I’ve been a little quiet on the blogging front recently as other stuff has taken priority. After five fantastic years I’ve made the leap and left Learning Pool to pursue new projects and, hopefully, become my own boss.
As you can imagine, this was one big decision for me and my family, and not one taken lightly. I’ve been inspired by Mary and Paul, both great supporters of entrepreneurs, as well as people I’ve worked with like Breda Doherty (Hubb.it), Leanne Doohan (Creative Invites) and Serena McCrossan who are all business people in their own rights.
I’m excited about new challenges but also sad to be leaving. I’ve been part of the team from the humble beginnings when we occupied a few desks in a start up incubation centre at University of Ulster’s Magee Campus.
In the company’s first five years I’m proud to have lead the marketing activity that has seen us win a handful of awards, most notably Northern Ireland’s fastest growing tech company last year. We’ve had a lot of fun, worked very hard, and met some very interesting people along the way.
Five years is a good milestone at which to take stock and, as I watch my youngest son grow from a baby into his Terrible Two’s (oh yes), I feel the time is now right for change. As everyone with dependents knows there is a delicate balancing act between family life, home life and work life to be made every day and it’s easy to get out kilter.
Although I’m from Cumbria and love it dearly I’m also passionate about my ad0pted home, Donegal, in north west Ireland. It’s often called the forgotten county of Ireland and, being furthest away from the economic hubs of both Dublin and Belfast, it is one of the poorest. However, it’s a truly beautiful place that boasts eleven Blue Flag beaches, the Blue Stack mountains and the highest sea cliffs in Europe.
Unsurprisingly tourism is a major income source for the county but there is plenty of room for more visitor attractions, more eating places, more choice of accomodation, more marketing and promotion. And more visitors.
Donegal now is like Cumbria used to be about 20 years ago. Back then I remember the tourism season lasted from Easter to early September, once the schools went back. Nowadays there might be one week in February that might be considered ‘off season’ but that’s it. How great it would be to have that here.
So we want to set up a business that works for us and our family. We’ve got a number of ideas, some of which are better than others. We’ve thought of renovating a local section of the historic Donegal railway and operating it like the wonderful Blaenau - Ffestinniog railway in North Wales, opening a family restaurant that doesn’t just cater for wealthy golfers with holiday homes, setting up a campsite (the latter idea is probably as result of too much reading of Cool Camping guide books), and more.
Right now it’s a time of mixed emotions. I’ve been sad, leaving Learning Pool is the end of an era for me and there are many people I will miss greatly.
However, the excitement bubbles are there in the tummy, alongside a little bit of nervousness. I’ve never worked for myself before and there’s so much to learn. Also, will I want to kill my husband after a few months?
And then I’m a little worried - I’ll have no excuse on the housework front now.
Wish us luck. I’ll be blogging about what we decide to do.