National College of Ireland in conversation with East Coast Bakehouse founder Alison Cowzer

Prove to yourself what you can do at National College of Ireland

National College of Ireland is hosting a series of lunchtime talks with Ireland’s top entrepreneurs as it prepares to open its doors to the next generation of business leaders this September.

The 'In Conversation With' series is all about hearing from the people working right at the cutting edge of industry - and discovering how National College of Ireland can help you get there.

Full-time and part-time evening courses in everything from Entrepreneurship, Management and Marketing to the college's Masters in Business Administration (MBA) are enrolling now for a September start.

This week’s episode is a tale of two dragons as Newstalk's Bobby Kerr welcomes East Coast Bakehouse founder and Dragon’s Den investor Alison Cowzer to the college campus in Dublin's IFSC.

Ms Cowzer left school at 17 and cut her teeth at a range of PR and Marketing firms - before deciding to go back to education and take on the challenge of an MBA.

“I remember coming home and saying, 'I have an idea, what if I gave up work and we remortgaged the house and I just didn't work for the next year and went to college?" she said.

“It was an interesting conversation at the time, but my husband Michael was very supportive and that is what we did.

“Having done my MBA, we moved to the UK and I walked straight into a job with L’Oréal that I could never have expected in a million years without the MBA.”

East Coast Bakehouse has invested close to €20m in renovating its 50,000 square foot factory on the outskirts of Drogheda.

Originally targeted at the €3bn UK market; the high-end biscuit business was forced into a major re-think after the Brexit referendum.

"The week Brexit was announced was the week we actually started in full production in the factory so it was a huge shock to the system to think that maybe we had backed the wrong horse," said Ms Cowzer.

“We had to change very quickly and say, right lets tear up that business plan - the one that we got all that investment for - because we don't think it is going to work anymore.

"We have now gone much more global in our geographical reach.”

A self confessed “current affairs junkie,” Ms Cowzer won’t rule out a run for political office at some point.

For now though, her work with the ‘Women for Election’ group is focused on encouraging others to take the plunge.

The group has set a target of training up 1,000 women before the local elections next May – and ensuring they have the tools and experience necessary should they decide to stand.

"If we wait for organic change, it will take hundreds of years because the apparatus that is there, has been created, devised, developed and maintained for the status quo," she said.

"In order to make change happen there has to be something that is systemically different.

"It is all about building the pipeline - and putting the supports in place so that the culture of work changes."

You can listen back to to the full conversation here:

Next up in the series:

  • Dómhnal Slattery, Avalon CEO and aviation mogul – Friday June 29th

Entrance is free but places are limited – register for free here.

Prove to yourself what you can do at National College of Ireland. Our full and part-time courses give you the tools you need to realise your ambition. Visit www.ncirl.ie to find out more.