As president of personal development organisation Junior Chamber Galway, Anne-Marie is inviting local entrepreneurs to enter Junior Chamber’s Galway Young Entrepreneur of the Year competition.
Speaking with Kerry native Anne-Marie Shanahan, it’s hard to believe that she was once the shy, retiring type. Confident and assertive, it’s easy to see why she was made President of the Galway chapter of Junior Chamber International (JCI).
However, by Anne-Marie’s own admission, she was not always as confident, and recalls sitting at the back of the room “petrified” at her first Junior Chamber meeting in 2008.
Since then, her involvement in Junior Chamber has given her, “huge confidence”, especially in the field of public speaking. So much so that the language teacher in Coláiste Iognáid has also set up her own business, AMS Languages, a move she would never have contemplated before joining JCI.
“I’ve always loved the expression by John F Kennedy, who was a member of Junior Chamber Boston, he was quoted as saying, ‘Harvard gave me an education, but Junior Chamber gave me an education for life’,” she says.
As part of her work with JCI, Anne-Marie is currently involved in many projects, and she admits that her evenings, weekends and even holidays are taken up with JCI business. But far from begrudging the time spent on projects, she relishes the many rewards that come from her work.
Her major project at the minute is JCI’s Galway Young Entrepreneur of the Year, which is now in its 13th year, and for which applications remain open until this Friday, 21 September.
With a prize package worth upwards of €40,000, the financial benefits are obvious, but as Anne-Marie explains, anyone who enters will gain something worthwhile from the experience.
“The fantastic thing about the Young Entrepreneur is that persons entering it…may be starting out, it may be the first competition they ever enter, and then they’ll get the confidence to enter other competitions.
“They’ll have the opportunity to be interviewed by a fantastic judging panel chosen by some of the leading business people in Galway at the moment, they get feedback in terms of their business and they get great help from the Junior Chamber members.”
All entrants will also get to take part in an Entrepreneurs’ Expo in October where they can showcase their business to members of the public and Galway business leaders.
“It’s like a Rose of Tralee for entrepreneurs,” jokes Anne-Marie, who is hopeful that events like the expo might inspire members of the public to take the plunge and set up their own business.
Junior Chamber is not just a business organisation, however. The organisation has three other important strands – personal development, international development and community development.
Anne-Marie’s newfound confidence and oratory skills are testament to the personal development aspect of JCI, and the JCI Galway organises monthly training seminars which are free to members covering areas such as public speaking, time management and presentation skills.
In terms of the international aspect of the organisation, Anne-Marie points to the myriad friendships and relationships she has built up over her four years in JCI through travelling to international events.
While events like Galway Young Entrepreneur have a definite business aspect, the group is community centred also. JCI’s Top Outstanding Young Person of the Year initiative is one that seeks to acknowledge those in the community who make an outstanding contribution to society in diverse areas from sports to health.
When JCI Galway hosts Galway Chamber’s Business After Hours event on 27 September in the Harbour Hotel, they will also look to honour friendly business, companies in Galway that go that ‘extra mile’.
“This is a national award and the idea of it is to reward that just go beyond the call of duty in performing their customer service, perhaps looking after customers with special needs, just giving extra value to customers, and I think it’s really important to recognise those businesses now,” says Anne-Marie.
Junior Chamber Galway holds a meeting on the second Tuesday of every month in the Harbour Hotel and new members are always welcome, whether they are from the business community, farmers, teachers, students or jobseekers.
“We’re very relaxed, very inclusive and we’re delighted when new members come along,” says Anne-Marie, who explains that members can take what they want from the organisation.
“I always say to our members – the great thing about Junior Chamber is, you can do as much or as little as you like. It’s up to the person.”
Anyone interested in learning more about JCI can email Anne-Marie at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit their website at www.jcigalway.org. Entry to the JCI Galway Young Entrepreneur of the Year competition is open until Friday, 21 September.