By @SimonCocking

Pleased to catch up with Aine Collins, TD for Cork North West, speaker at the IrishBizPartyInspires event and member of Jobs, Enterprise & Innovation Committee.

Well done on your speech at Tweeting goddess event. You said you hate public speaking, it’s impressive how many people hate it. What would your tips to others be on how to overcome the nerves!

I would suggest just practicing, if possible in front of a mirror.  Try and stay calm beforehand and there are breathing exercises which can help with this.

Bizpartyinspires – for those that missed it, why would you say it was of value (what might inspire / help them)?

There were over 200 businesses represented at the event and I could see the various businesses networking, making new connections and learning from each other.  Networking is so vital to generating business and the organiser of the event Samantha Kelly realises this.  She is known as the twitter goddess, but she is also a networking goddess!  Samantha proves that you can bring this online/twitter networking off line so that people and businesses can make real and lasting connections in the “real” world through twitter.

You’re on the Jobs / enterprise / innovation committee, if you were selling Ireland to the rest of the world, what are we doing well in this regard in Ireland at the moment?

Our People. Ireland isn’t rich in natural resources like oil, steel, or gold but we are one of the richest countries in the world when it comes to our human resources. I know this sounds trite but its the honest truth. We are the silicon valley of Europe because of our tech graduates. The quality of our graduates is world renowned. It is no surprise that when it comes to leading edge technology, world leaders base themselves in Ireland. Cork is a veritable who’s who of the global pharmaceutical industry. A big reason for this is the quality of graduates from UCC.

But it goes far beyond traditional education. The friendly, innovative, open manner Irish people have, makes it easy for them to work in teams, be excellent sales people, communicate complex principles easily and just be fun to work and do business with and we are known the world over at being good at problem solving.  Our unique way of looking at the world means we are natural born innovators and entrepreneurs. It’s no surprise that the Irish invented Duty Free!

The IDA had a marketing campaign many years ago that simply said “The Irish. Hire them before they hire you”. I think it rings true today!

We are a small country with 4.5 million people so it’s a great place for new product launches where businesses can get traction quickly.

What could Irish businesses do better to gain more traction locally and overseas?

Ireland is a great place to do business and as the economy continues to improve, we must continue to talk positively about our businesses, our country and the forecast for the future.  People like working with positive people and organisations, so it’s a big step towards engagement being positive.

Again, Samantha is a great example of this.  Her enthusiasm for doing business in Ireland is infectious with her “can do” attitude.  If we could bottle that!!!

I think one good piece of advice would be for Irish businesses to embrace social media the way Samantha has, it’s a brilliant way to reach out to new customers, suppliers and connectors nationally and internationally.

Also in Ireland we need to get better at selling online – there is a whole world of customers waiting for us out there.

How do you manage your work life balance?

As at least half of my week I’m in Dublin and with two small kids at home in North Cork, it takes some balancing.  My husband has been an equal partner in raising the kids and this is vital for me to succeed in Leinster House and for my constituents ,  also our amazing child minder who is there for the kids when I can’t be there.

Being away from home during the week, I make the most of my time by putting in 14/16 hour work days and when I’m back in Cork the rest of the time I catch up with constituency work, meetings and events.  When I’m in Cork during the week, usually on Mondays and Fridays, I try to get home to put the kids to bed and whenever possible I take Sundays off, so there is one full day that the kids can have me to themselves.

On Saturday nights Paul and I tend to make sure we have this night together, either having friends over to dinner or going out to a friend’s house.  We live in a beautiful part of North Cork, Rathcoole, this peaceful part of the world really earths me and gives me great balance.  After a hectic week in Leinster House and it’s always great when the car is pointed in the direction of home.

Salesforce and some others have built philanthropy into their ethos from the get go, what’s your advice / opinion on this, and does this work for Irish businesses too?

I would agree with this and hopefully as things continue to improve with the economy we will see more multinational and indigenous businesses based in Ireland showing their philanthropic side.

I have visited the US a number of times on philanthropic missions for an organisation which I helped to set up – The Cork Foundation, engaging with Irish diaspora.  We set up the Cork Foundation to help small businesses in Cork and much of the funding is coming from overseas diaspora.  Philanthropy is big in the USA and I’m seeing more of this at home now.  It is definitely something that I believe we should nurture and support.

There is a lot more we can do with the Diaspora if we invest the time to engage with them in a regionally way.   From my experience so far with the Cork Foundation and from meeting Irish Americans to them they are Irish and very proud of their Irish heritage –  Ireland is Home – so we are pushing a open door if we can develop the networks and the database of people right across USA.

What technology do you use to make your life easier?

Oh god!  As anyone who knows me will know, I am a totally technophobe, but I’m getting better.  Ciara, my eldest daughter has shown me around Hootsuite, so I can manage my social media more effectively.  I have some people helping me with this, but I think it’s important when I am out and about to manage my own social media.

Also I would be lost without my iPad – it goes everywhere with me and means that I can reply quickly to emails on the go.

What do you wish would be invented already to make your life easier?

Possible some way of reading all the information that comes to me a summarising it on a one pager.

Cork, why is it a good place to do business? 

Cork is a great place to do business.  We have the perfect mix for business success in terms of infrastructure, scale, range of existing large indigenous and multinational organisations who have made Cork their own, including 8 out of the 10 leading global pharma companies and technology companies such as VM Ware and EMC based in Ballingcollig employing thousands of people in my constituency in Cork North West.

We also have ease of access to the region’s decision makers, which is very important to businesses of all sizes.  Our ethos of entrepreneurship goes back centuries and there is a great “can do” attitude from start-up entrepreneurs as well as the local agencies like the various LEOs and organisations my own constituency like Macroom E who support start-ups and SMEs.

Cork people have a great attitude to business –  they are very proud of their heritage and have a great belief in themselves and their ability to get things done.

What new innovations and companies are you excited about from your area?

Throughout my area in Cork North West and beyond there are great good news stories of businesses and individuals showing great innovation, expanding or starting business and creating valuable jobs in their rural communities.

I have been doing some work with EPS, who are based in North Cork and just last week, with the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, Richard Bruton TD, announced plans for a €3million investment and 50 new highly skilled jobs for the area.

There is a craft company in Kanturk who have amazing products and they will be selling online very soon so l think there is great potential there.

In Charleville we have great engineering companies, some new and exciting being set up and existing ones growing on a global stage.

In Millstreet we have over 80 different businesses again across sectors from food, medical, electronic manufacturing, transport all after coming through a difficult time but still standing and  l am confident that these businesses  have great potential to grow.

Also I’m really thrilled to see young artists, musicians, actors and film makers from Cork making a name for themselves on the international scene.  For example a young Cork film maker Brendan Canty, with his production company Feel Good Lost is responsible for the world-wide sensation that is the Hozier’s  “Take Me to the Church” video – which has now over 220 million views on line and counting.  This video was filmed and produced in Cork, using Cork actors, and this talent we need to nurture and support and help them to generate viable businesses in the Cork region, supporting job creation and giving Cork a global platform.

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