Women’s Business Networks in Northern Ireland

Having heard about women’s networks in NI and looked up a few online, I soon began to feel a little confused (like some others I spoke to), due to the similarities in names. Below, I have set out each organisation I am aware of and a little of their flavour.


Business Women’s Network

Area: This is a joint venture, including Antrim, Londonderry, Tyrone and Down. Individual networks are listed in order below.

Website: www.bwnni.com

Contact: Each individual organisation’s contact details are available by clicking a link to their website. For full contact details, visit individual websites, or InvestNI.


Women on the Move

Area: Ballymena

Website: www.womenonthemove.org.uk

Contact: Joanne Brown-Kerr

Membership: £30 (annual)

  • They run monthly networking events, with invited speakers, some of whom are from among the membership.

Women in Enterprisewie

Area: Londonderry

Website: www.womeninenterprise.org.uk

Contact: Toni Forrester

  • They run networking events and supply business information.
  • At the time of posting this blog, many of the menu links were not working, so it was impossible to investigate the membership, events or other information further.


Network for Enterprising Women

Area: Fermanagh and Tyrone.

Website: www.networkforenterprisingwomen.net

Contact: Ruth Daly

Membership: £50 (annual)

  • They run joint networking events with other NI women’s networks and deliver both training and business news, including an e-zine.
  • They’ve had a nice idea of highlighting one particular business by adding a Role Models page.
  • A Business Information page lists some useful business websites, together with a full listing of network members’ websites.

Enterprising Women’s Network

Area: Armagh, Banbridge, Craigavon, Down, Newry and Mourne.

Website: www.enterprising-women.net


Contact: Margaret Andrews

Membership: £40 (annual)

  • They meet monthly and offer information sessions and training events.
  • Inter-trading, Mentoring, and Confidence Building are some of their more unique services.
  • They emphasize that they are men-friendly!

Women in Businesswib

Area: Belfast

Website: www.womeninbusinessni.com

Contact: Nicki Bayes

Membership: £100 (annual)

  • This organisation is independent of the Business Womens Network.
  • Unique features include a News and Podcasts page and online booking for events.
  • Small, invitation-only lunches are held on a regular basis, to assist women to network more effectively, and to allow interested parties to find out more about the network. I attended one recently held at the Ramada Encore.
  • They also run Women Into Business, an organisation dedicated to those women who’re thinking of starting a business, but not quite there yet.

Finally, if anyone’s interested in meeting other Twitter business users, we’re having a TweetUp in Belfast, next Thursday! Let us know you’re coming.

Business Funding in Ireland

Have you ever felt that funding was only available for the bigger guys? Or, are you too big to qualify? Have you ever wished all programmes for micro-enterprises were available to those over the grand old age of 35, not just some? Do the forms seem daunting and the process threatening? Read on. There are lots of options. And, lots of support in completing those forms.

Collaborative Networks (NI only)

“Up to £25,000 funding is available to industry-led networks that would like support to co-ordinate and scope out, innovative, collaborative projects.

We are particularly interested in projects in the areas of digital media, connected health and life sciences, big data/IT, agri-food, advanced materials, advanced engineering and sustainable energy. For more information on these sectors”

See InvestNI

Innovation Vouchers (NI only)

“An Innovation Voucher offers you £4000 to ‘purchase ‘ specialist knowledge from one of 39 respected universities, colleges and research organisations throughout Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. This knowledge can help you to expand, improve or create new products, services and processes.” See InvestNI

Enterprise Ireland

Support is available for business development, research and development, export, productivity and education. See Enterprise Ireland

DJEI (Ireland only)

This link lists support (including financial support) available to help companies grow, compete, create jobs and improve productivity. See DJEI

Microfinance Ireland

This organisation offers loans for 3-5 years, and funds expansion and job creation. SEe Microfinance Ireland


Crowd-funding is everywhere! Have you considered asking the general public to fund your idea, concept, innovation or book? Does it sound a bit mad? Then take a look at projects that have been funded across Ireland and the UK. See Kickstarter

Do you need assistance with applying for grant funding? We help individuals and organisations to complete applications for universities, jobs, grants and funding, proposals, ITTs, PQQs and tenders. Get in touch if you’re losing the plot!

Image credit: communitiesuk

How to Run a Successful Business Network

So, you want to start a business network? Or, you’re on the management team for one that’s already up and running?

My forthright thoughts on my experiences of establishing a local business network, Open Coffee Ballyclare are spewed out in The Apathyville Horror. It cuts through the rose-tinted spectacles. The post below will help you avoid the pitfalls and make the right decisions.

Do I need help?

Yes, you do. But, avoid an official committee at all costs. Pick your partners or helpers well. Choose (and be) someone who is enthusiastic, active, entrepreneurial, engaged and already busy. You will need people to:

  • Send email updates and reminders
  • Post updates to websites or online profiles
  • Promote offline
  • Chair/lead a meeting if you suddenly can’t attend, need a break, or are feeling under the weather

For Open Coffee Ballyclare, see Help Wanted if you’d like to get involved.

Where should we meet?

Town folk may want to walk. Is it central? Country folk may have to get into a car. Is it easy to find? Is there adequate parking locally?

  • Choose somewhere that is easily recognisable, at least for your first few meetings. People are easily put off even by a few miles, especially those based in the town centre, and those who expect it to be convenient for them alone. Country folk are usually more willing to drive further. (Well, we have to for everything else, so it’s no bother.)
  • After that, my advice is to choose random and unusual locations if your geographical remit allows it. It has the crucial advantage of expanding everyone’s horizons and facilitates the shift from work mode to creative mode.
    • The more informal meet-ups often involve meeting at someone’s workshop or office.
    • I’ve found cafes and B&Bs work very well for an informal vibe.
    • The place we’ve met most often for Open Coffee Ballyclare is a (converted) barn – Breckenhill!

How do I promote it?

There is little I can add here, since I’ve already mentioned a huge list in The Apathyville Horror. But, be prepared. It’s an intensely realistic post!

Do not underestimate how much time this will take.

How do I measure success?

  • A regular, dependable group (size is up to you), with a few new faces on a regular basis
  • Recognition of the network name and activities in the local area
  • Business gained from access to attendees’ personal networks
  • Activity among attendees, between meetings
  • Establishment of new connections and friendships across industries and trades
  • People attending based on the word on the street
  • People ditching other networks to join yours *cough, cough*

I’d love to hear your thoughts, either of running or attending a well run network, and what you think contributes to its success.

UPDATE 15/09/13: Open Coffee Ballyclare

Pessimists, Introverts and Business

Business is for the optimistic, extroverted and hard-nosed. So the story goes. Problem is, the story is wrong. At least, that is, according to a few business gurus and authors out there. Speaking as an introvert, a pessimist and a businessperson, that makes me do something akin to smiling. But not quite.

According to Lucy Kellaway of the Financial Times, pessimism is good for business. The thinking behind this statement seems to be that pessimists are better prepared to deal with the world as it is rather than how we would like it to be. I find her suggestion interesting that an organisation should have a mixture of the two types if it is to function with maximum effectiveness.

This notion is not unique to her. Apparently uber guru Tom Peters recently tweeted his appreciation for a book by Julien K Norem called The Positive Power of Negative Thinking: Using Defensive Pessimism to Harness Anxiety and Perform at Your Peak. This book is a recent edition to a selection of authors who either warn against the dangers of the positive psychology movement (Barbara Ehrenreich) or positively (!) extol the virtues of pessimism (Roger Scruton).

I find myself conflicted. On the one hand, I like the idea of using what you are, playing to your own strengths. So, if you’re an introvert, discover or invent ways to turn this to your advantage. Likewise if you are a Highly Sensitive Person (HSP) in the workplace. On the other hand, I believe that key business skills such as motivation and resilience are largely due to your ability to initiate ‘growth mindsets’ or positive ‘explanatory styles’ in order to interpret goals and setbacks to yourself.

I suspect that an answer lies in the notion that optimism and pessimism, introversion and extroversion, sensitivity and thick-facedness, are different strategies or tools the skillful businessperson employs as the context requires. None binds; none defines.

Do you agree?

Marketing Your Business with Social Media

Just a quick announcement of two similar events coming up in Carrickfergus and Magherafelt in December, entitled Marketing Your Business with Social Media. Both are free, and open to businesses in the relevant council areas.

This session is for anyone who wants to gain a quick-fire overview of what social media is. It is most suitable for absolute beginners, and only a basic working knowledge of the world wide web is assumed. Continue reading “Marketing Your Business with Social Media”