Woman of the year

Mother of seven Mairead Mackle is the winner of the 2019 NatWest everywoman of the Year Award for her work setting up social care and housing organisation HCIL Enterprises and her associated community work. She spoke to workingmums.co.uk about her work.

2019 Natwest everywoman Awards. JW Marriott Grosvenor House Hotel, Mayfair, London. 3rd December 2019 Photograph by Steve Dunlop www.stevedunlop.com steve@stevedunlop.com

Last week Mairead Mackle won the 2019 NatWest everywoman of the Year Award in recognition of her inspiring work at head of a social care and housing organisation. Mairead is CEO and Founder of HCIL Enterprises. It is not her first experience as a business owner. Twenty five years ago Mairead started a podiatry company after she had a first child and then came up with an idea to provide a social care and housing organisation as the result of a Government initiative to get people more involved in the community in Ireland.

Since then HCIL Enterprises has expanded into a suite of complementary businesses including health, housing & social care solutions, online training and renewable energies. Mairead, a mother of seven, now has 10 offices across Ireland and the UAE. She has also founded various other initiatives such as Evolve, a non-profit that addresses challenges women face; Fabraco, which builds a range of cost effective high quality, portable office and housing solutions: and Icare Digital which uses cloud and mobile technology to create a connected community. Her company is also the single largest provider of temporary accommodation for Syrian families in Northern Ireland under the Vulnerable Persons Relocation (VPR) Scheme.

Workingmums.co.uk: What were you doing before you set up your first podiatry business?

Mairead: Working in the NHS as a podiatrist.

What prompted you to set it up?

I couldn’t get a job! Never passed the interviews!

How did you come up with the idea for HCIL Enterprises and why move from podiatry to something so different?

“If a business isn’t giving you more life, it’s taking it away”. The business was totally dependent on me being there and I realised that a traditional 9-5pm job just wasn’t working for me with young children, being flexible for appointments and occasions. I had an idea for a domiciliary care business that would allow clients to live independently in their own homes and the opportunity to build a team.

How did you research the business?

The timing was ideal & I knew that I wanted to stay in the Health and Social Care industry. There were no other providers offering what I knew we could offer with my vision for HCIL & HCIL Housing: to use the power of businesses to affect real social change in the communities in which we operate, making a positive difference to peoples’ lives.

Was it a home-based business?

Yes, our first “office” for HCIL was our kitchen table. We then moved to a portacabin in the garden and then moved into what is now our head office in Callan House, Milford. I have a keen interest in heritage regeneration, so our head office and our charity office are listed buildings which we have restored.

We now have 10 offices located across the UK & Ireland and 1,200 staff across our suite of businesses.

What ages were your children when you started it?

My eldest was three years old and I had a new-born and both were part of the team!

Was it a steep learning curve?

Absolutely. There is uncertainty and doubt at the start of any new business, especially when I had young children at home, but I knew the “why”, why I was doing it, why I was passionate about it – it’s the feel the fear but do it anyway mentality.

How fast did you develop into other areas?

We had periods of rapid growth and expansion for the first 10 years, operating in 14 regions across the UK & Ireland with HCIL – that was both exciting and challenging. We are a family business based on family values and I wanted our people to come on the journey with us, to see HCIL as a career rather than a job. As our suite of businesses grew and diversified, finding the right people for the right roles became hugely important.

How did you secure funding?

I was fortunate in that I found a bank manager who believed in my vision and they agreed to give me a £10K loan (without security!) that got me started.

Why UAE?

We were invited to open a business based on our excellent reputation providing quality care.

How many people now work for HCIL Enterprises?

Across our suite of businesses which encompasses health and social care, support services, housing, training and renewables – we have approximately 1,200 people.

What have been the main challenges as you have scaled up?

“Success is stumbling from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm.” Two of the key industries we operate in are Health and Social Care and Housing – both of which have experienced turbulent and transformative times in recent years.

Lack of funding and strategic investment has led to a workforce that feels undervalued and unsupported. As a result, retention of staff has been challenging as our business has grown.


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Did being your own boss give you the flexibility to work your schedule around your children?

Absolutely…. I have built an excellent leadership team which has allowed me flexibility to work around my family.

You run a number of other initiatives, such as Evolve. How did Evolve come about and what does it do? Is social justice something you feel passionately about?

I am a strong advocate of encouraging more women into entrepreneurship, but I also know the challenges of finding balance, so beyond business I launched Evolve in 2018 – a community interest company for women to inspire them to achieve greater success in their life. Evolve is based on two pillars of Wellbeing and Leadership which together bring greater personal and professional success. Evolve runs a series of events across the country giving women tips and techniques to nourish the mind, body & soul – and encourages women and girls to seize every opportunity that comes their way.

What other initiatives are you involved with?

HCIL has its own amazing employee-founded charity, iCare. The charity is entirely self-funded and volunteer-led. Since its inception in 2010, it has raised close to £400,000 and granted over 350 iCare Wishes to individuals, families, groups and clubs across Ireland. iCare ‘s mantra is “kindness without limits” and we aim to find those people who are deserving of a little bit of kindness in their lives.

We have just launched our annual 15-night Christmas extravaganza which requires a team of 300 local volunteers and welcomes over 3,000 people… it’s all hands on deck. I also sit on the Board of Women In Business and FSB (Federation of Small Businesses).

What are your priorities for the next year?

Fabraco is the newest business in our portfolio – a design-led manufacturing company that has developed a modular building solution that can address the homelessness epidemic the UK and Ireland are experiencing.

Innovative design and manufacturing allow us to provide a versatile space that can be used as a bespoke solution for multiple applications, including temporary or permanent homes. Our plans are to develop a fully sustainable portable home using our own renewable energy.

How did you feel about being nominated for the NatWest everywoman award?

I was extremely excited to be nominated for this award as these awards celebrate female entrepreneurs. These awards do so much to advance women in the workplace and I am delighted to be part of this process.


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