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!


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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A very wise lady I know once said “Theres no such thing as not ‘having time’ for something. There is only you, not making things a priority. I love this saying and I’m reminded of it a lot in my everyday life. I never take any time to look after myself, I know it. Okay, I get my hair done once every couple of months but honestly, thats about it. Even at that, the 3 hours it takes to get my hair done really pains me as I just hate sitting still for that long!! In my head I know I could be doing a million other things!!

So why now? In the wake of a tragic bereavement earlier this year, I got sick. My energy levels hit the floor, I got colds, Influenza and bug, ear ache, body pain – you name it, I got it. I realised I needed to make this right and work on myself and my health. I have decided to try and factor in more time for myself, make myself a priority. Luckily and in divine timing, I was invited along to a pamper evening at Bellissimo Galway by their PR team at Mini Media. Straight away, in my head I turned down the offer, saying to myself I just ‘wouldn’t have time’ (!!) but then I stopped myself, backtracked and graciously accepted the invite.

Bellissimo is an international award winning hair and beauty salon. Based in Galway Retail Park, this huge salon and spa is definitely the largest beauty space in Galway. With a massive hair salon, beauty salon, foot spa, luxury treatment rooms and now the new addition of ‘Wigs At Bellissimo’, Bellissimo is definitely a one stop shop for all the beauty and pamper needs. A long standing huge hit with bridal parties, birthdays and anniversaries, Bellissimo has whatever you need. The staff are so knowledgeable and so nice to chat to also, making it a pleasant experience.

Its not surprising that inline with my earlier confession of ever really taking time for myself that even though Bellissimo is 18 years open in Galway, Id never been there. On arrival, I was blown away by the size of the place, its huge! We were greeted on the evening with a beautiful spread of canapés and cakes from The g Counter and delicious tea from Solaris Botanicals!

After our hellos and eating some mini cheesecakes, I was then seated at the nail bar with my technician Isabelle for my first Shellac Manicure. I suppose its good to note that this was my first manicure of any type, ever!! Isabelle the nail technician couldnt believe it!! I cannot believe I hadnt done this sooner, my gosh, Im hooked!! As someone who loves to paint their nails but cant wear it in the workplace – this is the answer for me!! I went with violet polish with ever changing Indigo for the ring finger. To say Im pleased with them is an understatement, Id say Im hooked! I cant wait to go back for another mani very soon! 

Bellissimo is in the process of re-launching ‘Wigs at Bellissimo‘. They have been supplying Wigs to customers for over 14 years in Galway. Wigs at Bellissimo is established as one of Ireland’s leading Wig Specialists in the alternative hair industry. Their service benefits a vast number of necessity wearers however they also cater for the fashion conscious wearers who mainly opt for ready to wear wigs. We got a sneak peek at the part of the salon and some of the range they provide. Such a fantastic service, one that been around a long time just got a super facelift and will be a great addition to Galway. In addition to all of this, Bellissimo is also an approved supplier by the HSE and Private Health Insurance companies. They can work with their clients to get grants where possible.

We had such a great evening at Bellissimo, between the nails, the food, the tour and the banter.. I think Ive found my new beauty salon!! First step on the path to looking after myself a bit more, checked off the list. I enjoyed it so much and it gave me such a boost!! Cant wait to go back again!

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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!!


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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