Jo Fairley, co-founder of one of the world’s first organic chocolate brands, gave an inspirational keynote address to a delegation of local female entrepreneurs at an event in Belfast today, hosted by Invest Northern Ireland.
Having discovered the unique taste of 70 per cent chocolate made from organic cocoa beans by chance back in 1991, Jo went on with her husband to establish Green & Black’s – now renowned as one of the world’s leading organic chocolate manufacturers and the UK’s first company to be awarded the Fairtrade mark.
Jo was speaking at the closing event of Invest NI’s Pathways to Female Entrepreneurship programme. The ceremony, held at the Stormont Hotel, celebrated female entrepreneurship in Northern Ireland and highlighted best practice from the initiative over the past two years.
The event also reviewed achievements made through the programme which encouraged women to start their own business, supported the growth of existing female-led enterprises, and improved the linkages amongst the wider support network for women in business.
Addressing a wide range of female entrepreneurs, Ms Fairley said: “Companies in Northern Ireland have a huge amount to gain by encouraging females to take up positions that have traditionally been filled by men. Women have enormous potential to succeed and contribute to the achievement of business goals, and many firms can significantly increase their profits by offering talented women opportunities to use their commercial acumen.”
Rotha Johnston, Vice-Chairperson of Invest NI, said: “The fact that innovation is one of the key drivers of the Northern Ireland economy demonstrates the importance of embracing the highly innovative talents of women in business. Continued access to appropriate support mechanisms is important for women in business, in order for them to climb the career ladder and make a valuable contribution to economic growth.”
“Invest NI is committed to helping more women to start and grow their business, with a view to developing more high quality export focused enterprises and closing the gap between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK in terms of female entrepreneurship. It is crucial that women in Northern Ireland have the confidence to put their business ideas into practice and realise their full potential,” added Ms Johnston.
Invest NI’s Pathways to Female Entrepreneurship programme was part-financed by DEL, through theEuropean Social Fund, under the Northern Ireland Programme for Building Sustainable Prosperity.