It’s never too late to start again

Michèle Munnelly and Marie Nugent Smyth both completed the Ingenuity Build Your Own Business programme late last year. The course, which is run by the Ireland Smart Ageing Exchange, hopes to put an end to the perception that entrepreneurship is associated with younger people.

Michèle Munnelly,  photograph by Anthony O'Connor

Michèle Munnelly, photograph by Anthony O'Connor

Michèle Munnelly: Creator of the Selfie Scarf

“I was a paediatric nurse and I finished up working in 2006. After that I volunteered with
the Guide Dogs for about five years. Around the time my eldest daughter was doing her Leaving Cert, the bank crisis was happening and my husband is in the banking world so it was very intense. Afterwards I wanted to find myself a little bit and felt the need to do something for me. I always had a passion for creative activities so I decided to do an art class. Before I knew it I had completed a portfolio and was applying for college. I did a joint major in Textile Art and Visual Culture at the National College of Art and Design and graduated in June 2016.”

“Throughout college I was obsessed with memories and my third year project was all about documenting my memories, so I started taking selfies every day. That’s where the idea of a selfie scarf came from and I thought, ‘There’s something interesting here.’ My class was the first three-year course that NCAD ran, so after college we felt we were a little bit weak on the business side of things. A friend from college said to me ‘There’s a really good course going on
in Fingal and it might be worth your while’ so I thought, ‘If I’m going to do anything, it might as well be this.’ I didn’t know if I was putting the cart before the horse, but I felt it was important to have some kind of business background, because I had none at all.”

“The ISAX Build Your Own Business Programme was very intense; we went twice a week, for three hour long classes and really got a full immersion into the world of business. e course content was excellent; they were constantly looking for feedback and seeing what they could do to improve. ere was a very good relationship between the people running the course and us, the students, so it was an excellent experience. It’s very well designed in so far as it narrows you down, points you in the right direction and helps you to stop and think about what you really need to do. I didn’t really know what I wanted to do with my business and the course helped me to fine tune everything. e peer-to- peer learning was great and we got brilliant support from each other. Anne Connolly, the Chief Executive of ISAX, is very open to suggestions and she doesn’t try to control it in any way. This is also a new venture for them so they’re very eager to work with us and help us, and we help them too.”

“We did a Dragons’ Den style presentation at the end of the course for people like the CEO of Guaranteed Irish and the ex CEO of Waterford Crystal so it was a deal. I completed the ISAX course in November 2016 and up until then I wasn’t 100 per cent sure on the selfie scarf idea, but they loved it. They said it was perfect and that I had a great story to put with the brand. A
lot of time goes into making the selfie scarves, from preparing a Photoshop file, editing it, sending it onto the textile printers and then finishing off the piece by hand and machine stitch.”

“My idea now is that I kind of want to change the name from selfie to something like memento scarves or a memory scarf. I think the word selfie reminds people
of twenty-something-year-olds and that narrows the market a little bit. My business is going to be called Michèle Munnelly and the selfie scarves are going to be within that. I have a website and along with those scarves I have
a limited-edition range of other scarves as well that I’ve designed and are available in a range of different fabrics and sizes. They developed from my end of degree show and are some of the patterns that I have designed and created.”

Reflections Limited Edition Silk Scarf

Reflections Limited Edition Silk Scarf

“It has changed my life because my focus is very different to where it was. To think that from five years ago to now I would have earned a degree and would be running my own business. It changes your view on life; it shifts the dynamics. I hope I
have another twenty years of life to do this if I want to, but at the same time my job is flexible enough that I’m not stuck in any particular spot. I think for my generation the world has changed big time; we are more prepared to reinvent ourselves.”

“So many of my colleagues and friends
are reinventing themselves
at this stage of life, looking to
go after a dream that they’ve never been able to do before.
e opportunities are there and financial restrictions might not be as tight as they were when you had to take a job to pay the mortgage. I would encourage anybody to go for something that you really want to do.”

Check out Michèle’s website on

Marie Nugent Smyth

Marie Nugent Smyth

Marie Nugent Smyth: Creator of Inner Inspiration

“I trained as a nurse midwife
and specialised in Neo Natal Intensive Care. I was extremely lucky to travel the world with my family and have lived in Israel, Syria, Australia and America. I discovered you can feel at home in many parts of the world and that your friendships can be just as strong with other nationalities as they are with the Irish. When I came back to Ireland after travelling I studied complimentary and energy therapies. I still felt that I was
not finished though and that there was something more to life. In 2006 I heard about NLP, Neuro Linguistic Programming, which is the science of how we communicate, think and behave.”

“It was while I was studying 
NLP that the biggest change occurred in me, personally.
A lot of the exercises we did
used visualisation to change perception. I found a belief
in myself, took charge of my personal happiness and developed a resilience to deal with life. e whole concept was so simple and I thought, ‘We need to be teaching our children about this.’ Then life and its challenges took over, starting with the death of my father in 2008 and separating from my husband in 2009, after 25 years. ese events had a huge impact on my life and I felt that my foundations were shaken to the core. I had to go back to work in 2010 to earn a living, which was important to me. I also had three children who were dependent on my, so life went on; work, family, survival.”


“In 2013 a friend at work asked me to record something for her daughter who was finding it hard to concentrate at school and was ‘all over the place’ to quote her mum. I wrote and recorded a fairy story that she could follow, showing her how to breath, relax her body calm her mind. at turned out to be a great success, so I then went on to write a series of stories on a CD called You have the Power which covers the
big issues that children deal with; such as standing up for themselves, dealing with bullies, how they feel, where they feel, the power of gratitude and more importantly what they can do to change.”

“I decided to call my business Inner Inspiration. As work
and family life continued I did some holistic fairs and speaking engagements in schools and libraries. Everything I had done, the CD, my website, was financed out of my own pocket and I had new skills to learn about social media, so it all took time.”

“I joined a Network Ireland Dublin Branch and discovered the joy of networking. I was meeting and being influenced by amazing, successful women and came always away energised. It turned out to be the best decision.”

“The monthly meetings and listening to inspirational speakers kept me going during the tough times and spurred me forward, while I gained confidence. Every year the call to go out and promote the stories and the benefits they would have for children was getting stronger, but my youngest daughter was going through some troubles of her own and the timing wasn’t right. Last year it finally happened when I took a leap of faith and left work. e relief was instantaneous and the events that followed took on a life of their own.”

 “I kept seeing advertisements on Facebook for an ISAX course on starting your own business, called Ingenuity. The start date was the same week I finished work in early October and I had thought, ‘If I am going to make a living out of my passion, I needed to know how to run a business.’ It was an eight-week course, for two evenings a week, running from October 2016 up until just before Christmas.”

“The course covered everything you needed to know about setting up your own business, it was very intensive and was a fantastic grounding. e teachers were just brilliant; we had access to mentors, had the chance to make a pitch
and best of all we made very powerful connections with those in the class. We still get
to meet on a monthly basis and have the benefit of a digital hub to work from.”

“Most important of all you have the ISAX team rooting for you, having someone in your corner is hugely powerful. When you take a leap of faith, it’s amazing what happens. Within a month of finishing
the ISAX course my house was sold and I moved to Maynooth in January this year. I have the honour of being President of Network Dublin, our amazing networking group, I have the backing of the amazing ISAX team. I have learned a lot mainly that if you are miserable you can do something about it.”

“I consider myself an ageless entrepreneur and I do believe that it’s never too late to follow your dream and make a difference in the world.”

You Have the Power is available for download on Amazon and iTunes.

Michelle Newman