Three inspiring women shared their stories of entrepreneurial success in the face of adversity during the latest event in the DCU Women in Family Business & Leadership Series. Speakers included Peaches Kemp of ITSA, Hatch & Sons and Alchemy; Orlaith Carmody of Gavin Duffy and Associates and Roslyn Bell of Commonhall Apartments.
Organised by DCU Business School’s Centre for Family Business and Leadership and Talent Institute, the event titled Flourishing in the Face of Adversity: Rebuilding Resilience in the Workplace addressed the unique challenges faced by our female leaders and the inspirational ways in which these challenges can be conquered.
Addressing an audience of more than 60 business professionals from a wide range of industries, the speakers shared their personal experiences of entrepreneurship and growing successful businesses while confronted with serious personal and professional challenges.
While the property, food and business coaching industries each face unique challenges, the speakers shared common stories of resilience and determination to overcome serious setbacks. Adversity provided motivation for Roslyn Bell’s decision to open a boutique and subsequently enter property development, after a serious car crash and cancer diagnosis.
Peaches Kemp spoke of the peaks and troughs of developing her food company alongside her sister Domini, particularly in 2013 when she experienced the closure of one of her businesses, the death of her mother and Domini’s cancer diagnosis within the space of months. Yet between 2013 - 2015, the Kemp Sisters’ companies doubled in size, with the opening of new businesses Joe’s, Alchemy and new branches of ITSA.
Family companies as a source of strength in adversity
Each of the featured companies is a family business, which proved in all cases to be a source of strength and support during tough times. All speakers recounted moments of occasional friction and the need to manage relations in a family environment. Peaches Kemp described establishing a “punitive shareholder agreement between the two of us as one of the smartest things we did. It made us focused on success.” This family mind-set helped companies to prevail through hard times. When ITSA experienced the closure of one outlet, neither Peaches nor her sister drew salaries for a period of time, avoiding the need for redundancies.
Advice for dealing with adversity
Focus, ambition, hard work and strong business management have clearly paved the way for success among all three women’s companies. Setbacks are inevitable and the panellists shared great advice and inspiration for resilience and perseverance.
Roslyn Bell’s belief is that power is found in adversity and that “the power within you is greater than you’ll ever imagine”. When Roslyn Bell decided to close her boutique in order to focus on growth in her property portfolio she remarked that “fail” means First Attempt In Learning. She also highlighted the need to let go. Following years of health problems and tough business decisions, she now knows “there’s nothing the world will throw at me that I can’t deal with.” The need to adapt was also clear from her business journey as when the property market experienced a downturn, she turned attention to renting property for holiday lettings.
Acknowledging that “life hasn’t been without ups and downs”, Orlaith Carmody shared her husband and business partner Gavin Duffy’s realisation of the important things in life when times were hard - marriage, children and education and their home. She counselled the group to develop confidence for the “lámha suas moment when you put your hand up and self-select” to make a presentation, deliver a keynote or put yourself forward for media opportunities. She further advised the group to “find your voice and never be afraid to put your flag in the sand”.
Director of Research at DCU ‘s Centre for Family Business and Professor of Entrepreneurship Maura McAdam referred to the importance of “courage capital”, advising the group to make a tribe and “surround yourself by mentors and advisors” to face challenging times.
Professor Maura McAdam said,
“What is unique about these events, is that our participants get to hear real-life stories of bold leadership and also get an opportunity to get up close and personal with the leaders via our innovative expert clinics – so they leave our events inspired, uplifted and with valuable takeaways that they can use in their everyday leadership activities.”
Highlighting strong business ethics, Peaches Kemp advised, “Managing your relationships is one of the most important things you can do”. She further counselled the group to “be kind to yourself, surround yourself with great people, don’t be afraid to fail” and quoting recent DCU Honorary Doctorate Martin Naughton of Glen Dimplex, “if you don’t innovate you will evaporate”.
The presentations were followed by a panel discussion chaired by DCU adjunct professor Joe Cullinane. Joe is visiting DCU Business School from Silicon Valley and is an advisor to ReBoot Career Accelerator for Women in Menlo Park, California.
Pictured (back row l-r): Anne Sinnott, Melrona Kirrane, Joe Cullinane, Thomas Mahon, Orla Delaney (front row l-r): Maura McAdam, Roslyn Bell, Orlaith Carmody, Peaches Kemp, Janine Bosak.