Ladies Who Launch rallies North’s female entrepreneurs

US-based tech executive hosts coaching and masterclasses to provide ‘unfair advantage’

Female entrepreneurs from across Northern Ireland gathered in Belfast for the city's first Ladies Who Launch event hosted by San Francisco-based technology executive Sarah Friar.

The chief financial officer of credit and debit card payments company Square, Friar (44), who is from Sion Mills, Co Tyrone, says she wants to provide women in business with more one-to-one coaching to give them "an unfair advantage because they live in a world of very unfair disadvantage".

The Oxford and Stanford graduate and former engineer has hosted Ladies Who Launch events in the United States, Canada and Australia.

Earlier this week, she organised an evening of masterclasses and networking at Belfast's Ormeau Labs, a co-working space for tech start-ups and other smalls businesses which she co-founded earlier this year.


The principles of Ladies Who Launch are three-fold: community, education, and inspiration.

More than 100 women attended the Belfast event, hearing keynote addresses from Friar and Rosaleen Blair, the Dublin-born chief executive and founder of recruitment firm Alexander Mann Solutions.

Panel discussion

Among the entrepreneurs taking part in a panel discussion was Belfast-based illustrator Danielle Morgan (36), who set up Flax Fox gift company in 2010.

“It’s exciting being among other female business owners and learning from each other,” she says. Based in a home studio, she sells her printed products from a market stall in Belfast and says Square’s card reader has made a huge difference to her.

“To have the facility to accept [debit and credit card] payments has been really transforming for my business,” she says. “I have a lot of international customers who don’t always have sterling, or have cash on them. So to have the facility for them to either use contactless or use their cards can account for 70 per cent of my transactions.”

There is also the element of 'God that totally sucked' and I don't want anyone else to ever have to go through that

Friar says her inspiration to help female entrepreneurs like Morgan comes from both positive and negative experiences in her own career.

“So many people helped me along the way so it is definitely a ‘pay it forward’ moment,” she says. “People mentored me; mentoring other people is a way to honour the time that someone took that they didn’t have to take for me.

“There is also the element of ‘God that totally sucked’ and I don’t want anyone else to ever have to go through that.”

Progress updates

For Friar, the satisfaction comes from hearing progress updates from women she has met through Ladies Who Launch events, as well as at Square’s code camp for engineering college students and other female-focused projects.

“You learn as much when you leap and you fail, and it’s often when you fail where the real learning comes.

“I think a lot of women don’t make the leap because they believe that if they don’t leap and be successful, that’s the end. For me, it’s about explaining that most of the things in my life that changed direction of career for me have actually come probably out of darker moments.”

Square has plans to expand the Dublin office of the company, co-founded by Twitter creator Jack Dorsey, and eventually to launch its products in the Republic.

“Dublin will be our European headquarters,” Friar says.