In paid partnership with Visa.
Following the launch of this year’s Visa’s She’s Next Grant Programme, we caught up with one of the previous grant winners, The Shona Project’s Tammy Darcy.
It takes a tremendous amount of grit and determination to launch a social enterprise and one company that backs women-led businesses in this field is Visa.
Through Visa’s She’s Next Grant Programme, Visa are committed to finding and supporting social enterprises led by Irish women. Applications for this year’s programme are now open, and social innovators can apply for a transformative grant through the Changemakers category, and if successful, they’ll win a €10,000 grant plus one year’s worth of business coaching to drive their business further.
We recently caught up with a previous winner of Visa’s She’s Next Grant Programme, Tammy Darcy, the founder and CEO of The Shona Project, an educational and empowerment platform aimed at young women and girls in Ireland.
“We’re a social enterprise and we’re on a mission to make every girl in Ireland achieve her potential,” Tammy tells Her.
The organisation, Tammy explains, is named in honour of her sister Shona. Shona was diagnosed with a brain tumour at the age of 15 and developed physical and mental disabilities as a result. Doctors told Shona’s parents that their daughter would likely pass away within a year, but she continued to defy the odds, and lived for another 30 years in full-time nursing care.
Inspired by her sister’s gentle soul and the bond they shared, Tammy established The Shona Project, to empower and educate girls in Ireland. As well as an online platform packed with helpful guides and articles, The Shona Project hosts confidence workshops in secondary schools and delivers The Survival Handbook for Girls to first year girls. The Shona Project also hosts Shine Festival to celebrate International Day of the Girl.
Shona sadly passed away surrounded by friends and family in February 2023, but her spirit and memory will continue to live on in The Shona Project.
As CEO, Tammy notes that no two days look alike.
“Every day is different so when it’s not school holidays I’m in schools a couple of days a week and that could be anywhere in Ireland,” Tammy says. “As CEO, I manage the team, I do the fundraising, I do the finances. So no two days are the same and that’s the way I like it.”
The Shona Project, Tammy notes, is a movement for change.
“We’ve delivered workshops to over 30,000 girls in Ireland, we’ve delivered handbooks to 60,000 girls, and we have had 10s of thousands attend Shine Festival. We also have ambassadors in schools all over Ireland, so it has become a movement more than a community.”
After winning Visa’s She’s Next Grant Programme, Tammy noted how her network expanded.
“One of the most important things for me in my business is my network, and it has really helped us get to where we are,” she says. “Expanding your network is something that a lot of entrepreneurs underestimate in terms of how important it is.”
In addition to this, Tammy appreciates the backing from Visa, and the boost this support gave her as a business-owner.
“We were thrilled,” Tammy says, recalling the moment she found out she won. “I think the fact that Visa saw that social enterprises are as important as traditional enterprises and that they saw the potential in us was really amazing. We were really pleased to be included with the for-profit side of things.”
Throughout her business journey, Tammy has learned some powerful lessons, and she’s keen to share them with other entrepreneurs.
“The main thing is to just always ask questions and get as many good people around you as you can. You can never have enough mentors,” she says.
Tammy also notes the importance of just starting.
“If you’re thinking of starting, don’t wait until you have everything perfect. You’ll never have everything perfect. Just make a start,” she says. “Waiting for everything to be perfect is an excuse, because you’re afraid of getting things wrong. But you learn more on your feet by doing it every day than by researching it beforehand.
“I think you need to reframe how you view mistakes and how you view failures in the past because that’s how you’ll learn and that’s how you’ll get better. So you’re not going to always get it right, but keep giving it everything you have and you’ll get there eventually.”
About Visa’s She’s Next Grant Programme
Visa is empowering women across the Republic of Ireland to grow their business by offering five €10,000 grants plus coaching through Visa’s She’s Next Grant Programme. T&Cs apply. Apply by 21st of July. Learn more right here.