This much I know: Lucy Masterson, Entrepreneur

I’m not very academic but I have good emotional intelligence, says Lucy Masterson.

I was an outgoing child, always putting on plays and looking for attention. I was the third eldest of three girls and one boy. My parents were teachers.

My siblings all knew what they wanted to do but I did not. First, I wanted to be an actress, then, I decided to do an Arts degree in Philosophy and Classics, which I loved. I ended up in advertising before going out on my own working as a project manager. 

Then, I became an accidental social entrepreneur when I co-founded Hireland, a social initiative which called on SMEs to kick-start the economic recovery by pledging to hire one more person. Over 5,400 jobs were created.

The idea was born out of my anger at so many people having to emigrate during the recession. I quit my job and ran it full time and knew I’d never go back to working in the private sector after that.

I believe we are all the masters of our own destiny. Success is all about having self belief and gritty determination and working hard. And for me, it is about continually having to try and shake off the imposter syndrome. 

I’m not sure if it’s an Irish thing or a female thing but I often wonder: when am I going to be found out? How did I manage to make it so far?

My biggest challenge, being so full of energy, is that I also have real lows because you can’t be on a high all the time.

The two pieces of advice that have stuck with me are “if you are not terrified then the job you are doing is not big enough for you”. 

And also that “you can be part of the problem or part of the solution”.

To recharge and get head space, I hit the pavement. Running is my escape and my release. I have run three marathons.

If I could be reborn as someone else for a day I’d love to be an average Irish male. I’d like to see what it feels like to open and close a dishwasher without feeling remotely guilty.

I met my husband Alan on a blind date. I’d been engaged to someone else but in a Shirley Valentine moment I’d called off the wedding — twice — as I knew it was quite a disfunctional relationship. 

I was 27 years old and on a night out with some friends when one of them suggested setting me up with a pal she knew from the gym. My poor unwilling husband had no idea what was going on. 

We met in the Galloping Green in Dublin in January and were married by September. Alan works in the motor industry. He’s amazing. He centres me. Our son Max is 16.

My greatest fault is I’m impulsive and I have a short fuse. I’d love to be able to step back and breathe more and to be a bit more contemplative. I have to try not to get wound up sometimes. I can get frustrated when people don’t see my way of thinking.

Money has never been my biggest motivator. When I started Hireland I wasn’t bringing in an income at all, in fact I was depleting our savings.

I’m not a practising Catholic and don’t go to mass regularly but I do believe in an afterlife. Although my husband does not agree. I think it’s a comforting thought when you have lost a loved one.

I’m lucky because I tend to have a positive outlook, a ‘lets just do it’ type of approach.

I always try to see challenges as opportunities. Our young people need to embrace entrepreneurial thinking more. The worst thing that can happen is that you will fail but at least you will have tried.

So far life has taught me that you don’t always have to go along the obvious straight route to get to where you want to go.

* Lucy Masterson is CEO of the Charities Institute Ireland. Its aim is to develop, guide and support its members in embracing the ‘triple lock system’: good governance, best practice fundraising and transparent financial reporting.

She was listed in Forbes Magazine as leading the charge with her social entrepreneurship.


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