Women of Vision is a series of interviews with business women we admire. Visionary women are accessible and inspirational to others in daily life as mentors, friends, advisers, and role models. As part of our Women of vision series, we want to highlight the professional challenges and career aspirations of the women working here in Ireland. This doesn’t require a certain business title, specific wardrobe, or special permission. Women in Ireland have a strong entrepreneurial spirit: the rate of female early stage entrepreneurs in Ireland is the 5th highest in Europe. The agility and resilience of women in business in recent times has been a testament to their strength and courage. Today we interviewed Saoirse McCabe who is a rising star in the world of marketing about her people facing role in her family business Cork Heritage Pubs.  Already an accomplished and award winning marketeer she gives us some insight into her career to date and her inspriration and role models. 

Tell us a bit about you? 

I am a Cork woman born and raised in the city. I attended UCC and received a master’s degree in management and marketing. I am very passionate about the hospitality and drinks industry. I recently moved back to Cork after 4.5 years living in Los Angeles California. I love travelling, cocktails, fashion, and reading. My big passions are things that came with me to L.A. and returned with me when I came back. I am also passionate about progress and self development. I think it’s important to gain wider skills and experience outside the family business where there is no danger of favouritism which is why I left Ireland for a while. I knew that I would come back with new skills. 


Tell us about the business you work in?

I am head of marketing and PR at Cork Heritage Pubs. We have seventeen bars and the microbrewery Rising Sons. We are family owned and operated. We are based in the heart of Cork city (apart from two premises.) We cater for a variety of different customers and our brands are always evolving. While we have traditional pubs we also have a number of bars that cater to the changing landscape of hospitality in Ireland. I am proud of the business achievements and the plans for the future. 


Tell us about a typical day?

This is a generic answer, but no two days are the same, it keeps it interesting! Mostly my days are spent working on admin and having meetings with our management team. Some days I could be working from home, on shoots, hosting staff trainings, at one of our gigs or on special occasions attending one of our events or an external event on behalf of the company. Those are the more fun days of course! I would consider my whole day to be heavily invested in business and I always keep my eye out for different ways to curate different ideas. I try to influence the market with my ideas. We have had many successful events where we have thought outside the box. That needs to happen in our industry. 


What is your best habit? 

I would have to say my consistency. It is what I would credit my success to. Growing up perhaps others may have perceived it as stubbornness but it has stood to me in my career. I always remain consistent in my work life. I created good habits from an early age and learned a great work ethic from my parents. 


Who is your biggest inspiration in business? 

I am not just saying this because we are a family business, however my biggest inspiration is my mom Cliona McCabe. She is a lawyer who manages and oversees all the legal work within the business. There is so much behind the scenes to be done, especially when the business is ever growing and evolving. She balances everything making it look seamless while still being so glamorous. She is a true woman of vision. She has worked in the legal profession, raised a family and worked in  the business for my whole life. She is the backbone of the family and the business. 

Who is your target customer ? 

This is a very difficult one to answer as we have so much diversity with regards to our offerings and venues. We strive for inclusivity and to make it a safe space for people to enjoy. I would say light heartedly that it is anyone that wants to have a great time, for a night out, party or gig. I honestly think that we cater for such a huge demographic. 

Have you always been entrepreneurial?

I think that as I have aged I have become far moreso, primarily because I see the benefits of entrepreneurship within our own business. My Dad Benny is the ultimate entrepreneur, he has had so many great ideas and brought them to fruition. So I suppose it is in my blood. I am still relatively you so there is more to come! Watch this space. 

Who has been your biggest inspiration in growing the business?

My family and my desire to make the business bigger and better. I find the changing business landscape inspiring and I want our business vision to reflect that. All of us are keen to grow the business.  I think there’s an expectation that’s what we need to do but given that we share the aim it’s not something I’ve considered as pressure before. I’d say there’s a feeling of additional responsibility to grow the business when your family, as well as yourself, depend on it.

 What do you love most about your industry?

I love the social aspect of my job, for example the events and collaborations. We also get to help various charities too. My career highlight this year was managing our partnership with Cork Pride. This year it was a huge event, with so many people travelling to Cork to celebrate. 

If any, what challenges have you experienced as a woman in business during your overall career? 

Unfortunately I think there are universal challenges that all women face especially in male dominated industries. You must work harder at times to overcome the double standards that exist in society and that is changing slowly. At one time or another, most women find themselves in a male-dominated industry or workplace that does not want to acknowledge their leadership role.I am more than willing to put in the work to create my own reputation for being a hardworking, honourable businessperson in my own right. I have always had strong female role models and many of the management team within the company are women. This has always been the case as the pub industry hours are often suitable for part time work. When I talked about work … I always found myself saying ‘we’ instead of ‘I,. “Using the first person to discuss wins feels to me as if I’m bragging, but sometimes the ideas were just mine. 

What are the most important things to progress in marketing ?

People skills such as relationship building, collaboration and being a team player. Also keeping your eye on trends, but not being over reactive to trends that don’t align with your business. Choosing to keep the integrity of the brand while rolling out new ideas is a fine art and something I have certainly managed to learn working with global brands. With the majority of the high-level business world still being dominated by men, it can be hard to blaze your own path and facilitate the introductions and connections, but I am always confident. 

What has been the most significant thing you have done to progress your career?

Networking and putting myself out there. It can be terrifying but worth it. I think that taking time abroad was one of the best decisions I made. It enabled me to learn and grow both personally and professionally whilst staying grounded. Irrespective of big ideas when you are head of marketing for a brand like Cork Heritage pubs , it is important to remember the core values. Working for international brands demonstrated my ability to integrate into a global team while still impacting the brand on a local market level. You never know who has the capacity to help. People are more likely to jump in if you are specific about what you need them to do. If you don’t ask, you won’t get.

What have been some make or break moments in your career? Important client meetings, presentations, procurement pitches etc 

One of the most significant highlights of my career was when Whiskey Magazine USA nominated me for a national award for their prestigious “Icons of whiskey” . I was absolutely shocked with the nomination. Another milestone was being recognised for my work with Cork Heritage Pubs and was nominated for “best in PR and marketing” by Hi Style magazine. I was also delighted to be nominated for “one to watch” . Winning the Business influencer in Business Cork meant a lot, because Cork is my hometown. Coming home that was one of my goals, to influence the business as a whole and I think I achieved that. 


What is your number one  tip for anyone struggling to overcome entrepreneurial overwhelm and keep going? 

My favourite thing to tell myself is “doing your best looks different everyday” Another tip is to look back on how far you have come and be proud. I also find it motivating to look at other people’s success stories. You will always find adversity and setbacks in almost everyone’s path. The road to success is paved with losses, mishaps and mistakes, but it can still take you where you want to go as long as you don’t lose sight of your ultimate destination.Stay the course,listen to all of the feedback; filter out the noise and the naysayers; learn from your mistakes and try not to make them again. But whatever you do, do not give up. 

By Mary-Jane O’ Regan