Photos Jill O'Meara
Today is International Women’s Day and this year’s theme is aiming for a better balance, that is “a balanced world is a better world” – for women anyways, as we strive for a more gender balanced world.
As you read this, possibly during your break in the work place, or sitting at home with young children scrambling for your attention, you might ask “What the hell has International Women’s Day to do with me?”
Everything is the answer. As I glanced around the function room in the Cliff at Lyons last week where Network Ireland Kildare hosted their annual celebration, I saw women of varying ages and status. I met women who were working through transitional stages of family life, women who were widowed at a relatively young age, and had to juggle business, work, children – the whole gamut, as do single and separated parents.
I saw women who are carers for a parent, or both parents. Women who have had to cope with serious illness in their family circle, or children with serious learning or physical disability. Or maybe coaxing an adult with dementia to take their meds......we all lead such different lives.
When the two guest speakers, Jo Browne and Gail Murphy each took to the floor, we were all stunned and glad of their honesty in talking about the great big myth of the ‘perfect life’ and 'easy route' to success.
First up was Jo Browne (below) of Hackettstown who began with “If you have a dream, you have to fight for it”. This woman - a mother of three - did all her research, testing and international branding, virtually from the kitchen table and the garden shed. She hated spray perfume; as a practising reflexologist, she wanted a less invasive, solid perfume.
It took her three years to develop three female scents (later two male scents) and finalising the packaging was vital, this being possibly the most important work as it's the first introduction to the product a client sees.
Her little perfume ‘balms’ fit easily into handbags and Readers, this international success set herself €50 a week on how and where to spend her money to perfect her product! Yes, €50.
After a friend told her women love animal photographs on social media, Jo posted a doggie pic on one of her early Facebook posts to promote her product, she got 500 likes and thereafter began the marketing for Jo Browne!!!
A stand at the RDS led to national coverage, then Kilkenny signed her products. After that, more companies and destinations (Ashford Castle amongst them) sought her brands. Jo Browne was on her way.
This year, the Irish Times tipped her as one of the “Top 50 to watch for 2019”. Now she is negotiating a major contract for the Korean market. It all started from the garden shed, and marketing from the kitchen table…. One of the guests noted after Jo's presentation that she had seen her at a stand in Rathvilly Parish Hall two years ago - and now here she was, an internationally recognised brand leader!
Jo has since launched a bamboo toothbrush, a soap, and in the past few months, a diffuser, all with a consciousness of our deteriorating environment. She was not an academic person, but she believed in herself and her product and handled everything from start to finish herself. That meant working on Christmas Day - she doesn't take a break.
Glamorous Gail talked openly of weight issues and depression
Next up was Gail Murphy of Gail’s Rails, her petite figure a familiar sight across media in recent years. Gail’s personal style consultancy and fashion blog has a following of over 70,000 on social media. In the past few years, she’s been named brand ambassador for several products/lines but she too began from a room at home.
She referred to going through a ‘black time’ in her life when she experienced deep depression. The mother of two was a talented dress maker, with a reputation for ace alterations. “I had toxic thoughts, I had never experienced such negative feelings, I was totally lacking in confidence and self-belief.”
Stating she was overweight, about a size 16, in 2014, she undertook the Ice Bucket Challenge and realised “I needed to get myself back”. Along with completing a personal stylist course, Gail shed 3 stone and gradually, with a size 10 waist and a degree, back came her self confidence.
However, she still had serious illness of a family member and no income to cope with. She acknowledged her dyslexia and as Jo also stated, she had never been academic but fashion and clothes were her passion. However, with her practical and honest advice in one to one consultancies, Gail's reputation was growing, Her blogs too began to 'take off', and blessedly, as a stylist she covered fashion from the chain stores to high street to high couture.
“My style events have grown and grown, I’m going nationwide with Gail’s Rails Event. And my personal consultancy is thriving. It’s hard work but I like to help women gain their confidence”.
Advising women to identify their core body shape, and dress accordingly, Gail’s key advice to women everywhere is to “Change fashion to suit You, don’t change You to suit fashion!” Ladies queued up afterwards to congratulate Gail on her openness and success. Our feature photo shows Gail addressing the attendance on the day; our best wishes to her for a full recovery as we know she has been poorly this week, get well, soon Gail!
Speaking after the event, President Emma Murphy stated
“Our Network Kildare Branch IWD 2019 celebration in the beautiful Cliff at Lyons was a huge success. Over 80 members and guests came together to celebrate over a sumptuous afternoon tea. We were inspired by our two speakers Jo Browne and Gail Murphy, both of whom shared their wonderful and brave stories. If you have a dream - be brave and go for it! We were thrilled to present Tiglin our 2018 charity partner with a cheque for €33k and also to announce Aoibheanns Pink Tie as our 2019 charity partner”.
Network Ireland is about supporting each other, advising and networking, yes – not just looking glamorous for the big social events! It is open to women working as employees, self employed/running your own company and women working in the arts.
Network Ireland Kildare Branch is for women in business, the professions and the arts. With over 1,000 members spread across 15 branches in Ireland, the Kildare branch of Network Ireland is one of the most dynamic in Ireland, hosting monthly events ranging across a variety of topics including Women in Leadership, Communication Skills, Marketing and Finance.
"We also celebrate International Women’s Day in March, have our annual Business Awards Competition and our very successful Annual Charity lunch in November. We have currently 109 members from a large variety of professions, from sole traders to CEO’s of large organisations and all are very welcome" said Tara Lane, PRO and Vice President of NIKB.
Happy International Women’s Day! And remember, as Jo and Gail said above, it's not all glamour and lipstick; it's hard work, research and self belief. Your day will come......
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