Slaneyside Success Stories:

This month as part of our Slaneyside Success Stories I spoke with a very proud Kerry woman who is making a good life for herself Slaneyside whilst contributing significantly to the local economy and Wexford`s hospitality and tourism sector.

Jean O’Connell, designer and owner of O’Connell Marketing based in Bunclody, comes with the highest credentials having worked as Director of Sales with the Carlton Hotel Group for over 10 years involved in new brand development, training and Sales team management, added to which Jean has 9 years’ experience  with the Rose of Tralee International Festival as Commercial Manager and Online Marketing Development, along with the distinction of being Event Manager for the wedding of celebrity Presenter Daithi O’Shea and Rose of Tralee bride Rita Talty in 2010.

Jean has a proven track record in Tourism, Festivals, Food Tourism, Business and Agri Food and has won many Awards over her career to date for Sales Professional of the Year, Best Website, Best Marketing of a New Product and Best PR Campaign.

Jean is a seasoned and experienced Sales and Marketing professional who has grown her company from its inception in 2014 to be a widely recognised entity within the industry offering professional services with exceptional results in marketing and communications.

Recently, I caught up with this extremely busy and talented lady and put the following questions to her –

Tell me a little about your current position and what you do

My company O Connell Marketing is a marketing and events agency who offers a results based approach for integrated Marketing, Strategy, PR & Events Mgt solutions for large and small businesses. Straight talking and creative with a passion for travel, tourism, food, art and adventure. I love making fun things happen.

What path led you to your current position

Born in Kerry I was always attracted to Travel/Tourism and had many interesting summer jobs growing up. I studied Business Studies Hotel Management, travelling and working across Ireland and USA and then moving into Sales & Marketing. About 20 years ago I moved to Wexford as Sales & Marketing Manager of the new Riverside Park Hotel, next move was hotel group where I progressed to Director of Sales & Marketing with Carlton Hotels. I continued to study while working including Strategic Marketing/Leadership in Cornell University, I truly believe every day is a learning day. After 10 years with Carlton Hotels, I am thrilled to have made the brave leap of setting up my own company, employing people and working with fantastic clients and we are 6 years in business this year.

Who and what motivated and influenced you along the way

I have been motivated by many people along the way, starting with parents who worked extremely hard to ensure that we (Brother and sister) got a fantastic start with college education. My mother worked as chef in Killarney, she is so driven, focused and a natural leader and I continue to learn so much from her. Mary Fitzgerald owner of Fitzgeralds Woodlands House Hotel was a huge influence in my move from operations to sales/marketing, a natural entrepreneur full of ideas she was the first female president of IHF in 1999 and it was inspiring to work so closely with her. My husband John Gerard Murphy who was been self employed all his life is a huge support and motivation giving me the confidence and encouragement to set up my own company.

Has it been a difficult or enjoyable journey

Anyone who has set up a business will have challenges along the way, but its how you deal with them. For me always a direct honest approach. Looking back I  wouldn’t change a thing, every challenge or knock makes you stronger. I get to do what I love. If you love what you do you will never work a day in your life. Lots of the projects we are involved in; Rockin’ Food Festival, Santa’s Enchanted Castle in Enniscorthy give a major economic benefit to the town which gives a fantastic feel good factor.

As a child what did you want to be when you grew up.

I wanted to be so many different things, a jockey, sports manager, a chef, air hostess, a detective, the president….. it used to change weekly the sky was the limit. Once I started part-time jobs in tourism, I loved dealing with people so hotel management was a natural step and I loved that I could travel with it.   

Who were your childhood heroes

Thats a tough one, I do recall Mary Robinson’s presidential election very well making posters for her in school as I really wanted her as the first female president in Ireland. I was hugely into Kerry GAA and Rugby so Jack O Shea, Maurice Fitzgerald were certainly hero’s to me and our international rugby stars Moss Keane and Mick Galway from my village Currow, Co. Kerry.

How would you describe yourself

Driven, focused, competitive and passionate about what I do with a very straight talking approach to life and business.

How do you motivate and influence people

Strong leadership with a clear plan and communication, lead by example I will do whatever needs to be done its very much team approach. Train, develop but empower people to come up with ideas. Collaboration is key for me as well as our employees, we work with a select number of really great people/companies and it allows us to achieve more together.

What are you most proud of

Setting up my own award winning marketing and events company, I could have easily continued in the career I had but I took a chance and so glad and proud that I did. Also incredibly proud of some of the people I have hired, trained and developed along the way, I love following their careers. Its really important to be proud and support others. Very proud of my own family who provide me with fantastic support and come to Wexford each year to volunteer for Rockin’ Food Festival, so its a full house that weekend.

What do you dislike most about yourself

I can be very impatient at times. Generally at the pace of how things progress, I can clearly see what and when things need to be done and others might not priorities them in the same way. I sometimes struggle to switch off, its certainly something I am working on and improving on.

What do you dislike about others

I don’t like dishonesty and a negative approach to life.

If you could live in another time, when would it be

1920’s or the Roaring Twenties where there was huge change, both social and political especially for women.

How would like to be remembered

Maria Nolan, I have 100% never ever thought about this its really tough question. I guess for any positive things that I will have achieved and my generous/kind nature. 

What`s the one thing about you few people know

I sneaked out of my first communion party to steal a tractor with my cousin, joy riding a tractor in a communion dress didn’t go down well with my parents. God love them.

If you could change one thing in your past what would it be

I just don’t look back, without a doubt I have made mistakes but I learnt from them and they make me what I am.

What do you think is the best thing about Enniscorthy/Wexford/Ireland

There is so much I love about Enniscorthy and Co. Wexford and Ireland as a whole, the passion, the people, the stunning beaches, the history, the great outdoors adventures, the incredible food producers I have met through Taste Wexford.

What do you think is the worst thing about Enniscorthy/Wexford/Ireland

Sometimes there is negative comments, some people just don’t see the potential that Enniscorthy town has. Enniscorthy castle, Vinegar Hill on Slaney River, the winding streets I just love Slaney Street when we put up the umbrellas for Rockin’ Food Festival every year. A simple idea that lifts the whole town. I would love to see more of this, coming together in a positive way.

What do you like most about your job/career

It allows me to be creative and develop new concepts/brands right through to delivery of the experience where you can see the positive impact it has had on people. Its also very results based which I like.

What was the best day of your life

There has been so many amazing days with travel, with family, awards, festivals, winning All-Irelands but if I am pushed to one day our wedding in Kinsale was really relaxed and special celebration with so many family/friends.

If you could be or do anything else what would it be

I absolutely love animals, so in another life or maybe when I in the future I would love to volunteer with animals.

This straight talking lady with the ready smile and no-nonsense approach is innovative, creative and an inspiration to all.

Since making her home in Bunclody she has been the driving force behind the very successful Rockin’ Food Festival, Santa’s Enchanted Castle, Taste Wexford, Visit Wexford, Enniscorthy Tourism and in 2019 introduced yet another Festival for Enniscorthy –  The Halloween Festival.

Quiet frankly Kerry’s loss has most certainly been Enniscorthy’ s gain and we hope that you will be with us for a very long time Jean.