Northern Ireland entrepreneur Sinead Sharkey has been appointed to the Regional Leader Programme of the networking organisation promoting equality in business, Lean In.
Sinead’s work to develop her Female Entrepreneurs Lean In ‘circle’ supporting women starting or building their own business came about as she was moving from 15 years working in a large organisation.
At the time she was on maternity leave and since giving her first talk on confidence at a Lean In Belfast meeting, she has not looked back on her decision to begin her own business, nor to become part of Lean In Belfast.
“Despite all the worries of presenting shortly after having a baby, the talk was a hit and the business was born,” Sinead explained, adding: “After the session on how to ‘Rise and Shine with Confidence’ Generation Women became a reality.”
Spurred on by her initial experiences with Lean In Belfast Sinead went on to co-design and lead the Leadership Development Programme for Allstate with college Lisa Strutt, which impacted over 800 of the Lean In members. It also encouraged her to start the Lean In Female Entrepreneur Circle.
“Lean In has benefitted me by giving me the support I needed to take the leap into business,” she said.
“I believed I could because I had women around me who believed in me. It’s a scary step moving from the safety of a good corporate career, but I was seeing others take brave steps and felt why not me?
“I’ve made close friends, and I’ve been able to support others. I found my tribe, and it has been an important part of my life for the last three years.”
Nuala Murphy, Founder of Lean In Ireland and regional leader said she was delighted to see fellow local Lean In members not only progressing through the organisation but spreading the Lean In ethos further afield.
She added: “When we started Lean In Belfast five years ago it was always my mission to enable other people to become leaders in their own networks. Lean In has enabled many women to take the lead and I am delighted that Sinead has been recognised in this way.”
With the ongoing success of her business and her enhanced role in Lean In Belfast, Sinead is keen that more and more women take advantage of its support.
“I encourage people to go to Lean in events all the time. It’s the best networking you can do.
“It’s friendly, easy, and the people there go with a mindset of giving rather than taking. It’s a pretty special thing. I bring my clients all the time to show them that with the right group and event you can build relationships that will change your life.”
And, that has been the case with her Female Entrepreneurs group.
“We took the approach that our members have so much untapped knowledge and experience that rather than bring in outside speakers, we would do a shout out for members to pitch to speak at our events, and we had a fantastic response.
“We also took the opportunity to recognise members that were out there doing amazing things. Our key event this year was totally inspirational, and people had such a strong response to it. We can’t wait to do our next big one.
The Female Entrepreneurs Circle is said by Sinead to be a “tribe of friends” and has built to over 400 members in a short period of time and Sinead is determined to keep pushing forward.
“We plan to hold more big events to support the community as well as grow the circles to provide more tailored support. We want to encourage our members to build their own circles and tribe that can support them where they’re at in the journey, whether it’s to focus on marketing, start-ups, securing investment…whatever they need.
“With that said I feel honoured and privileged to have been recognised and become part of the Regional Leaders Program. It’s an opportunity that will help us to grow as a network and provide even greater support. Being an entrepreneur is a challenge for all, and women definitely face some unique challenges. Anything we can do that can help make that journey easier is what’s most important for us.”
The Regional Leaders Program (RLP) was launched in 2016 to celebrate and support the top leaders who run Circles and Chapters in the LeanIn.Org community. The program provides leaders with promotional and financial benefits and a direct link to the LeanIn.Org team to help them grow and engage their networks.