Going for Growth is an exciting programme whereby leading Irish female entrepreneurs have joined forces to give other women a hand up in business. Supported by KPMG and Enterprise Ireland, the 10th cycle starts this year.
The statistics just didn’t make sense. Paula Fitzsimons was puzzled. It was a decade ago and while 1,000 women were starting businesses across the country each month, their visibility and profile was almost negligible. Why would this be?
“Clearly visibility was a major issue, but it was more than this. With my co-author on the Global Entrepreneur-ship Monitor (GEM), Colm O’Gorman, professor of entrepreneurship at Dublin City University Business School, we investigated the research and spotted quite quickly that compared to their male counterparts, much fewer female entrepreneurs had ambition to significantly grow their businesses. I believed that something had to be done to encourage women to be ambitious and to be supported to realise their growth ambitions.”
And so the first Going for Growth cycle began in 2008 and over the last decade it has been become a mirror of its own aim – with over 600 women having engaged in the various Going for Growth programmes. It has become the programme of choice for ambitious women entrepreneurs who just need that helping hand to the next level.
Darina Barrett, Head of Financial Services with KPMG said: “One of the most important factors in supporting entrepreneurship is having mentors and role models. Going for Growth brings together successful Irish business entrepreneurs who are incredibly supportive of those at an earlier stage of their growth journey. They give of their time and expertise freely and this has been one of the great strengths of the programme.”
The initiative, which attracts businesswomen from every corner of the country, is based on interactive round-table sessions facilitated, not by consultants, academics or professional trainers, but by successful entrepreneurs.
“Role models are extremely important to women,” explains Fitzsimons, adding: “A woman who knows a successful female entrepreneur is four times more likely to start her own business. So our lead entrepreneurs volunteers kindly give their time and the positive impacts are immense.”
Entrepreneurs supporting entrepreneurs through peer learning is key to the success of Going for Growth. As each participant sets her own goals and projected milestones at the start of the six-month programme, others will add encouragement and good peer pressure to encourage her to achieve those goals. Finding solutions and networking are inevitable spin-offs for each entrepreneur.
KPMG supports the participants through running topic based work-shops in the area of funding for growth, tax, employment legislation and GDPR; while Enterprise Ireland provides expertise around innovation, scaling and developing exports.
Raising the visibility of women in Irish business and helping change the national mindset over the last decade, the core Going for Growth programme has expanded to meet demand.
The Starting Strong programme was recently introduced. Designed for ambitious female entrepreneurs at an early stage in the development of their business, it is aimed at companies whose length of pre-revenue development, innovation and growth potential are all significantly greater than the norm.
And those who are already members of the Going for Growth community, having completed one of the cycles, can apply for a place on the ‘Continuing the Momentum’ round table. “Continuing the Momentum round tables incorporate a different model to that of Going for Growth, however, as they are focused on Deep Dives and on turning the participants into an advisory board for each other,’ explains Paula Fitzsimons.
In the ninth cycle, in which 78 women participated, combined revenues grew by 17.8 percent or, in monetary terms, €20.6 million during the six months they were on the Going for Growth programme with 184 additional people employed on full-time contracts.
In all 68 women will take part in Going for Growth programmes in this, the 10th cycle. Not surprisingly demand for a place now completely outstrips the number of places available. And so the application process is competitive but gaining a place is really worth aiming for.
Among those lead entrepreneurs are the likes of Susan Spence of SoftCo; Oonagh O’Hagan of Meagher’s Pharmacy and Marissa Carter of Cocoa Brown, both previous participants; and Margot Slattery, country president for Sodexo Ireland.
One of those who benefitted greatly from the programme and who continues to be part of the Going for Growth community is Leonora O’Brien, founder of Pharmapod, which has grown from small beginnings to now being a major force in the Canadian pharmacy market, poised for further growth. She said: “Being involved in Going for Growth was a fantastic opportunity to be surrounded and inspired by other female entrepreneurs and leaders who hold you to account for the goals you set.”
To find out more about Going for Growth visit: Goingforgrowth.com