VIDEO: Kilkenny Group CEO named IMAGE Businesswoman of the Year 2014

Awards ceremony honours Ireland's top business stars

VIDEO: Kilkenny Group CEO named IMAGE Businesswoman of the Year 2014

From left: Cathriona Hallahan, Microsoft Ireland; Cora Murphy, The Care Team; Susan Daly, Journal Media Ltd; Marian O’ Gorman, Kilkenny group; Debbie Deegan, To Russia with Love; Carol Greenan, UPC; Angie Dromgoole, Zeba; Rachel Kavanagh, Glossy Box.

On Monday evening, the winners of The IMAGE Businesswoman of the Year Awards for 2014 were announced at an award ceremony in Dublin.

Now in its 8th year, the Awards continues its mission of championing “trailblazing business women’s contribution to Ireland’s economy and their vital role within the Irish business community at home and abroad” and tonight the major honour of the year went to a woman whose business career is steeped in family tradition, and whose work can be seen in Ireland’s major towns and cities.

The 2014 IMAGE Businesswoman of the Year was Marian O’Gorman, CEO of The Kilkenny Group.

Marian began working with her father Christy Kelleher, founder of the Blarney Woollen Mills Group, at the age of 16. Marian was heavily involved in the family business and in 1999, took over as CEO of the Kilkenny Group. Since then, Marian has grown the Kilkenny Group phenomenally and credits her late father for much of her business acumen.

Going against the grain, she expanded the company during the recession, opening 8 new stores between 2007 and 2013. Today, Kilkenny has 13 stores nationwide, a thriving online shop and two in-store cafés. In both 2014 and 2013, Marian was named one of WXM’s Top 25 Most Influential Women and has worked closely throughout her career with the Crafts Council of Ireland, providing support and mentoring to up-and-coming designers.

Laura George, group editorial director of IMAGE publications, said: "Marian O’Gorman has worked since the age of 16 to build an iconic brand. A lot of her experiences- battling through tough times and championing Irish designers from Stephen Pearce and Nicholas Mosse to Orla Kiely – really resonate with us at IMAGE. It’s fitting that as Irish Design 2015 approaches, a woman who has done so much to promote craft and homegrown talent should receive this honour."

The were another eight category winners in all, who were:

Young Businesswoman of the Year: Rachel Kavanagh, Managing Director UK & Ireland, Glossybox

Actress turned businesswoman, Rachel Kavanagh is CEO of monthly beauty subscription service Glossybox in the UK. Following founding and running her own Rockstar Tan business in Dublin, she became CEO at Glossybox in 2013.

Entrepreneur of the Year: Leonora O’Brien, CEO/Founder, Pharmapod

As founder and director of Pharmapod, Leonora and her team of 10 aims to solve one of the most critical healthcare and economic issues faced globally today. Pharmapod’s strategy focuses on the developing world with the technology designed to contribute positively to societies that need it the most. In 2013, Leonora was the first Irish woman to win ‘Laureate for Europe’ at the global Cartier Women’s Initiative Awards.

Management Professional Businesswoman of the Year: Carol Grennan, CFO, UPC Communications

CFO at UPC for the past 7 years, Carol Grennan oversees the company’s key growth and product strategies. During her time as CFO she has worked with three different international CEOs assuming responsibility for the company’s financial results and driving financial performance.

Creative Businesswoman of the Year: Angie Dromgoole, Creative Director/Co-Founder, Zeba

Having recently celebrated the company’s 21st birthday and now having three thriving salons with over 56 members of staff, Zeba hairdressing continues to strive for growth and expansion in the future.

Start-up of the Year: Cora Murphy, Director, The Care Team

As Clinical Director in The Care Team, Cora oversees all the clinical aspects of the business, patient care and management of the nursing and care staff. As a registered nurse she was appointed into her first management role at the age of 23 with The Hospital Group as clinical lead nurse for Ireland.

Digital Businesswoman of the Year: Susan Daly, Managing Editor, Journal Media Ltd

Throughout her career in journalism, Susan’s first priority is to understand and find out what interests and excites the reader, while never compromising on ethics. This translates into a highly authentic and yet commercial approach that has helped to drive The Journal’s success.

Social Entrepreneurship: Debbie Deegan, Managing Director/Founder, To Russia with Love

Debbie has been working tirelessly in Russia since 1998 with the orphaned and abandoned children of the Bryansk Region and more recently with children in Kaluga, Tula and Moscow Region. What started off as one woman's promise to a child that she would come back to hug and kiss them has grown into a successful charity doing life changing work with thousands of orphaned and abandoned children across the Russian Federation.

CEO Businesswoman of the Year Award: Cathriona Hallahan, CEO, Microsoft Ireland

Cathriona is responsible for driving Microsoft’s commercial and consumer business on the island of Ireland. In addition to managing the continued growth and expansion of the business, Cathriona also represents the Company on all strategic policy, corporate affairs and communications issues including overseeing a series of community, education and innovation programmes. Cathriona joined Microsoft in 1986 and over the past 28 years has held a variety of senior roles in both Finance and Operations. She has managed large teams with regional and global responsibilities across a range of functions including global responsibilities for Microsoft Business Services and Enterprise Services, as well as directing Supply Chain Management, Logistics, Customer Care and IT & Financial support for Europe, Middle East and Africa.

Lifetime Achievement Award - Primark’s Board Director, Breege O’Donoghue

Tonight’s Awards also introduced the inaugural Lifetime Achievement Award with the first recipient being Primark’s Board Director, Breege O’Donoghue. Ms O’Donoghue’s reputation as an accomplished business woman has been garnered through her extensive career working with formidable Irish companies. Starting out, Ms O’Donoghue began her career in Hotel Management with the Great Southern Hotel Group. Leaving to set up Penneys HR department in 1979 and working as a board member to develop the Primark brand as a key player in the youth fashion market. Firmly established throughout Europe, Primark has even more ambitious plans, setting its sights on conquering the US market in autumn 2015.

Outside of her work at Primark, Breege has been a government appointed member on the board of a number of a state companies including An Post, Aer Rianta and Chairman of Shannon College of Hotel Management. Breege is currently a Non-Executive Director at C&C Group plc and also Chair of the Labour Relations Commission.

The Awards are proudly sponsored by Brown Thomas, Samsung, Boodles, Electric Ireland, Cara Pharmacy, Versatile Bathrooms & Interiors and Connect Ireland, and proudly supported by Newstalk,, Enterprise Ireland, Marks & Spencer, and the Doubletree by Hilton Hotel.

Video: Luke Benson