotel

Bríd O'Meara Lahinch Coast Hotel

Tell us about your business:
Lahinch Coast Hotel is a four star Hotel with 144 bedrooms, Leisure Center with Gym, Swimming Pool and a busy Gastro Style Bar and Restaurant. In late 2019 my husband John and I became Co-owners and took over the management of the hotel which started the journey of a new brand and stylish refurbishment to the entire ground floor to give it a complete new look. This was a huge undertaking but one which I enjoyed especially being part of a dynamic team that are constantly looking to improve standards.

What 5 words would you choose to describe your business?

Comfortable family friendly seaside hotel

What are your most popular products or services?

Our two bedroom Suites with separate lounge and kitchenette’s are incredibly popular for families and golfers. Our Swimming pool is a big hit especially for our younger guests.

What makes your products/services special?

Our Great team of Employees and our excellent location.

What is the biggest challenge you have faced?

The Covid pandemic closure and then helping to navigate the business through the various lockdowns and guidelines that were so new to everyone and to ensure we were   keeping our guests and employees safe.

Do you think there are any issues for women in the workplace?

For me the issue is “work life balance” and being a woman and a mother of two children brings a daily and weekly balancing act of planning of how to co-ordinate the day to day children’s lives with working full time. I believe there is no perfect balance for any working mother, things don’t just fall into place themselves they do because we organise it and in general women are great organisers!  I face the work life balancing act of parenting every working mother faces and haven’t quiet cracked it yet but will continue to keep trying!

What other female leaders do you admire and why?

Ursula von der Leyen president of the European Commission has impressed me so much she speaks incredibly well and is also a mother of seven children.

What place inspires you and why? 

I spent seven years working at Sheen Falls Lodge in Kenmare Co. Kerry a beautiful 5 star resort Hotel – I met my husband there, got married there and met some of my best friends there as I was part of the management team of a well-run guest orientated Hotel.

What has been your favourite moment as a business owner?

Opening the Hotel doors during the Dubai Duty Free at Lahinch Golf Club and revealing the Hotels new look.

For more information about Lahinch Coast Hotel, please visit www.lahinchcoasthotel.ie or call 065-7081100

Facebook:@LahinchCoastHotel, Instagram lahinchcoast_hotel

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