Network Ireland launches new business awards in time of COVID - the power within

Dawn Leane

Dawn Leane, President of Network Ireland, Wicklow

Dawn has many titles; corporate trainer and executive coach, is chair of Sunbeam House Services and is the President of the Wicklow branch of Network Ireland.
Network Ireland was established in 1983 and has more than 1200 members across the country. It is for professional woman in business – from solo entrepreneurs to women working in large organisations. In the Wicklow branch there are 70 members (now 71 since I joined yesterday) and while the organisation is for women, they encourage men to attend events too.

Normally they hold their annual business awards in May but due to COVID these were postponed. Today Dawn is able to announce that the Wicklow awards are going to go ahead now in August with a new revised theme. “We are not sure if we will have a physical live event this year but we are determined to give it our best,” explains Dawn.

It’s all about resilience

Under the direction and leadership of Network Ireland’s overall president Lousie Meehan, the organisation has come up with a new theme – the power within. “It’s all about resilience, how we build on our own resilience. We have never been tested in this way before and we wanted to explore what drives us, what makes us successful and even how we define that success.”
As a result, Network Ireland has changed some of its award categories and is not looking at business in the traditional way. “We’re trying to look at our members in a more holistic way. We are looking at our new ‘normal’ circumstances and seeing how our members have responded. It is less how well the business is doing – just staying open can be an achievement – and how they have reacted to the challenges over the past few months.”
The members have certainly faced business-changing challenges. Some of them have pivoted their business into a digital platform while others have volunteered for the country, becoming front line workers.

“Some of our members pressed the pause button to answer the call and serve the community. Others have seen new business opportunities that might not have existed before.”

One such example of innovation is the moving of Pilates studio classes to online classes. In this series of Wicklow Good News stories, I have interviewed Anne Sexton of Anne Sexton Pilates. I actually joined some of her online classes and discovered something else that I had not expected – the ability for a newbie to learn beginning Pilates from the comfort of their home and with the camera off or too high to record actual attempts at different moves. That was a great realisation.

Dawn had another example of foreign language schools going online. “There is a benefit for time poor parents – they don’t have to drive their children to the classroom and wait outside for the 40minutes or so for the class to be over. Children – and adults – can signup and do the classes online.” I mention Conor O’Leary of Purple House, a Wicklow based service to help cancer survivors and their families. Previously he pointed out they could only offer their services – classes for example – to people in Wicklow. Now, since they have been forced to go online, they can offer their classes nationwide. It’s a silver lining of COVID according to Conor.

New Awards for 2020

In recognition of these changing times, Network Ireland has released a new set of award categories for 2020, to include;
• Online Business Transformation
• Business Innovation
• Emerging New Business
• Solo Businesswoman
• Transformative Employee
• Power Within Champion

The overall thrust of the new awards is to celebrate the person and not just the business. The hard deadline for entries is 17 July with the local Wicklow awards happening in August before going onto the nationals in October. To enter you must be a member. For more information please go to

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