Growing number of women-led startups in the west

Wednesday, December 15, 2021 Press Office
Press Release

Maria Staunton, Manager of GMIT Mayo iHub, summarizes 2021 activity in GMIT Mayo iHub
"Start-ups have emerged as key drivers of economic growth and job creation and have continued to play a critical role to local economies during the COVID-19 crisis”, writes Maria Staunton, Manager of the GMIT Mayo iHub.

“2021 has been another unforgettable year with the coronavirus still circulating in society and Irish firms getting to grips with the challenges of Brexit. However, opportunities prevailed for people looking to set up their own businesses.”

2021 saw the highest number of applications to date for EMPOWER (GMIT’s female entrepreneurship programme), with over 250 applications for 34 places. The changing tide for the way people want to work and work for themselves is beginning to show and hold promise. Research completed in Oct 2021 on the performance of current and past EMPOWER participants found that:

·     Overall they increased their employee numbers by 150%
·     70% increased the number of products/services offered
·     47% grew their global customer base

Sandra Divilly Nolan, EMPOWER Programme Manager says: “There is a thriving, growing community of female founders in the region. The sharp rise in EMPOWER applicant numbers highlights the increasing interest and demand for support to fast track business development. The remarkable achievements of EMPOWER participants, within a short period of time, demonstrates their ability and their contribution to the economy.”

According to CRIF Vision Net, there has been a 28% rise in the number of new companies registered in Ireland in the first nine months of the year compared with the same time in 2020. Start-ups in Waterford increased by 20%, while Sligo was up 19%, Mayo up 13%, Clare up 11% and Dublin and Cork up 7%.

The new world of remote work is also beginning to grow with people deciding to work locally and commute less. The GMIT iHub Mayo opened its doors back in 2006 and in 2021 made some new upgrades to its centre with funding received from Enterprise Ireland through the COVID Recovery Grant. New renovations included two new outdoor spaces, a booth in reception, upgrading of facilities and new hotdesking facilities with high-speed fibre broadband due to be installed in early 2022.

On 15 June, the four campus Innovation Centres located in the Atlantic Technological University partner institutes of GMIT, LYIT and IT Sligo hosted a webinar titled, “Scaling Your Business in a Hybrid Working World - Working Locally, Trading Globally” Over 200 people joined this online event. GMIT iHub Mayo also collaborated with Sligo Innovation Centre on a Crowdfunding event.

On 7 September, the EMPOWER Explore event took place once again online and over 200 people participated.  The event focused on speakers who touched on early stage investment for women entrepreneurs, blockchain technology and achieving success in business and personal life experiences. Speakers included Anne Ravanova (founder of Global Invest Her), Professor Joyce O Connor (founding President of the National College of Ireland and co-founder and Chair of BlockW), Shane McCarthy (founder & CEO of Irish Craft Beverages) and Victoria Thompson (Co-founder and CEO at Orora).

Entrepreneurs Brenda Romero, CEO and co-founder of Romero Games and Mairead Mackle, founder and CEO of Tarasis Enterprises also shared their stories of success in business and personal life.

Representatives from five companies connected to the GMIT iHub in Mayo share their views below on how things have played out for them this year.

"Foodie Save has grown from strength to strength in 2021 with businesses such as Supervalu, Londis, House of Plates, Mocha Beans, Mortons of Galway and others all signing up. Foodie Save helps businesses to sell on their surplus food thus helping to reduce food waste. It's like "Just Eat for surplus food". Members of the public receive up to 70% reduction on the cost of food”, Eoin Heverin comments, ”whilst 2021 has been a challenging year we also have been able to grow locally and look forward to taking the business national in 2022”.

Marina Murphy is the inventor of the patented two-part baby vest called the Twosie. She recently launched into Arnotts. Marina comments, “We are delighted to have launched into Arnotts for their Christmas market. We have also just launched our Premium Twosie Gift Basket and Twosie Bundles in our online store, you can purchase our product in store or online at”. Marina participated on the EMPOWER Programme.

Sean Dunleavy is the Founder and Owner of SmallWall School Products. Starting out as a Mayo IHUB client and growing quickly to a company that has installed recreational products in schools and communities nationwide in 2021, SmallWall has hit the ground running. Their new upgraded website was a great addition and topping this off with the news that they won the Small Business Award from THREE really is the icing on the cake and a credit to all working for SmallWall.

Kocoono (EMPOWER GROWTH 2020) featured on the Late Late Show ‘Taking Care of Your Business’. Kocoono supply weighted blankets designed to reduce stress, anxiety and support with quality sleep.

BuyMedia, a former client of iHub Mayo got a mention in the Sunday Business Post as one of the 100 Hot Start Ups. BuyMedia is an online platform that helps SME advertisers to plan, purchase, manage and monitor their advertising across all media both traditional and digital, and to increase return on investment from advertising. The aim is to help SMEs compete with larger brands when trying to advertise - check out 

There’s no doubt that 2021 has once again been a difficult year for everyone, however it’s uplifting to see the growing number of new businesses that are setting up and also companies and people looking to work remotely. Working remotely allows people to come into the iHub to work 1 to 2 days per week and enables a cross fertilization of ideas and synergies between companies and start-ups. The iHub has individual offices and ensures all the necessary safety checks are implemented so clients can return safely. It is currently at 100% occupancy. The importance of a centre such as the iHub in supporting start-ups and small enterprises to grow and scale cannot be underestimated. After all, SMEs account for 99% of all businesses in Ireland and play a huge role in our economy. The iHub, since it opened its doors back in 2006, has helped to support 286 full time jobs and 82 part-time jobs. 55% of companies have engaged in research when located in the iHub (mainly innovation vouchers and internships) and 76% of iHub Clients are still in business after 7 years”.

For more information on GMIT iHubs visit or email


Issued by Regina Daly, GMIT Communications & Press Officer, GMIT, Dublin Road, Galway.
0879618355 (m)


Galway-Mayo IT, IT Sligo and Letterkenny IT working together to become a TU for the West and North-West of Ireland