Business News

The inaugural Cork University Business School Conference is a resounding success

By Business & Finance
07 March 2017
Pictured (L-R): Harry McCann, founder, Digital Youth Council; Barry Holland, Commerce Society UCC; and Callum Donnelly, Ludgate Hub

At the inaugural Cork University Business School (CUBS) Conference on Monday March 6th, the theme was ‘Shaping Ireland’s Future’.

If these Cubs have anything to do with it, our future is in pretty good hands. The student organisers turned out a world class conference in Cork’s Opera House, bringing together international business expertise with successful homegrown entrepreneurs including Colm Lyon of Fire and Marissa Carter of Cocoa Brown, for a full day of fascinating keynotes and thought-provoking panel discussions. 

The new president of UCC, professor Patrick O’Shea started proceedings off with a bang in his rousing opening remarks, with the announcement of a new state of the art business school planned for Cork city, in addition to the new executive education centre site. He also praised the “bold and courageous” student organisers of the event. 

A highlight of the morning was a panel discussion chaired and brought together by Gerry Grimes, head of Investment at Carne. Willie Slattery, executive vice president State Street Corporation; Jim Norris, managing director of Vanguard International; Joe Guinan, founder  of Chicago-based Advantage Futures; and Mike Wilson, a former State Street man and now independent director spoke on topics ranging from work ethics to the importance of networking, ambition and grit – Guinan summed it up when he said the best people, “Act like you’re an owner not an employee. Employees work until it’s time to go home. Owners work until they get the job done.”


The insightful panel culminated with a deep discussion on the importance of ethics and integrity in the financial services industry, with Slattery speaking passionately on the subject, citing the tracker mortgage fiasco as an example of how temptation was not resisted corporately or by individual members of banks.

Wilson concluded the discussion saying, “The litmus test is what do you do when no one is looking, be it the regulator, your customer or your colleague, you either do the right thing or you don’t and if you don’t you shouldn’t be in the industry.” 

The panel discussions gelled particularly well, with a well-matched balance of speakers. While recurring topics during the day were entrepreneurship and grit, senator Padraig O’Ceidigh provided a though-provoking moment as he spoke about his heart attack brought on by overwork and stress.

Speaking about his work mentoring top athletes he discussed how he had come to the realisation that they go from their comfort zone to their stretch zone, then back to their comfort zone, while he had gone beyond the stretch zone into the danger zone, and stayed there.

He also underlined that his primary reason for being in the Seanad is because of his frustration that SMEs are being ignored. 


Fittingly, in the week of International Women’s Day, Marissa Carter, founder and CEO of international beauty brand Cocoa Brown, stole the show with her ‘rags to riches’ tale, from a family of eight children in a council estate to international success.

She attributes her success to clarity of vision and self belief; she knew she wanted to create a number one selling brand,and that in order to do that she needed to produce it in bulk to sell it at mass market prices. Her first order, for 25,000 units sold out in 9 weeks; the second order for 50,000 units sold out in five weeks.

Now they manufacture her fake tanning product in batches of 250,000 bottles at a time and four are sold somewhere in the world every minute, in markets including the US, Australia and Scandinavia. 

Commenting on the success of the conference, Ciaran Murphy, Dean of Cork University Business School, said, “The outstanding success of today’s conference with well over 800 attendees speaks to the ability of our CUBS students to organise successful major events.”

He continued: “The announcement by Dr Patrick O’Shea at this conference that UCC will build a very significant state of the art building for the business School in a city location represents one of the most significant developments in the history of business education at UCC.This coupled with the recent appointment of 10 professors to the Business School testifies to UCCs commitment to business education.”