Earlier in April, I was asked to speak on the expert panel at the Galway Start Up Weekend, Food Tech Event! The event was sponsored by Bank of Ireland and hosted at the epic co-working office space SuperPixelLabs, Galway City. I was excited to visit theSuperPixelLabs on the day which is a brand new and exciting co-work office space in Galway.SuperPixelLabs provides an ecosystem designed to help entrepreneurs and startups succeed. They provide not only office-as-a-service, but also events, resources and a supportive network to help your business thrive. It has to be said, this place is unbelievable!! The offices are full of colour and movement. I definitely want to be working here at some stage!

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Anyways, back to the Startup Weekend – Over the course 54 hours, participants experience the highs, lows, fun, and pressure that make up life at a startup. As they work to create a real company, they meet and work with the very best mentors, investors, cofounders, and sponsors who are there to help participants get started. We live in an exciting time when new technologies are changing our interactions and relationships with food. Foodtech is fundamentally changing how we cook, eat, find, share and experience food.

“The hardest part of starting up is starting out.
 At Startup Weekend, you’ll be immersed in the ideal environment for startup magic to happen.”

When surrounded by smart, passionate people and with the best tools and approaches at your disposal, you’ll take giant leaps toward creating a business, becoming a founder, and connecting with the right people and resources. On the panel with me on the day was Olivia Collins of FoodPR.ie, Mark McGann of SuperPixelLabs & Keith Bohana of Bank of Ireland. The MC was Robbie Skuse of Kollect.ie (check him out, I love the Kollect.ie idea!!). We discussed blogging, content creation, website design & photography. My emphasis was on the look & feel of blogs with great content and the need for good photography on a blog. There was a great buzz about the place with the teams eager to ask questions and learn about blogging & design.

BIG congratulations to everyone who attended, sponsored, mentors and of course the winning team themselves; Scanitive. Scanitive is an app which will allow consumers to see how many teaspoons of sugar is in their food and drink purchases. The team included Saileog Droney, Conor Aspal, Jane OConnor, Ciaran Monoghan, Marc Vandenberg and Kim Tighe.

I really enjoyed this event, more than I thought I would to be honest. Theres nothing like being in a room full of people how are geared up and inspired to make and create things!! I loved the passion that everyone brought to he table and to say the chats went on for hours – would be an understatement!!

The next Galway Start Up Weekend, Food Tech Event is in October 2016 and I cannot stress how much fun these events are!! Definitely worth getting involved in. Meeting new people, getting the brain working, having fun and creating things – nothing better!!

Well done to co-ordinator in chief – Olivia Lavelle and team on this amazing addition to the Galway Event’s Calendar.

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On the trail of Irelands brightest stars in Fashion and Design, there really is one place to be, the Irish Fashion Innovation Awards. Now in its 7th year, the Irish Fashion Innovation Awards are not only the one of the hottest dates in Irish Fashion, but a break through showcase of Irelands most innovative, fresh designers. Described as a right of passage for any emerging Irish designer, the Irish Fashion Innovation Awards are certainly that. The show which is listed by Goldenegg Productions and managed by the show-starting Eddie Shanaghan is perfectly constructed and executed by him and his team.

This year, Into The West Blogger Network worked alongside Goldenegg on getting the bloggers the VIP treatment at the fashion events in the city; the Irish Fashion Innovation Awards were one event on our calendar. Fifteen bloggers were selected to attend the awards as VIPs for the evening. The show was held at the Radisson Blu (see our event there here) and was sponsored by Colm Quinn BMW, Hartmanns of Galway, Brown Thomas & the Local Enterprise Office. We arrived to a sparkling reception, brimming with fashion statements and colour. The Irish Fashion innovation Awards being what they are, this is one night in the West’s calendar where the bigger, brighter, avant garde and the more over-the-top you are with your fashion choice the better!

The show, was as always fantastic. The team always produce a fast paced, colourful show with a supreme soundtrack and light show. The designers who stood out for me had to be Fintan Mulholland of the Ones to Watch category, his oversized knits inspired by ballet dancers were stunning, Hazel Greene of the Accessory Designer of the Year category, KiKiNaArt and Vivienne Martin of the Jewellery Designer of the Year category. Caithriona King stole the Millinery show I think with her fascinating creations and our of course, Andrea Tighe, whose pieces wowed the crowd, both in the Millinery Designer of the Year category.

Carla Johnson of Mona Swims was named fashion designer of the year. Student designer of the year was Colin Burke of NCAD. Dee Mangan of Kinsale Leather won accessory designer of the year. Elaine Keogh won millinery designer of the year and jewellery designer of the year to Emma Bourke.

The after show party was at the Veranda room with the Amazing Apples banging out the tunes! We had a drink or two and discussed the show, the designers, blogging and had general Into The West Blogger Network banter afterwards till the late hours. All in all, a wonderful show abundant in fresh ideas, new thinking in design and innovative student designers.

A huge shout out and thank you to Patricia McCrossan and her team at GoldenEgg & Galway Now Magazine who presented an amazing show as always and welcomed us with open arms to join in the fun!! Can’t wait for next year already!

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All the Into The West Blogger Network bloggers in attendance at the awards as VIPs. L – R Ruth, Amie, Colette, Shona, Triona, Laura, Sinéad, Becky, Ruth, Edel and Sandra.

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Screen Shot 2016-03-02 at 3.32.21 p.m.Last month, Into the West Blogger Network was a placed as a finalist in the 2016 Accenture Digital Media Awards.  The Accenture Digital Media Awards are the most prestigious Digital Awards in Ireland.The  Accenture digital Media Awards were held in the Clayton Hotel Burlington Road (formally the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel) on Friday 19th February in Dublin. They recognise creativity and innovation across multiple areas of an ever-evolving sector, which includes digital content creation, advertising and marketing, social networking, web design and development. The category we made finalist in was ‘Best Company Using Digital‘. As Creative Director of Into the West Blogger Network, this was a huge honour for me. Sure, Ive been in design and media for almost ten years but I hadn’t ever entered into nor been nominated for an award.

Over the past two years I have put everything I have to created a fresh, young, interesting and ever-evolving brand for Into the West Blogger Network. Every single aspect of its design and branding, from fonts to colours and photography have spilled from my brain and into the universe and so, to be up in a category with such brands as Jameson, Danone Aptaclub, Fáilte Ireland, Permanent TSBand Twin Strangers was such an honour!!

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Dresscode: Black Tie and Neon Bling!

Sinéad and I headed up to Dublin early that morning with dresses, handbags, shoes and all things girlie in tow. We stayed DoubleTree by Hilton for the night which was such an experience in itself! Warm Cookies and a smile on arrival was just what we needed, thank you Hilton! After a quick bite, chat and some tweeting at the B Bar, we ran upstairs to get made over!

I wore a stunning Magenta (hello BRANDING!!) raw silk skirt I bought in Thailand last summer teamed with a simple, elegant black top, black Kurt Geiger shoes and pearl earrings beside my black plugs. Sinéad then did my makeup and I felt like a goddamn princess for the evening! Sinead wore a dazzling black and beaded gown from new Galway based store Ellie & Dal – she turned a few heads for sure!

We headed down to the event, where we then met up with our friends from An Púcan who were up for Best Start Up Using Social Media and we all represented for the Mighty West for the evening. Being the only fab ladies at a table with the most dapper men in the room was as always, brilliant fun!

The event itself was a show stopper!! Think ‘Party Like A Hilton’ vs 90’s Rave scene!! I kid you not, the theme for the evening was Neon Rave!! Im talking glowsticks, UV paint and 90’s dance music (the old raver in me certainly came out!!). There were photo-booths, competitions (of which we won two – one for best group photo and one for best selfie – Doug from An Pucan won this one, the handsome git!). There were fire dancers, hoola-hoop performers and much more. The awards were given out during out four course, lavish meal complete with endless wine and bubbly! After the awards, the house band Good Times absolutely killed it with the tunes as we danced the night away on the sparkly dance floor, followed by Podge back on the decks with a 90’s set for us old skool ravers! (ME!)

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And the Winner is…

Okay, so we didnt win but Im not surprised not am I upset in any way! Um, hello!! We were up against massive competition and to be really honest, making finalist and having a much need night out was a winner for me! Sinéad and I were long overdue an evening out to let out hair down and where better than at the Hilton! The start of this year has been super tough for me personally so being able to attend this event really brought me some much – needed happiness!

Huge congrats of course goes to the boys at An Pucán who won bronze in Best Start Up Using Social Media category and Matt Healy (Whiskey Blogger) who also won bronze for his blog Potstilled and the guys and gals at Maximum Media who won Media Brand of the Year! We made lots of new friends, danced the night away and had a wonderful time. Definitely the highlight of my year so far and I cannot wait to see what else it brings! Roll on Accenture Digital Media Awards 2017!

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Photos 1& 3 by Hazel Johnston

 

** NOTE: The Double Tree Hotel is now the Clayton Hotel Burlington Road.

With another year drawing to a close, we (Into The West Blogger Network) took the opportunity to throw another Into The West Blogger Network mixer just before Christmas. We were invited to attend a drinks evening at the newest bar & venue in Galway, STUDIO. For anyone who doesn’t know, STUDIO is where Carbon nightclub once was or, in my day – the fantastic wonderland that was the  GPO nightclub and Drum Bar (mmmemories….).

In between the mental the craziness of the lead up to christmas, I got the invitations out to the network and the RSVP’s received. We had a wonderful turn out of about twenty bloggers joining us for an evening of drinks, laughter and blogger chats. There was a brilliant mix of people for this event including some new faces! We had Frank join us who has just setup a food blog. Frank is Aisling Palegirl’s partner so it was lovely to have them join us from Clare for the evening.

Also in attendance at his first Into The West Blogger Network event was Cathal of Glass Of Red Wine blog. Cathal has been blogging with the network for a few months so it was a delight to finally meet him in real life. He was joined by his husband John who is a fitness blogger who has been blogging for quite some time on his epic blog, it was so nice to have these blogging couples with us for the evening. We also met Fiona of  Wild Asteria blog, she’s been bogging with us for a few months and even though she said she was a bit nervous to meet everyone, fit right into place like she was part of the family. Well, that is the welcoming environment we try to create for Into The West Blogger Network at all times.

So with all our new bloggers joining us and a good few of our now solid family of bloggers, we sat down to a glass of wine, nibbles and chats. STUDIO has a wonderfully welcoming environment and we were looked after very well by Eoghan, Edel and their STUDIO team. We had some nibbles too but all agreed we would have to go back and try the bar food as the other guests food looked amazing!

Our Into The West Blogger Network mixer events are always such a great opportunity to meet up with all the bloggers, to get to know everyone a little better and of course to talk about blogging! I cannot wait for another year of adventures and fun with Into The West Blogger Network and all the amazing bloggers I get to meet, work with and hang out with.

If you’re an Irish Blogger, either blogging from home or abroad, get in touch and join us at Into The West Blogger Network this year! We work to support and connect Irish Bloggers with each other and with brands and companies too! Make friends, come to events and workshops and get more out of blogging this year.

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Have you been to STUDIO? What did you think? 

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OS-0985After our mini #itwbnBloggerEvent at 56 Central in Galway two weeks ago, I was ready for the main event! With our last [big] event being waaaay back in May [we had a mini cocktail event at the Harbour Hotel just before summer!] both Sinéad and I were more than ready for our next event. All summer we had been plotting and planning the Afternoon Tea at the Glenlo Abbey Hotel with special guest speaker Erika Fox / Retro Flame.

For me, the day was a testament to how amazing Irish Bloggers are and how much of a dent in the blogging world they really are making.

I remember chatting with Erika about three years ago while she was studying in NUI Galway. We met for coffee and I decided I was going to shoot some looks with her for her Lookbook.nu account (remember Lookbook?!). Erika had said she would like to start a blog but had all the same concerns and insecurities as we all do before we start blogging; ‘Will people like the blog?’, ‘Will I just look silly for doing it’ and ‘Will I be able to commit?’ etc. Personally, I tend not to listen to those little doubting voices, Im a pusher for sure! I just knew that Erika would be amazing at blogging at that she had a very unique style and outlook to share with the world. So, we went ahead and set up Retro Flame and thats where it started.

What happened next, I knew would. The blog took off, people just could not get enough of this vintage styled, red haired beauty! Brands started to contact Erika and really wanted to work with her. Retro Flame was really getting noticed, Erika was working it!  Since then, Erika has worked with some of the best known brands and companies in the world such as Asos, Reiss, Warehouse, H&M, French Connection, Bare Minerals, River Island, Rebecca Minkoff and has been featured in a wide range of national and international publications including Teen Vogue, Seventeen, Stellar, Image and The Sunday Times STYLE Magazine. We just knew we wanted to welcome her back to the west in style!

So, we decided for this event we do gets another spin on the popular #itwbnBloggerEvent, Afternoon Tea With Retro Flame was born! We picked the lavish, 5-star Glenlo Abbey Hotel to host this event having held our second ever #itwbnBloggerEvent there last year!! With its special old world, countryside-chic charm we knew that it would suit both Erika and our bloggers to perfection!

OS-03OS-460The Abbey itself is a graceful gothic 18th Century Abbey located just 10 minutes from Galway city centre, it offers 5-star luxury accommodation, free parking, a golf course, and views of Lough Corrib and the dramatic West of Ireland landscape. The ideal location for exploring Connemara and the West of Ireland – set mid-way off the famous Wild Atlantic Way.

On the day, we took our places at beautiful tables in the opulent Ffrench Room, it was spectacular! The place settings, the flowers, the china tea sets and the beautiful decor were absolutely stunning. Each person is seated at a particular table – this events theme was fashion houses, so you were sitting at Coco Chanel or Tom Ford, Alexander McQueen or Ralph Lauren. Once bloggers found their tables, their ITWBN signature goodie bag was awaiting them along with their personalised name badge. The goodie bags were filled to the brim with goodie from companies who just LOVE bloggers! There was Butlers Chocolate, Rimmel makeup, Wet’n’Wild Cosmetics, Physicians Formula makeup, Propercorn, Beverly Hills Formula toothpaste and brushes, Sally Hansen nail polish, Solaris Tea, Holos Skincare, vouchers from Quay Dental Galway and much more!

We were thrilled to have the wonderful Catriona from Solaris Tea with us for this event too! Solaris Tea, a family run business of Joerg and Karin Mueller, specialise in the blending and preparation of International Award winning Whole-Leaf Organic Teas. Having Catriona there was such a treat! To have someone so passionate about her job and about tea was so inspiring! She personally saw that everyone got exactly the right flavour and blend of Solaris Tea to suit them and made sure that everyone had a hot cup in front of them throughout the day!

OS-0946OS-0953The Glenlo Abbey then started to serve the most beautiful Afternoon Tea Treats I think Ive eve seen! To start, there was delicious finger sandwiches of various yummy fillings and  homemade scones with jam and fresh cream which were perfectly presented on silver trays with napkins. They were followed by a plethora of the most beautiful, photogenic desserts ever! Lemon & Poppyseed Cake, Carrot Cake with Orange & Cream Cheese Frosting, which was so perfectly moist and crumbly as well as Guinness Cake with Baileys Buttercream and Rosewater & Raspberry Macaroons!! There was Salted Caramel & Popcorn Macaroons which were a huge hit with everyone for sure and for fun, good ol’ Gingerbread Men and yummy, sweet Snow-cone cupcakes. Heaven!

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So, with bellies full and content and everyone on a little bit of a sugar high, Erika took centre stage. She spoke to us all about her journey from studying commerce & fashion in Galway to moving to New York and working with huge fashion houses & brands. She spoke about her stint working side by side with Oliva Palermo and now her new job working with well know US brand Vince Camuto.

I think the most frequent thing I heard our of peoples mouths and general consensus after Erika’s presentation was ‘Down To Earth‘. Every last person said it to me, she is just so lovely and approachable and most of all, chatty! Everyone had questions and we had a good 40 mins chat with her after her talk. Then of course, the next two hours were spent taking photos, chatting to bloggers, lots of bloggers meeting for the first time and lots of connections being made!

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We had some wonderful exhibitors with us on the day too! Wendy, Aylisha & Emily from iNailz were with us from Dublin. These girls are the ultimate blogger friendly brand and we always love having them down to our events! They had even made me a set of printed iNailz with our ITWBN logo on them!! I died!! They also had their brand new range of girlie portable power packs for charing phones! in their cute ‘Lipstick’ and ‘Makeup Compact’ shapes, they were snapped up on the day!

Next we had Dawn from St.Moriz tan over from Manchester and her wonderful assistant Berverly too! St. Moriz is celebrating 5 years in Ireland this year and really proves to be a high hit with the bloggers here. Dawn was on hand to chat to the bloggers and make some solid connections with everyone as well.

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From Design House Barna, we had the wonderful Edel Healy, who is also a blogger in ITWBN, she blogs at A Dash Of Lime. She was joined by her collouge Fionuala and they had some wonderful pieces from the boutique in Barna, Galway. Edel was introducing us to some of the great and very affordable brands they stock out in Design House Barna and we just loved having them there with us on the day.

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As the day wound down, I actually couldn’t believe that at this event (over a lot of the other events) I actually sat down and managed to have tea and cake this time as did our wonderful team!!

On hand on the day was the amazing Galway based Photographer Julia and Videographer Kenny of Wonderfulife Productions. Both Julia and Kenny are responsible for most of our beautiful photos on our site and the stunning promo video which was filmed at our 1st Birthday back in May! I cant describe what its like to be able to boast these two creative geniuses as my best friends, they are incredible and they continue to impress and wow me everyday. Sinead and I are so grateful for the work they do with ITWBN and the amazing work they do at #itwbnBloggerEvent! Julia is also such an awesome Fashion and Lifestyle blogger at Love Joules who you have to check out (I might be bias, but she is my bestie!!)

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I am also extremely grateful to the rest of the team which make it all manageable! Our wonderful ITWBN cheerleader, Ruth of the Beauty Kemple blog and our main man Kieren of Fear Nua blog too! We would be lost without these two babes helping us out. The Gleno staff, Vicky, Cathryn & Denise as well as the seriously professional servers were an absolute delight to work with again. They made everything so very easy for us and there was no panicking to be seen with Cathryn at the helm! She had everything running smoothly all day. Amazing!!

Of course, the final thank you goes out to the bloggers! What an amazing new bunch of people we have blogging in Ireland! I just LOVED meeting and chatting with every single one of you! From artists, fashion bloggers, beauty bloggers, lifestyle & parenting and foodie bloggers we are delighted to see such a range of genres in Irish Blogging!  Im so thrilled that you all came along to the Retro Flame event and that I got to meet and chat with all of you! You are the reason Into The West Blogger Network is here – without you all it just wouldnt be.

So, to end, as always we retired to the bar area for a glass of wine and some blogger chats  with the ITWBN family. Its always lovely to sit and chat with everyone afterwards and raise a little toast to day well spent! This is always a great way for us to get chatting to the girls too. Thanks for staying girls, ye know who ye are! x

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