60 Seconds With

“We know that there is a huge demand for what we do, with over 400,000 women in Ireland stating their role as home duties”–60 Seconds with Karen O’Reilly, founder of Employmum

By Business & Finance
17 July 2018
Karen O'Reilly Employmum
Karen O’Reilly, founder, Employmum.

Karen O’Reilly, founder of Employmum, on leaning in, flexible working and reaching out to a global market of 55 million females.

Q. What was your first job?

My first job was washing dishes in Quins of Limerick. I was 14 and really wanted my own money. I went into every establishment in Limerick to see would someone hire me until I got this job.

I always worked during school and college–babysitting, waitressing, cabin crew on a yacht. I really think kids should get out and work as soon as is possible and not be given money hand over fist. You learn something from every job and if nothing else, you will be motivated in life to do well and not remain at the bottom of the food chain for too long.

Q. What would you regard as your greatest achievement to date?

Building the Employmum brand from a seed of an idea and as a one woman show, growing it to where it is now is something I am very proud of. Winning the Network Cork Emerging Business Woman of the year award this year was fantastic recognition of all the hard work and time I have invested in Employmum.

Q. In three words or less, how do you define success?


To me success means growing and developing the business and also personally growing and constantly learning. Our ambition is to grow and expand Employmum nationally and internationally in the future.


We aim to inspire professionals to have the confidence to seek and to find flexible work. Our workshops and our panel of coaches inspire women who have been out of work for a period, to re-enter the workforce. To place people who have been out of work for a number of years in a flexible role is by far, the greatest feeling of success and job satisfaction for me.

Work-life balance.

Enjoying the rollercoaster that is owning your own business and balancing that with family life.

Q. What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?

Quite recently, I took part in the EXXCEL incubator programme in CIT, a entrepreneurial programme for women with a STEM background.

One of our mentors, the fabulous Eleanor Lynch Kelly started her presentation stating ‘we all have 1000 months’—that’s all we have on average on the planet. I went home and painted these words on the wall of my office opposite my desk and every time I look up, it reminds me to make the most of every moment and to seize every opportunity, both professionally and personally. A very powerful message.

Q. How do you motivate yourself and your staff?

I walk the walk regarding flexible work and my team and I all work flexibly. I trust my people to get the work done. We celebrate the small wins as well as the big wins and try to have as much fun along the way.

Q. If you could step into the shoes of one business person for a day, who would it be and why?

Sheryl Sandberg, the COO of Facebook is one amazing lady. Her book, Lean In could be described as Employmum’s bible as she explores how women can navigate their careers and have it all. Flexible work features highly.

Q. How do you relax?

At the moment, I am loving yoga on the beach in Clonakilty, when weather permits. We recently added puppy Buddy to our family which means daily walks on Inchydoney—great for the mind and body.

Q. What’s your motto?

ABN: Always Be Networking. I am from Limerick and moved back to Ireland five years ago to Cork after being abroad for nearly 20 years. I knew one person in Cork and that was my mother. Building a network was very important for me and luckily I found a great supportive network in Network Cork who really do live by their motto of supporting, leading and collaborating.

Q. What are your aspirations for the future of the business?

We know that there is a huge demand for what we do, with over 400,000 women in Ireland stating their role as home duties and 55 million women at middle management level not working globally, this is the market we want to reach out to.

We aim to open an office in Limerick by September, one in Dublin by December and then with the cloud based platform we are building, we can scale internationally to become the go to online portal for professionals seeking flexible work.

I walk the walk regarding flexible work and my team and I all work flexibly. I trust my people to get the work done.