Calls for Irish entrepreneurs to enter Cartier Women’s Initiative Awards

17 Feb 2015

Leonora O'Brien of Pharmapod, second from left, won in the Cartier Women's Initiative Awards in 2013. Via ABACA Press

With a fine recent record in the competition, Irish entrants are being encouraged to enter the Cartier Women’s Initiative Awards.

Now in its 10th year, the Cartier Women’s Initiative Awards look to celebrate and support innovative projects by women entrepreneurs around the world.

Separating entrants via six geographical areas, winners take home a prize of US$20,000, one year of coaching, extensive networking opportunities and international media exposure.

Last year, Yvonne Brady’s EVB Sports Shorts saw her through to the finals, while 2013 saw Leonora O’Brien’s software company Pharmapod come out on top, overall, in Europe.

Media exposure and brand links

Supported by jeweler Cartier, the Women’s Forum, McKensey & Co and INSEAD business school, it’s the media exposure, and links with such global brands, that seem to attract most entrants, especially those in the US.

“North American entrants enter mainly to be associated with the brands. The US$20,000 might not mean too much to them,” said Mary Cronin, co-founder of Thousand Seeds, promoters of entrepreneurship and learning.

Cronin explained that, despite the success of Irish entrants in the past two years, many in Ireland are simply too intimidated to put themselves forward for what is a very accessible and worthwhile experience.

“Six years ago we had almost no applicants, then two years ago I spoke with Cartier and Enterprise Ireland,” said Cronin, and subsequently Cartier visited Ireland to drum up awareness of the awards. “Then we had Leonora winning, then last year Yvonne did very well.”

You could be the perfect fit

Cartier claimed to want “exceptional” women, a word which Cronin admitted may turn some people off. “A lot don’t apply because they think it’s well beyond them, but it’s not.”

To be eligible for the awards, women have to be leading companies in their initial one to three-year phase. The business must be a for-profit project, and something unique.

“Keep it simple,” Cronin said of the application process, the deadline for which is Friday, 27 February, at 10am CET. “Explain the problem you are trying to solve, and think big.”

O’Brien did just that, when her Pharmapod project looked to be the right fit for a global business plan back in 2013. A cloud-based software solution, the subscription service allows pharmacists to record, report and analyse all incidents that should be flagged regarding customer reactions to prescription drugs and the like. Clearly an idea that could cross borders, if anything, it is strengthened by further reach.

The finals, the place to be

But taking home the top prize is not the be all and end all, said Cronin. “Last year we had Yvonne Brady and two others as European finalists. If you get to the finals, really you already are a winner.”

At this stage, participants are put through coaching from INSEAD and McKensey & Co during an entrepreneurial experience in Paris for a week.

“They do lots of media training, introduce you to global brands and media. We help with international workshops,” said Cronin. “It’s a massive opportunity.”

In truth if you fit the criteria for entering, Cronin can’t see a reason for not taking a punt and putting yourself forward.

“I really try and promote entrepreneurship, especially for females. All the research shows that females just aren’t going for as much funding as their counterparts. Even at an early stage we need to get STEM and design and the likes into our curriculum. Going forward, you don’t need to go find a job, we can create jobs.”

Women Invent Tomorrow is Silicon Republic’s campaign to champion the role of women in science, technology, engineering and maths. It has been running since March 2013, and is kindly supported by Accenture Ireland, Intel, the Irish Research Council, ESB, Twitter, CoderDojo and Science Foundation Ireland.

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Gordon Hunt was a journalist with Silicon Republic