Wicklow woman Christina Clarkin, who is the current President of the Network Ireland Wicklow branch, shares her experience of setting up her own business and the support the Network gave her.
On Saturday, in the Druids Glen Hotel and Golf Resort, the Businesswoman of the Year Awards for 2022 will take place, with eleven businesses from the Garden County in the final.
Speaking about the awards, Christina told WicklowNews.Net: “Our Businesswoman of the Year Awards is a key calendar event for us every year.”
“The idea of the awards is to really give our finalists the time to reflect on all they have achieved in their businesses and to celebrate the wins we so often overlook when we’re focussing on the day-to-day.”
She continued: “I know as a business owner myself; we can be so busy and constantly on that treadmill that we rarely get an opportunity to pause and reflect on what we have achieved personally and professionally”.
The awards aren’t just open to business owners but also to employees with this year seeing the finalists in the ‘Employee Rising Star’ category.
“Network Ireland is all about supporting, collaborating and providing a platform to celebrate professional women whatever their role in business,” said Christina.
“I’ve learnt about so many businesses in the area that I never would have even known about if it wasn’t for Network Ireland Wicklow.”
“The word that comes to mind for me when I look at all the women and businesses in the Network is inspiration – it’s so inspiring to see the determination and passion that our members have for what they do.”
Christina, who is originally from Greystones, also runs her own marketing company, MX3 – which stands for Marketing Experience Delivered – along with two business partners.
“Essentially, we like to get under the hood with businesses and understand what their goals are,” Christina explained. “For me, I love to visit in-person with my clients, have a cup of tea and chat about their business, their passion, their aspirations and goals, and ultimately who their ideal customers are. From that point, we can then support them with a clear marketing strategy and implementation plan.”
She added: “Our company is also there to implement the proposal for our client, so whether that is traditional print media or digital, we’re there to ensure our customers are appealing to their target audience and aligned with their business aspirations.”
Christina takes great pride in customer retention. MX-3 has a strong list of long-standing customers who have been with the company for many years. As Christina says “this is a real testament to what we do”.
“We are very passionate about our customers and getting the best outcomes for them in their business; we work with a diverse range of industries from home improvement right through to financial services and IT management services.”
Prior to a merger agreement, Christina had set out on her own in 2016. What was it like for Christina starting her own business? “It was both exhilarating and terrifying to set up my own business. However, I had grown up in a house where the family business and home-life were inextricably linked, so I suppose it was always in the pit of my stomach that I needed to try it.”
“I was in marketing and working for an IT company at the time, but I had identified that there were a lot of businesses in the Wicklow area that needed marketing support, particularly with online marketing. They were afraid to put themselves out there, that they might make a mistake and that it was too complex, and they needed someone to support and guide them and put an action plan in place.”
“For me, I saw that opportunity and I’m a real people person. As the saying goes – ‘I could talk for Ireland’ and I just said ‘you know something, I’m just going to go out and do this’ “
Christina said joining Network Ireland Wicklow supported her on “so many levels” in terms of educating her on the business landscape marketplace in Wicklow, but also building confidence within herself.
Christina won the Emerging New Businesswoman category in the 2018 awards for Network Ireland Wicklow.
“Wining in the emerging new business category was like getting a pat on the back to say I’m on the right path and I should keep pursuing my business dreams” she said.
“To be honest I think a lot of businessmen and businesswomen are tired, they’re exhausted, and I think having celebrations like this are absolutely critical to bringing back that fire and spirit and remind us why we do what we do.”
Christina revealed her company was involved with local printing company, Absolute, in the creation of the Q-Safe stickers during the pandemic, which quickly became a staple of the pandemic in shops and supermarkets throughout the country in a bid to keep us all safe and promote social distancing.
“Within 72 hours we had developed that concept from initial concept through to fully-functioning e-commerce platform and rolled it out into local businesses in Bray and Greystones. Everyone just got focussed and worked hard. The result was that it went from a small business project out to a national success story.”
“The sole goal was safety of people, and I was really proud to play a part in that,” she added.
The theme for this year’s awards is ‘Ignite’ and Christina reveals that came from the last two years where “the candle has been burning at both ends for us all” and this year it’s time to relight the flame and push forward.
“One thing that just fell back was selfcare and I think now we’re seeing a renewed emphasis on mental health awareness and the need to take time to look out for ourselves,” she said.
Network Ireland has been running a series of talks and workshops on this subject, including a recent stress management and sleep course.
Christina also offered advice to WicklowNews.Net readers who want to set up their own business.
“My advice would be to trust your gut feeling and go for it if you’re in a position to do so,” she said. “Get a solid good accountant on your side, cash-flow is everything in business.
“Reach out to the likes of Network Ireland Wicklow as we have a fantastic mentoring programme on offer. For things such as marketing, finance, and production, we’ve mentors there to help and guide you. Finally, your Local Enterprise Office is a great resource.”
“Go for it, and follow your gut,” Christina concludes.