06/11/2002

Women entrepreneurs' achievements celebrated

The achievements of a new generation of women entrepreneurs in the North East were acknowledged at a special event yesterday in Ballymena organised by Invest NI.

Over 70 businesswomen attended the event at which BBC Radio Ulster presenter Wendy Austin and a director of marketing and distribution company Variety Foods, Rotha Johnston, who is also a Vice Chairman of Invest NI, were guest speakers.

The event, held at Galgorm Manor, is part of the North East Women’s Development Programme, which is provided by Invest NI’s North East Local Office in Ballymena. This networking event was co-funded by the European Social Fund’s Peace 11 initiative ‘Building Sustainable Prosperity in Northern Ireland’.

The programme is an integral part of an Invest NI action plan for its local offices to promote self-employment and business start-up among women across Northern Ireland.

Mrs Johnston said: “Initiatives such as the North East Women’s Development Programme are exceptionally important because they highlight business opportunities, provide a support structure and create successful role models for aspiring entrepreneurs to follow.

“Although there are already a number of excellent examples of entrepreneurial women in their own businesses or working within successful companies, I am convinced that many more women throughout Northern Ireland have the ideas, ability and enterprise to develop careers that are rewarding in financial and personal development.

“The extent of the challenge facing Invest NI and the entire community was demonstrated in a recent report by the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment which found that Northern Ireland has one of the lowest levels of entrepreneurship among women in the United Kingdom.”

In her address Wendy Austin said women were increasingly providing leadership in most walks of life including politics, local government, the media, and in the world of business. She said it was encouraging that Invest NI was "seeking to engage many more women in efforts to shape a more robust and dynamic economy based on entrepreneurship and enterprise".

The North East Women’s Development Programme is being delivered by Business Foundations, the consortium of enterprise agencies covering Antrim, Ballymena, Ballymoney, Carrickfergus, Larne and Moyle, with Ballymena Business Centre in the lead.

Over 70 women are taking part in the current programme. They include established businesswomen, those considering starting a business and women who are involved in community organisations.

Another 50 women have completed similar development programmes in the North East and it is envisaged that this network will support and empower businesses in the council areas of Antrim, Ballymena, Ballymoney, Carrickfergus, Larne and Moyle.

(SP)

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