There are countless Irish women who are making us proud at the moment, and whilst we’d like to shout about each and every one of them from the rooftops, we’re conscious of your limited time, so we’ve narrowed them down to these 18 outstanding individuals. This list includes power women from all areas of working life; from environmentalists to fashion designers, beauty experts to theatre directors. Scroll down to read about these kick-ass Irish women who look set to do great things in 2018.
1. Jill De Burca, Fashion Designer
Photo credit: Martina Regan
Jill de Búrca worked in the UK for more than five years as an embroidery and embellishment designer, selling her creations to brands such as Calvin Klein, Diane von Furstenberg and Topshop. In 2014, Jill moved back to her native Dublin, and has since launched her own eponymous label.
An NCAD graduate who studied textiles and specialised in embroidery for her degree, she uses a mixture of intricate machine embroidery and hand embellishment, alongside digital printing and interesting fabric combinations.
The last year has been a very busy one for the Jill de Búrca studio, as impressive collaborations and commissions took place (a particular highlight being embroidering Bono and The Edge’s outfits for the recent U2 tour). 2018 will see the launch of a bespoke bridal collaboration with designer/illustrator Emma Sheridan (look out for one of the dresses, which features in the January/February issue of IMAGE Magazine, out December 29).
2. Eithne Shortall, Author
In 2017, Eithne Shortall published her bestselling debut novel Love In Row 27, had it optioned to be turned into a TV series by the people who made Downton Abbey, sold it in ten languages internationally, and signed a six-figure deal for the US publication of her second novel, Grace After Henry – a quick-witted, heartfelt story of love, loss and everyday magic. Scheduled for publication in Ireland and the UK in May 2018, her new book is already attracting some exciting film interest.
And if that’s not enough, Eithne (currently chief arts writer on the Irish edition of The Sunday Times) will spend 2018 writing her third novel, which has been commissioned by publishers in the UK and US.
3. Clare O’Hanlon, Organiser of Sofar Sounds Dublin
Clare O’Hanlon, 26, lives in Dublin and is the City Lead of the Dublin wing of Sofar Sounds, a global movement that facilitates secret gigs all across the world.
A staunch advocate for Irish music, Clare began her Sofar Sounds journey in August 2014 and has since been responsible for organising the huge #GiveAHome gig which saw Hozier, Wyvern Lingo, Sorcha Richardson and Lewis Kenny play a show in D-Light Studios in aid of Amnesty International. Sofar Dublin has grown legs over the last two years in particular, and this could not have occurred without O’Hanlon’s affection and passion for this city and the music that its people make.
But this is just a labour of love, done without wage – Clare’s day job is social media and content executive at media agency Carat (and as if that’s not enough to be getting on with, she’s also co-creator of creative collective Peachy Dublin).
4. Oonagh Murphy, Theatre Director
(Image via nomoreworkhorse.com)
Oonagh Murphy is an Irish theatre director who’s already worked on projects at the Abbey Theatre, the Royal Shakespeare Company, The Lir and Project Arts Centre. Oonagh is headstrong in the way she addresses modern social issues in her work, and seeks to incorporate community development and activism into her productions whenever she can.
Earlier this year, Oonagh directed the award-winning Tribes by Nina Raine at the Gate Theatre (as part of the Dublin Theatre Festival), and was awarded the inaugural Labour Party Jo Cox Award for a young campaigner.
In 2018, Oonagh intends to raise the issue of diversity in the arts. Whether it’s race, class, access to education or physical ability, she attests that it’s only when we address the barriers to making productions that we can truly consider Irish theatre to be healthy.
5. Ruth Dempsey, Owner of Finders Keepers
(Image via Sean Cahill)
At only 26, business owner Ruth Dempsey is definitely one to watch. In 2017, Ruth took the success from her online clothes business (on the popular Depop fashion site) and turned it into a bricks-and-mortar vintage haven –Finders Keepers in Bray, Co Wicklow. A big jump for someone so young, but Dempsey assures us that she has never looked back and loves the freedom and creativity that this new adventure has brought.
Ruth promises that 2018 will include events and workshops plus kilos and kilos of the best vintage you can get.
6. Dr Cara Augustenborg, Climate Scientist
(Image via magpie.ie)
Dr Cara Augustenborg is an environmental scientist, university lecturer and communications expert specialising in climate change impact and solutions.
Augustenborg, a former Irish Ambassador for Ben & Jerry's Climate Change College, travelled to the Arctic in 2008 to witness the impacts of climate change first hand. She has a rake of titles at the moment, which include Ireland's first climate leader for Al Gore's Climate Reality Project, and chairperson for Friends of the Earth Ireland (which she represented at the Paris Climate Summit last December). She also recently co-founded the initiative Climate Talk Ireland, which aims to raise climate change awareness around the country. Her blog, The Verdant Yank, is well worth checking out, as she discusses “green” issues from an Irish-American perspective.
7. Lisa Ruttledge, Co-founder FoodMarble
Lisa Ruttledge is COO and co-founder of FoodMarble, the Irish start-up behind the world’s first personal digestive tracker, AIRE. After completing her PhD in engineering at UCD, Lisa co-founded FoodMarble less than two years ago. FoodMarble's AIRE is a breath tester device and connected smartphone app which helps people with food intolerances to see how their body responds to different foods, and craft their own personalised diet in accordance with those results. The product follows a proven clinical approach, but at a fraction of the cost, making it much more accessible to the wider public.
After raising over €1.5m investment, FoodMarble is currently preparing to ship the first batch of AIRE devices in the new year.
8. Rebekah Johanson, Owner of Lines and Current
Rebekah Johanson is the creator of Belfast-based “minimal jewellery and accessory brand” Lines & Current. 2017 brought with it a significant “expansion” for Rebekah, as not only did demand for her products grow considerably, but she and her husband Jon also welcomed a new addition into their family, Espen, now eight months (and brother to their two girls, Emelia and Esmee).
What sets this company apart, aside from its delicate designs and stunning pieces, is the fact that 10% of the profits made by Lines & Current goes to charity. So far, these donations have covered the price for six children to go to school in Zimbabwe (including transport, books and tuition). By the end of the year, Rebekah hopes to be able to increase this figure to at least ten.
Lines & Current is moving into its third year and the team are now looking to move out of their home office.
9. Louise Dunne, CEO of Glissed.com
Louise Dunne worked as a make-up artist in MAC Cosmetics for ten years before deciding that the field needed a bit of shaking up... And so in 2015, she created Glissed.com. One of Ireland’s most exciting start-ups, Glissed is an online platform that connects beauty professionals (make-up artists and hairstylists) with customers looking to book online and have the beauty professional come to their home or workplace. Genius idea, we know – we wish we’d thought of it, too.
When she’s not changing the face of the Irish beauty industry, Louise is often called upon to paint the faces of famous beauts such as Dolores O’Riordan (The Cranberries), and Sam and Billie Faiers (The Only Way is Essex). Louise has also spoken at a number of start-up and female-led events, and never fails to inspire crowds with her can-do attitude and quick-witted Dublin charm. Rest assured, this girl is going far.
10. SOULÉ , Singer/ Songwriter
A new wave of talent is emerging on the Irish scene that represents a growing interest in electronic pop, hip-hop and R&B, and at the forefront of that scene is Soulé. Within the space of a year, the Dublin-based soulful songstress has already racked up a number of achievements, including a Choice Music Song of the Year nomination for her debut track “Love No More”, a nomination for Best Irish Act by The Irish Times, over a million Spotify streams for “Troublemaker” and festival sets at Electric Picnic, Forbidden Fruit and Longitude.
Born in London, Soulé grew up Dublin and derived her influences from the likes of TLC, Destiny’s Child, Etta James, and Congolese music from her family heritage. Her first steps as a songwriter later came after teaching herself to play keyboard with the help of YouTube tutorials. Soulé’s cocktail of talent, determination and fierce individuality is the perfect blueprint for any emerging artist, and as her star continues to ascend, it won’t be long before Soulé is considered to be a role model in her own right.
11. Síofra Caherty, Owner of Jump The Hedges
(Image via Niall McAleer)
Jump The Hedges, a “technical bag making company” was founded in North Belfast by NCAD alumna Síofra Caherty out of her frustration at not being able find a bag for her yoga mat that was water-resistant, eco-conscious and suitable for cycling with.
Caherty cut her design teeth at Adidas, Levi’s, Portwest and most recently Game of Thrones and was cited at the Future Maker of Ireland awards in 2015 and 2016 for her functional bag designs (Caherty finishes each bag herself).
2018 looks set to be an exciting year with the launch of a yoga mat-compatible backpack, not to mention other products that are not necessarily yoga-relevant, but which all facilitate sustainability and zero waste living.
12. Katie Ryan, Co-creator of WellFest
In September 2015, Katie Ryan (along with co-founders Anthony Kelly, Helena Ryan and Fionnualla Cleary) set up WellFest, the health, wellness and fitness festival that has taken Ireland by storm.
Katie always had a love for music festivals and, having developed an interest in health and wellness over the years (along with the rest of the western world), she saw a prime opportunity to merge the two interests. The idea was to bring a different kind of festival to Ireland; one that could feed the country’s increasingly insatiable health-and-wellness appetite by offering workshops, advice and the opportunity to train with the leading names in fitness, all in the space of one weekend.
WellFest has gone from strength to strength over the years, with the number of attendees more than doubling in the past two years alone. This is, in part, due to the huge names that Ryan has managed to secure, with the likes of Joe Wicks (aka The Body Coach), Roz Purcell, and Derval O’Rourke drawing enthusiastic, Lycra-clad crowds.
Following a sell-out year in May 2017, Katie and her co-founders have big plans for 2018, with whispers of the festival relocating to a brand new city centre location...
13. Tara Flynn, Comedian
Tara Flynn is an actor, comedian and writer who's best known for her comedy work in Stewart Lee’s Comedy Vehicle and Irish Pictorial Weekly, although you might have also spotted her popping up as a serious barrister in Line of Duty. Tara has two (very funny) books under her belt: You’re Grand and Giving Out Yards, and in the summer of 2018 a book of her essays will be published by Mercier Press.
Passionate about equality and women’s rights, Tara uses comedy to raise awareness in an accessible way, and her one-woman show about having to leave Ireland for an abortion – Not a Funny Word – will be staged by THISISPOPBABY and the Abbey Theatre as part of Where We Live in 2018.
14. Jennifer Rock, “The Skin Nerd”
Jennifer Rock, aka The Skin Nerd, has taken the online beauty and skincare industries by storm over the past year. As well as being the CEO of her own online skincare consultancy and creating a brand new product – The Cleanse Off Mitt – from scratch, she is an award-winning skin lecturer, multi-award-winning facialist, and the skin and beauty expert for TV3’s Ireland AM and Xposé.
In 2018, Jennifer’s focus is going global – both with her products and her talks.
15. Drs Lisa and Vanessa Creaven, Co-founders of Spotlight
After just 18 months in business, Drs Lisa and Vanessa Creaven won the Start-up category at the IMAGE Businesswoman of the Year Awards. This is recognition of just how far the duo have come in a single year with their new line of teeth-whitening products.
In 2018, the brand is due to move into nine more countries. While focusing on expanding the brand globally, new product development is also at the forefront of their minds, and 2018 will see three new innovative products launch, the first of their kind to be brought to the market. With both women working as full-time dentists in their practice in Galway, it is easy to ask – where do they find the time? The girls say, “Spotlight is our passion, so it doesn’t feel like work. The excitement we feel when we see a new product brought to shelf… well, that’s hard to beat!”
16. Alice Delahunt, Global Director of Digital and Social Media Marketing, Burberry
Born in Dublin, but now stirring things up in LA – and let’s face it, the world – Alice Delahunt is responsible for the development, planning and execution of Burberry’s ground-breaking digital and social marketing strategies. This includes leading the brand’s entire social media presence on all platforms (which boast more than 48 million fans), as well as marketing across Burberry digital platforms, which are widely recognised as the most pioneering in retail.
Alice was a key player in leveraging the recent augmented reality experience on the Burberry app with Apple ARKit and British artist Danny Sangra, so we can’t wait to see what she does next.
17. Annie Kirwan, Co-creator of Project Revive, Lululemon Ambassador
One of Ireland’s most energetic women, Annie Kirwan has had quite the busy 2017, from running a business to running marathons. Along with her partner, Hayley Killen, Annie launched Project Revive, a wellness company that offers Pilates, yoga and mindfulness events and classes.
In just eight months, Project Revive has seen phenomenal growth, not to mention taking Dublin's brunch scene to the next level with their infamous Pilates and Prosecco events. Another big highlight for Annie this year was becoming a Lululemon ambassador.
With plans to expand Project Revive, increase events, launch a running club, and co-host Ireland’s first Pilates and yoga retreat in Wicklow, it goes without saying that 2018 will be the year for Annie K.
18. Jane Aspel, Emma By Jane Jewellery & Clothing Designer
Emma by Jane officially began in January 2017 when Jane Aspel left her full time job as a buyer with Penney’s, to work full-time on her business and passion, jewellery creation. It has been a phenomenal first year in business with Emma by Jane gaining significant media attention, from both IMAGE Magazine and Vogue UK. What’s more, Amanda Byram, Jodie Albert, Courtney Smith and the Garrihy sisters all claim to be big fans of the range.
2017 has finished with a significant win for Jane as she claimed Enterprise Ireland’s Best Start Up Business award; she’s all set for bigger and better things in 2018, including a showcase at London Fashion Week and a clothing collection. Emma by Jane is in boutiques throughout the country and online at www.emmabyjane.com.