BY SIOBHáN CRONIN
WOMEN in business took the stage on the third day of the recent National Digital Week of conferences in Skibbereen.
‘If there is one group that can benefit from digital, it is women. It has become a real empowering tool, with so many businesses started from kitchen tables,’ said Dee Forbes, the Drimoleague-born president of Discovery Northern Europe – the TV network that is itself a by-word for adventure and facing new challenges.
Dee was introducing the woman behind the ‘Empowering a Billion Women’ initiative – American Ingrid Vandervedlt.
A hugely engaging talker, oozing confidence and ambition, Ingrid explained that her goal was to put a mobile device into the hands of 1bn women by 2020, and she is well on the way to doing just that.
She told the packed ballroom of the West Cork Hotel that she had approached Michael Dell, after setting up the meeting through a mutual acquaintance, and, after an hour’s discussion, the computer guru was on board.
She explained how she had worried for the previous five days about how she would explain this ‘crazy idea’ to the iconic businessman.
And she decided that she would just go in and tell him exactly what she had envisioned. It had taught her a valuable lesson: if you don’t ask, you won’t get.
The flame-haired IT entrepreneur, of Dutch and Irish extraction, also revealed that she couldn’t write one line of code, but had surrounded herself with whatever experts she needed to fulfill an ambition.
She had targeted women with her latest empowerment project, because ‘women reinvest 90% of what they earn back into their families and comunities’, she said. They also had a consistently higher return on investment. And she offered great encouragement to local women in West Cork. ‘Just because you are in Skibbereen, doesn’t mean you cannot build anything you want – even an international organisation,’ she said.
She revealed her three-step guide to the mindset needed to set up in business: 1. The Mentor Mindset – decide how you can add value to a mentor. She explained how she approached the same man who mentored Michael Dell, and explained to him that her success would be his success. (‘I knew he was looking for a successful business, run by a woman, to come out of his school,’ she explained.)
2. The Dealmaker Mindset – how is your idea going to add value (in time or finance) to the person you want to do business with?
3. The Innovator Mindset – decided how your business going to innovate in the marketplace. Ingrid invited the audience to download her ‘Emplowering a Billion’ app where there are mentors available, for free, to offer advice and share their opinions.