The woman I wish I’d met when I was starting out in business
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The woman I wish I’d met when I was starting out in business

by
Fiona Alston

Samantha Kelly hasn’t always been the Tweeting Goddess, she had a whole other life before she came into ours and created the Women’s Inspire Network.

Kelly is originally from Tallaght in Dublin, and she gets her work ethic from her father who was a tradesman.

“My father worked really hard, he was a painter and decorator,” says Kelly. “I was born in Ballymun flats, and my dad worked really hard so that he could get his dream cottage in the country. I could see the value of hard work, so I'd have a very good hard work ethic.”

It was also her own hard graft that taught her the people skills she requires for her business today. Moving around a lot, Kelly spent time living and working in Paris and Hong Kong, her first job was waitressing, and the experience has stood to her in later life.

“I never really settled in any particular job. I was great at customer service, great at sales and great with people but I actually didn't know what I wanted to do. My first job was waitressing, which I recommend highly for anyone that wants to start working who has never worked before, because it actually teaches you about people,” she explains.

“It teaches you about good people, bad people, strange people and then it also teaches you, if you get good service, you get rewarded.”

Funky Goddess was Kelly’s first venture into entrepreneurship and the light bulb moment for the business wasn’t inspired in a breakout room or written on a napkin, it appeared in the supermarket.  

“Around ten years ago, my daughter came to that awkward milestone of her first period. My marriage had just broken up, I was turning 40, my other daughter was about to start mainstream school and I was still in the process of grieving as my father had just passed away. So I was kind of wondering what's next?” says Kelly.

“I was in that frame of mind where ‘you only live once’ and ‘what am I doing with my life’ kind of thing,” she continues.

“I went to the supermarket to get my daughter some kind of gift or starter set and were none there and I couldn't believe it,” she says. “Standing in the supermarket aisle I just decided I’d create something for this milestone for mums like me looking for something to give their daughters. And that's where funky goddess was born, in a supermarket aisle.”

Funky Goddess was a gift box containing some information on periods and small gifts like a diary, scented candle, and hot water bottle to give to young girls to acknowledge when they got their first period.  

With no money, no credit and as a single parent Kelly launched her business and with the help of her sister Roz’s digital skills launched a website. There was no money in the pot for a marketing budget, so Roz also encouraged Kelly to get herself on Twitter too.  

“I had no idea,” says Kelly, “I barely had a Facebook page. So, what I started doing was talking to people, and finding people who were in the same industry and finding other small business owners. I was lonely as well and I just felt like I was the only businesswoman in the whole world that didn't know anything about what she was doing.”

“On Twitter I had a friend who was a widower, and he had three daughters, he was a poet as well, so he was a beautiful writer. He wrote an article for me on my Funky Goddess website. I interviewed him about him about being a lone father and having three daughters and having to go through this awkward milestone. I put it on Twitter and the next thing he was on Morning Ireland the next day.”

“I saw the power of putting out good content, the power of Twitter and the power of journalists watching. That's really where my journey started,” says Kelly.

Kelly took Funky Goddess on Dragon’s Den where she says she was emotional, “I’m the girl who cried on Dragon's Den.” She was also regularly featured in the media for starting the conversation about parenting menstruating teens.

Unfortunately, there came a point where without investment Funky Goddess was not making enough profit for Kelly to live on and she made the decision to sell the company.

“I shelved it and a customer bought it off me, she’d gotten redundancy and she wanted to run the business, so I sold it,” she explains. “White’s hotel in Wexford approached me and asked me how do this Twitter thing and they said they’d pay me if you could run their Twitter for them. And that's when I knew I had another business, that's when Tweeting Goddess was born.”

2015 is the year Kelly changed her professional career for selling period gift boxes to becoming a social media expert.

“It was a real turning point for me because I realised that people did need my service and they didn’t understand how to use social media,” she says. “I just happened to have a talent for it.”

“But I still felt lonely, I still felt isolated running my business, in my little box room, to a global audience from Rosslare harbour,” she continues. “I knew that there were other women like me who couldn't get up to networking events. I always thought that 7am breakfast networking events were ridiculous as well, because it really excluded women, mostly because of the fact that they were probably getting the kids ready for school, and then school runs.”

Kelly decided to reach out to other businesswomen on Twitter by starting the hashtag #womensinspire.  

“I knew there was no real hashtag Twitter chat for women in business, so I started one, and it got really popular so I created a Facebook group, but it got really popular, and I was exhausted again,” she explains.

She couldn’t keep up, so she put her business head on and decided to monetise the network at a rate she considered to be reasonable, €20 a month.  

“I didn't want the small business owners being ignored either,” she says. “I find sole traders do not get the recognition so I decided that I would create a network and give value to the sole traders. To give them PR opportunities that they wouldn’t normally get on their own, give them social media training, how to do sales, how to do a contract, how to do terms and conditions and all the mistakes I made in business, I wanted to make sure that these women had access to all of that stuff.”

That's when Women's Inspire Network was born into a membership site which now has over 450 members. And finally, Kelly has become the women she wishes she’d met when she was starting out in business.

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