Ann-Marie McSorley won the National Winner of Google’s ‘Most Promising Start-Up in Ireland’ award in 2017
Ann-Marie McSorley moved from Omagh, Co Tyrone back home to her native Kilkenny 15 years ago to start a new life and career. This was after more than 20 years in the Training Sector and graduating from Trinity College Dublin with a BSC in Management.
A single mum of three children, she built an award-winning business for herself after frustration with the amount of paperwork and compliance that was required by trainers.
“I found I spent half of the course time actually training and the other half filling in compliance paperwork and forms with the trainees,” she said. “So I devised a software for training programmes that takes the tedious task of that paperwork out of the training room.”
Today Ann-Marie is the CEO of Fioru Software Solutions, which she founded in 2016. The business employs 14 people and reflects her values with a diverse female-led company. Two of her programmers work internationally from Russia and South Africa and a Belarusian is in charge of Operations while 80% of her workforce is made up of women, some of whom are single parents, hence there’s an emphasis of flexibility in her company. She also has her UK office based in Northern Ireland.
Originally from Cuffesgrange, Ann-Marie comes from the Hughes equestrian dynasty, a family that is synonymous with breeding top-class horses. Coming from such an entrepreneurial family it’s no wonder that Ann-Marie branched out to run her own business.
Here is a glimpse into Ann-Marie’s world…
When you lived in Northern Ireland, you experienced first-hand the carnage of the Troubles. Bring us back to the day of the Omagh bombing on August 15, 1998.
I was bringing my eldest son Seamus to get his school uniform in the uniform shop where the car bomb was parked outside. I couldn’t wake up my daughter Joanne that morning; she had slept on and that delayed us going into town.
We were due to be in the uniform shop at the exact time that the bomb went off on Omagh Market. We were literally just driving up towards it when we heard the noise of the explosion. That bombing killed 29 people and injured some 220 others, making it the deadliest single incident of the Troubles in Northern Ireland.
We were so lucky, someone was looking down on us and spared us.
Your move back home to Kilkenny after 15 years in Tyrone was also for personal reasons. You had just gone through a marriage break up. You always speak fondly about how kind people were to you when you returned.
I moved home to Kilkenny in 2006 with three young children. We had no plan, I just had the car and the kids. We had to start all over again.
First thing was to get the kids into a school, so I phoned my old school, St Brigid’s College in Callan, about a place for Joanne. I broke down crying during the phone call, but the vice-principal was just so lovely to me. She told me to come on in that she had a job for me and asked would I teach a bit of religion.
She gave me a job for a month, and I ended up staying there for two years. It was a lifesaver as I had no money when I arrived back in Kilkenny. She was just the nicest and it goes to show how good people can be.
Fast forward to today and you are winning awards for your ground breaking tech business. Google has even recognised your achievements.
Thanks Siobhan, I suppose I have! About nine months after I initiated the software business I was the National Winner of Google’s ‘Most Promising Start-Up in Ireland’. I also achieved Google Women in Business Strive Certification.
The award process compiled of a couple of hundred applications, 30 of them got to go to Google for three months’ training and out of that 30 my start-up business won the overall award.
As the winner I got 100,000 hours of Google credit. The business was just an idea before that, so that award really kicked off the business.
How does the business work?
We supply all the digital services for the big training programmes. All the auxiliary services to training, such as the website, the booking, the recruitment and the software.
Our tagline for the company is that the ‘software is only the beginning’. I initially thought that I would create software that companies would order online and use independently without ever even having to speak to me. In reality it’s become much more than that.
Our Veri software is a mobile responsive cloud-based dashboard that allows training management teams to co-ordinate their training digitally, making it more efficient and cost-effective.
We work with the public and private sector helping them become more streamlined in the delivery of their training programmes. The software is always at the core but we supply subject matter experts, recruit and in many instances create and co-ordinate the training. The software is agile and responsive so it has also been used in covid response measures in mentorship programmes nationally.
You are using this software to support a lot of LEADER projects too.
Kilkenny Leader Partnership was one of our first clients. We have been involved in delivering quite a few successful projects with them, such as Norevision, where we became a National Training awards finalists.
Our latest project is all about biodiversity and the Waterways College in Graignamanagh, which I am extremely proud of. Graignamanagh is the scene for an exciting development. It’s going to be a Waterways College based in the Hub where we are looking for participants to become Waterways Ecology Ambassadors.
It’s going to be an immersive and varied course from which our ambassadors can explore employability options, learn water-based strategies to manage their wellness and even get out on the river. It’s the perfect pathway for somebody who has been unemployed, allowing them to meet people and also learn some skills in a fun and engaging way.
The company is particularly passionate about climate change.
That’s true and we are currently working with LEADER Partnerships nationwide delivering free Biodiversity Training to hundreds of volunteers. Norevision was one of the first of its kind and led to a nomination for ‘Best Non For Profit Collaboration’ in the IITD National Training Awards.
We have a number of ecologists on staff, Ciaran Cowhig from Cork, Brendan McSorley, Northern Ireland and Dr Amanda Greer, a local woman from Bennettsbridge, heads up our Biodiversity Training team.
You are a proud Kilkenny woman and will be getting involved in Kilkenny Day this October 10. What are your plans?
We are going to be out in the black and amber to recruit for NoreVision initiatives that we have in the pipeline. We will also have a stand at it, which will suit children as they will be able to come in and chat to us about identifying bugs, and we’ll help them understand if water is good or bad.
The people of Kilkenny have really taken NoreVision to their hearts and I couldn’t be prouder. Even though it’s a software company I own, the soul of everything lies with the people so we can’t wait.
When you are not thinking about the next great idea for Fioru Software Solutions, what do you enjoy to do on your downtime?
I enjoy a day out at the races where I like to think I have some skills at picking a winning horse!
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