Mary Carty: Waking a network of women founders across Ireland

12 Feb 2021

Image: © bakhtiarzein/

Just because we can’t connect in person, doesn’t mean networking has to stop. AwakenHub co-founder Mary Carty tells us about her latest community for women entrepreneurs.

What happens when four hard-working advocates for women in business find themselves stuck at home during a pandemic? A new community hub to help women founders build connections in a meaningful, open and dynamic way is born.

AwakenHub originated in a time when we are all keeping our distance, and its founders had to form plans for this new network from their various remote locations. Serial tech entrepreneur and angel investor Mary McKenna is in rural Donegal. Innovate-NI co-founder Clare McGee is a proud Derry girl. Originally from Cork, consultant and strategist Sinead Crowley typically divides her time between the rebel county and the UK, while Roscommon native Mary Carty currently lives in Meath.

A serial entrepreneur with a background in the arts, education and technology, Carty believes the force of this foursome can support women to lead, take charge and change the world.  She spoke to about how AwakenHub was formed and what it has in the works.

‘To hear women say “I belong here” is fantastic, as so many women in business feel excluded’

What was the genesis of AwakenHub?

A small group of us [Carty, McKenna, McGee and Crowley] have been talking for years about how to bring together the work we all do to support and amplify women founders on the island of Ireland and its diaspora. Our first conversations were sitting together at Inspirefest, surrounded by amazing women and wondering how we could combine our expertise for the benefit of all. From time to time we would chat about ways to make our community more concrete and our networks accessible to more people.

Then lockdown (numero uno) happened. We each sprang into action to move the founder support agenda forward in our ways and on our frequent Zoom calls we talked about the work we were all doing. As the weeks passed, AwakenHub began to take shape and we held our first event on Monday, 6 July 2020. Our guest speakers were Anne Ravanona and Joyeeta Das, for whom 60 women and a handful of men dialled in from the four corners of Ireland, San Diego, Paris, Oxford, London, Copenhagen, New York City, Munich and beyond.

How have things been going since AwakenHub was unleashed on the world?

We are now on event number eight, ‘America is Open for Business’, on the evening of 16 February. We have operated waitlists from event number two, such has been the demand, and now have a subscriber list of around 600 women (well, maybe about five men and the rest women).

Has it been difficult to build a network during a pandemic?

We have found it an incredibly positive experience. Lockdown has brought people together in ways we have not seen before. And our events cater to Irish women abroad and from the island of Ireland. The most inspiring thing we have seen is the willingness to help and connect, as it is such a difficult time for everyone.

Zoom has been a great connector and leveller. If you can harness the potential of your breakout rooms and build a culture of support (we don’t do mé féin at AwakenHub) it can be your secret sauce.

More importantly, the community is actively supporting each other, making connections, opening doors and opportunities which can often be seen from #AwakenHubChat. We have had feedback about introductions, funding rounds, and new contracts won that would not have happened without AwakenHub members connecting and being so incredibly generous. To hear women say “I belong here” is fantastic, as so many women in business feel excluded.

We have also been incredibly fortunate with the depth and breadth of speakers we have worked with since we started out. Women founders are incredibly busy right now with the additional stress of home-schooling, so we are very grateful.

What is ‘America is Open for Business’ about and what can attendees expect?

Our eighth event in AwakenHub’s Female Founder series will bring you the inside scoop on how to do business, build your network and understand cultural nuances in America before booking that flight to cross the Atlantic.

We may not be able to travel at the moment but we can plan ahead. We’ll have an epic mix of Irish-American and Irish women discussing topics you should consider and be aware of before you head west.

Host Mary McKenna will be joined by a powerhouse panel including Mary Ann Pierce, founder and CEO of Map Digital; Mary McEvoy, vice-president and head of procurement at PepsiCo; Emer Rocke, Ireland’s deputy ambassador to the US; and Claire McHugh, CEO of Axonista.

This event is for any female founders looking at the huge US market and wondering how to make inroads into it from Ireland – either for business development and territory entry or as a source of new investment into your company.  The new Biden-Harris administration brings new opportunities for innovation in climate change initiatives, agritech, education, AI, deeptech and more.

Two breakout sessions will allow for a purposeful themed chat and a bit of pure networking. We are down to a handful of tickets, so be quick and register.