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Image / Editorial

Helena Ryan: ‘If you can’t sleep thinking about it then go for it’

by Hannah Hillyer
03rd Dec 2018

Helena Ryan, Director and Founder, WellFest, winner of Young Businesswoman of the Year, pictured with Dearbhail McDonald, Group Business Editor of Independent News and Media, Sinead Murphy, Marketing Manager, Liffey Valley Shopping Centre and Melanie Morris Contributing Editor at Image Publications at the Image Business Woman of the Year Awards 2018 at the Clayton Hotel-photo Kieran Harnett

2018 has been a landmark year for women. At the vanguard stand many who have steadfastly pioneered with their ideas, their work and their methods – they are a reflection of our strength, ability, determination and drive. At December’s Networking Breakfast, we celebrate the many achievements of our speakers and hear more about how they have successfully paved the way in their chosen field.

Here, co-founder of the award-winning festival Wellfest, Helena Ryan tells us about her career path to date, and how she juggles a full-time job as well as running the festival.

Join Helena, along with our MC, IMAGE contributing editor Melanie Morris, WarDucks game studio CEO, Nikki Lannen and Catherine Fulvio celebrity chef, author and owner of Ballyknocken Farmhouse & Cookery School, at our final Networking Breakfast of the year this Thursday, December 6.

How has life been since winning the IMAGE Young Businesswoman of the Year Award?

It’s been great, I have been on cloud nine! I have had lots of people messaging me offering their congratulations. I was delighted to be nominated, it was such a shock to win and it’s great to get the publicity for WellFest. Thanks to IMAGE for choosing me, it is such an honour.

Where did the idea of WellFest stem from? 

Fionnualla Cleary (co-founder and colleague) and I were walking back from the gym to the car around November 2014. We were talking about how much we loved music festivals and how it would be great if there was a festival that had the feel of a music festival but each area was dedicated to a different genre of wellness, heath and fitness. We got back to our desks and started scribbling different areas that we would like to have at that festival and thus WellFest was born.

What were the biggest challenges in the development process of WellFest? –Definitely in the beginning it was how to get the message across as to what WellFest was. We used to get a lot of emails asking questions about the running of the festival. Now we can put up videos of the festival so people can see how it works.

What are your top 3 tips for someone starting their own venture?

(1) If you can’t sleep thinking about it then go for it

(2) Have courage

(3) Don’t be afraid to follow your gut instinct and stick to it


How do you balance working full time as an associate in William Fry as well as WellFest?

I love being busy. I prefer concentrating fully on something with no distractions for a shorter period of time rather than working for long stretches with lots of breaks. We have morning/weekend meetings and evening calls for WellFest outside of working hours. WellFest is like a nice hobby for me, I love the festival so it’s not like work. We have taken on two full time employees to help with the running of the festival, Annabelle and Sarah and Aisling runs the blog so that helps massively.


With WellFest being an additional job to your full-time position at William Fry, how do you motivate yourself when your energy levels are low? 

I don’t really consider WellFest a job as I love doing it, it is more of a hobby. I’ve never had to motivate myself to work on WellFest. That being said, I also really enjoy working in William Fry. I’m lucky to be on a great team, led by a great partner Edward Spain. I find it easy to motivate myself if I’m happy. If I ever feel stressed or overwhelmed I find yoga to be a good unwinder, there are loads of videos on YouTube so I pick one, put it on the TV and flow along.

What can people expect from WellFest 2019? 

Bigger and better! Our aim every year is to learn from the last year’s event and build upon it. We really listen to feedback from attendees in order to make the festival the best that it can be. We are currently fine-tuning the lineup so you’ll have to wait and see.


 Where do you get inspiration for the different aspects for WellFest? 

I’ve always been interested in fitness. From a very young age my parents encouraged my sisters and I to try all forms of exercise. As a result, I developed a wide range of knowledge on fitness. All of the different aspects of WellFest are different forms of exercise or wellness that we love.


What are your top tips for going into business with a sibling?

We are more like friends than siblings! I am really lucky as I get on well with all of my sisters and we are so supportive of each other.  It was a no brainer going into business with Katie, I didn’t query it at any stage, my top tip would be to make sure that you do get on well. It was such a shock to win and it’s great to get the publicity for WellFest. Thanks to IMAGE for choosing me, it is such an honour.


When: Thursday, December 6
Breakfast treats from 7.30am
Where: The Marker Hotel
Tickets: €45
*Including luxury gift bag
Click HERE for tickets
Alternatively, email [email protected] Or phone (01) 271 9615

In association with Dundrum Town Centre, Volvo and Whirlpool.



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