Businesswoman Caroline Keeling wins IMAGE Businesswoman of the Year
CAROLINE Keeling of Keelings fruit says she was “shocked” to be named the IMAGE Businesswoman of the Year.
The self-confessed workaholic took home the top prize at the seventh annual awards, which took place last night at The Royal Hopsital Kilmainham in Dublin.
The event toasts the country's female leaders who continue to excel in their respective fields.
Fingal-based Ms Keeling, who currently employs 2,000 people, was commended for her ongoing success.
Ms Keeling, who was accompanied by her mother Mary last night, has been at the helm of the Keelings fruit production and food distribution company since 2006, when she took over as Group Managing Director.
While it has been a successful year for Keeling, she told the Irish Independent of her surprise to receive recognition.
“I was shocked when I found out, honestly, it's been a great year for us, but it's a big challenge out there in the business world,” she said.
“There have been significant improvements for women in business and the challenges are not around being taken seriously anymore, but around work-life balance and childcare for working mothers.
“So it is inspirational to have an awards ceremony like this for women, because you normally have your nose to the ground stone and just try to get the job done.”
Since taking over the business, Keeling has increased the company's turnover by 50pc - it has sales of approximately €300m, and extended the brand to include five divisions, with operations in the UK, Europe and Asia.
And she told this newspaper 2014 is going to be her “year of delivery”, with plans to further expand to India.
“We've a lot we want to do in China and that is my main goal. We looked at it in 2006 to identify opportunities and then went back to it again in 2012 and it just snowballed from there.
“But we're always working out our strategy in Europe and we're starting talks with India too.”
The event was hosted by IMAGE magazine editor, Melanie Morris, and in attendance were this year's judging panel - which included Fionnuala O'Leary, Online Editor of Independent.ie, Jean O'Sullivan of Enterprise Ireland, as well as RTE presenter George Lee.
Author Niamh Sharkey, current Laureate na nÓg, received the prize for Creative Businesswoman of the Year.
Ms Sharkey is the creator of popular animated preschool series 'Henry Hugglemonster'.
Entrepreneur of the Year went to Linda Kiely, co-founder of Voxpro, Young Businesswoman of the Year was awarded to Katie-Jane Goldin, managing director of Great Lengths Ireland, and Margot Slattery of Sodexo Ireland took home the Management Professional Businesswoman of the Year award.
Winners in other categories included Maeve McMahon of commercial lending business GE Capital, for Overall Businesswoman of the Year. Marissa Carter of self-tan company Cocoa Brown took the award for Start-up of the Year.