Over 70 women entrepreneurs from the north-east gathered in the Tullyglass Hotel in Ballymena recently to celebrate the success of the North East Women’s Development Programme, which has come to an end after three years.

The programme, run by Invest Northern Ireland through its North East Local Office in Ballymena, has helped some 120 businesswomen in the area to develop business skills in essential areas such as marketing, finance, staff management and personal development.

The programme has also provided valuable networking opportunities for the women, who have decided to set up a formal network as a way for them to continue to support and mentor each other.

Speaking at the event Terri Scott, Managing Director of Entrepreneurship and Enterprise in Invest NI said: “Recent studies show that there is still a low level of entrepreneurship among women in Northern Ireland. This is not due to a lack of ability, creativity or dynamism among women but because of the particular constraints to becoming self-employed that women face, such as family responsibilities.

“Invest NI, through its Accelerating Entrepreneurship Strategy, is committed to making Northern Ireland an exemplar location for starting and growing a business. Within this strategy we’ll be developing specific initiatives to support women seeking to explore entrepreneurship.

“We recognise the value of initiatives such as the North East Women’s Development Programme. I know that the programme has been a very positive experience for the women involved in it and that there is a great deal of enthusiasm for the formal network which is to be established in July to continue the confidence and skill-building work begun by the programme.

“Networking and mentoring are key elements in shaping successful business people and building successful businesses.”

Other speakers at the event were Helen Hughes, a business and personal development coach, Ruth Daly, a marketing consultant, Helen Keys, a training consultant and Antrim woman Pauline Deazley, who spoke on the subject of female icons.

Participants in the Programme over the last three years included women working in established businesses, those considering starting a business, and women involved in community organisations.

The Programme was delivered by Business Foundations, the consortium of enterprise agencies covering Antrim, Ballymena, Ballymoney, Carrickfergus, Larne and Moyle, with Ballymena Business Centre in the lead.

Helen Hughes - Achievers Excel Ltd
Helen Hughes is a Director of Achievers Excel Ltd and one of Northern Ireland’s top Business and Personal Development Coaches. She is one of the first women worldwide to be granted the licence to run the internationally renowned Achievers Coaching Programme.

Helen Keys Business Support
Helen Keys Business Support specialises in designing and delivering training for entrepreneurs. For eight years Helen Keys worked with small businesses as an employee of Cookstown Enterprise Centre. Helen Keys Business Support is about taking a different and more creative approach to business.

Ruth Daly - Daly & Associates Marketing Consultants.
Ruth Daly is self employed as a marketing consultant working primarily with small businesses in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland helping them to develop a variety of marketing and business skills. Over the past three years Ruth has been working specifically with women entrepreneurs.

Pauline Deazley
Pauline Deazley is a well-known speaker in the Foyle/North West area and is currently setting up her own business.

Accelerating Entrepreneurship
In January 2003, an important new strategy – Accelerating Entrepreneurship – was drafted by Invest Northern Ireland and issued for public consultation. The strategy aims to help address the entrepreneurial deficit in Northern Ireland, particularly for global and externally oriented companies. The strategy is to be launched in June.