Monday, June 17, 2024


A CASTLEWELLAN woman recently went on a trip to the United States as a part of a group of female business leaders from across the island of Ireland.

Edel Owens is the founder of The Whole Food Hero, a local business focused on food and nutrition. “I help raise energy and productivity in businesses and organisations with a mindset to turn it into sustainable action,” she said. Edel was one of a group of 25 women from the AwakenHub Community who went to New York and Boston at the end of January and beginning of February to meet with investors, network, pitch their businesses and take masterclasses in investing. The AwakenHub Community is a social enterprise which seeks to “to level up opportunity, access and connectivity for women founders throughout the island of Ireland by removing barriers to investment, scale and success,” according to its website, They have around 3,000 members and host a variety of events online and in-person.

During the trip, the female entrepreneurs visited New York City and Boston, two major business hubs in the United States. In Boston, they went to a networking event at the Irish consulate. “We had lots of opportunity to meet with the Irish-American diaspora,” Edel said. They also got the chance to have a roundtable meeting with Síghle FitzGerald, the Consul General of Ireland in Boston. “That was an amazing meeting actually,” Edel said. They also attended an investment masterclass at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. “It was really invaluable as well,” she said, “to have a really safe space to get feedback and give opinions.” Also in Boston, the women from AwakenHub Community met with Peter Abbott OBE, the British Consul General to New England, for a networking event with a variety of American business leaders, venture capitalists and others. Some of the women from their group also had an opportunity to pitch their business ideas at this event. She said everyone there had been invited because of their interest in seeing female entrepreneurs succeed. “All were there because they want to support female founders, with a particular emphasis on Irish female founders,” she said. “That was brilliant.”

One of the people at that Boston event that Edel got to meet was the US Special Envoy to Northern Ireland, Joe Kennedy III. “He was really such a champion of female founders and our mission at AwakenHub,” she said. “He was fantastic.” In New York, they had the chance to go to the Bank of Ireland headquarters, meet various investors and attend an angel investing masterclass. Angel investors are people who invest their money in a small business in exchange for a minority stake of the business. They also had the opportunity to meet with the Irish Consul General, Helana Nolan, and her team from the Irish Consulate Office in New York.

During their time in NYC, Edel also got the chance to pitch her business to high level investors during a meeting the private residence of the British Consulate General in New York. “That was just incredible to be in a room with VIP delegates of that level,” she said. “It was a real emotional high.” Taking part in the trip meant she was able to set up further meetings for the future for some strategic partnerships. “It’s not like a ‘Dragons’ Den’ sort of thing where they hand out money,” Edel said. “I do now have channels opened up to me and I do have to pitch again.” She said that the “accelerated learning” before and during this trip was really helpful to her as she had to do things like prepare a 60-second business pitch and public speaking in front of various business leaders. She said the highlight of the trip for her though was the friendship and assistance that the women business leaders from Ireland gave each other – “the camaraderie, support and the feeling that you could really lean on the community”. “I feel like I have a network around me that are supporting me. The AwakenHub Community are gamechangers. I have never been in a networking group that are so focused and so driven.” “We were encouraged to set up our own meetings in our downtime,” she said. Edel became involved with AwakenHub last autumn when she was selected to be a part of their She Generate 3.0 programme, a programme for female business founders.

This trip to the USA was Edel’s first trip of this kind as a female business owner. Edel is originally from County Donegal, but moved to Castlewellan, her husband Ryan Owens’ hometown, about a decade ago. They have four children. Edel previously worked as a teacher for 15 years but decided in 2018 to do courses to become a nutrition and health coach and started her business ( after that. It was when she became pregnant with her first child that she decided to educate herself more on healthy eating. “I wanted to be the healthiest part of myself for them,” she said. “I completely transformed my own health. I transformed my husband’s health and the health of lots of those around me. “Everybody has the capacity to live a full and healthy life. We really, really do, but we have to start changing our programming,” she said. She said that she does online and in person coaching and speaking about nutrition and well-being for businesses to help their employees feel better and be healthier. “When you start making small incremental changes every day and you realise that your health is your wealth. “You can’t do a lot of things you want to do unless you are healthy,” she said. She said she hopes to continue her business to show people that they can get the energy they need to show up for work and family from healthy lifestyle choices. “We need to focus on prioritising our health because after that life is a joy,” she said.

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