When you meet the stylish Mary B. Walsh, the last thing you’d associate her with is pallets. And, yet, she and husband James run the very successful IreWel Pallets (IWP) in Wells, Gorey, employ 43 people and are all set to celebrate 30 years in business next year.
To top all of that, Mary is the Wexford Ambassador for the National Women’s Enterprise Day (NWED) on October 17. And the company was recently awarded the prestigious All Stars Business Award which is awarded to best-in-class businesses.
What is so special about pallets? Quite a lot, as it happens! “Our pallets move goods internationally – essentially, you can’t move goods anywhere, anytime, without using pallets,” says Mary, who maintains that the pallet has a greater effect on world trade than the mobile phone or the computer.
With customers internationally and working in a male-dominated industry and workplace, Mary holds her own, not least because her mother too was a successful entrepreneur. “Even though my background is in banking and finance, I always wanted to work for myself. My mother ran a farm on her own and that self-sufficiency, resilience, and ability to operate seamlessly in a predominantly male sector was a normal facet to life for me.
“But I also value the role and contribution of men both in the workplace and society. For me, #NWED is a way of helping to increase the numbers of women in the workplace and in decision-making roles. Any opportunity to focus on the importance of a balanced workplace, where everyone’s role and contribution is valued, benefits society as a whole.”
A HELPING HAND
Mary shares her experience as a businesswoman with others – and is a mentor on the Acorns development programme for females in rural Ireland to enable them to network, learn, and grow and develop their businesses. “Honestly, I’m delighted to help women in business to achieve success on their own terms and to help people across a wide range – from jewellery to software development, dress design and food production – to develop themselves and their businesses in a way that is sustainable for them.”
A key part of that help is passing on common-sense advice. “You must understand what your business is about – what difference it will make. You must understand the figures – income and expenditure – so that you can build a business that is sustainable. And, you must understand your customer and deliver your best 100 per cent of the time. Your customer is the lifeline of your business, so you have got to deliver.”
A HAPPY STAFF
And, for Mary, a key part of their customer service and best-in-class ethos is investing in their staff. “We’re a local employer, and firmly believe that a respectful and healthy workplace is vital, not just for productivity, but for the relationships we build with each other and within the wider community. We organise days out for the team during the year, whether that’s a mental health day or mindfulness coaching or a trip to Belfast. Some of our staff are with us 20 years, so appreciating the staff who help us maintain and grow the business is vital.”
And just as vital is contributing to the local community – as well as being the Wexford Ambassador for National Women’s Enterprise Day, Mary also sits on the Enniscorthy committee of Hospice Homecare, is a member of the Love Gorey committee, and attends the Smart Network for women in Gorey.
And, when she’s off-duty, there’s nothing better than a swim in nearby Morriscastle beach! “You’ve got to enjoy the journey – and schedule in time for self-care. When you stop enjoying the work, it’s time to change what you’re doing.”