News & Events

International Women’s Day 2024 - Inspiring Inclusion: Shannen O’ Reilly

8 Mar 2024

Today is International Women’s Day. The campaign theme 2024 is Inspire Inclusion, emphasising the importance of diversity and empowerment in all aspects of society. To mark International Women’s Day, UCC Innovation is showcasing three women within the UCC Innovation ecosystem, who Inspire Inclusion through their innovative endeavours.

Shannen O’ Reilly is CEO and Co-Founder at TrustDish, and former IGNITE participant. Shannen grew up working in food retail in her family business. This inspired her love for business and wanting to pursue an undergraduate in Commerce.

However, when discussing career options with her guidance counsellor while completing her CAO application, she was advised pursue a career in teaching. When the Covid-19 pandemic hit in 2020, Shannen reassessed her career choice and returned to UCC to study a MSc in Food Business and Innovation. Through this Masters, Shannen had the opportunity to complete a research project, which inspired her move into the world of entrepreneurship.

“My research project was based on the biggest challenge I saw within the Food Industry - the management of food allergies. My sister Rachel has a severe peanut allergy and has almost died five times whilst dining outside of the home. Because of this, and growing up working in the industry, I saw the challenges with regards to food allergy management faced by both parties.”

Shannen was determined to come up with a solution to these challenges and developed one through her company, TrustDish. TrustDish is a unique, state of the art digital allergen management system that connects the person with the food allergy or intolerance directly to the person who is preparing the food. On completing her thesis, she decided to join the IGNITE Graduate Innovation programme to obtain the skills she needed to turn TrustDish into a successful start-up. Following almost two years of research, growing her small team, and developing an app unlike any of its kind, the company is set to launch within the next month.

According to Grant Thornton’s Women in Business 2023 report, 32.4% of senior management positions in midmarket businesses throughout the world are now held by women, an increase of just half a percentage point since 2022 and only 13% since their research was first undertaken in 2004. Alarmingly, 9% of mid-market businesses globally still have no women in senior leadership.

Shannen feels it is key to encourage girls from a young age to follow their passion, despite how male-dominated their perspective career path might be. While in school, Shannen feels she was directed towards a more “caring, women-orientated” profession as opposed to what she really wanted to do.

“My guidance counsellor advised me to go down the typical women-orientated route of teaching instead of going into business. Although I really enjoyed studying my undergraduate course, my heart was in the business world. I think there is still a huge change of culture and mindset that needs to be implemented for many, especially those such as teachers who are helping young people make big decisions. Young people need to be guided towards the things they truly enjoy.”

As CEO of TrustDish, Shannen ensures that inclusion is at the heart of all that TrustDish do, and she endeavours to inspire inclusion through creating a company in which women feel respected and that their voice matters.  

“I really want to make women on our team feel like they can have a voice and not be afraid to speak up and challenge themselves. My goal is to make them feel comfortable and respected. I think creating a flexible work environment that allows women to cater for their needs, while ensuring that they still get the work they need to do done is key. Women have a huge responsibility in decision making within the home, therefore having women within our team is key to the success of TrustDish.” 

To find out more about how you can Inspire Inclusion this International Women’s Day, visit



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