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How an MBA transformed this marketing maverick into a CEO

SOURCE: Edel McCabe
Edel McCabe at her home in Fahan, Co Donegal. In speaking about her MBA programme, she said students were afforded "amazing mentoring and coaching programmes."


By Shekinah Kannan 

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What’s a career that is ever-evolving, challenging, and will keep practitioners on their toes? The marketing business. Marketers need to continuously upskill to meet the demands of the changing landscape, while a strong business acumen will also enhance one’s ability to lead and manage a business. An MBA, however, could fill the skills gap – just ask Edel McCabe.

This Irish-born entrepreneur has a string of credentials under her belt. She has a bachelor’s degree in business and computing, a master of marketing with a specialisation in e-commerce, and a diploma in digital marketing. She added another feather to her cap when she was awarded “All-Ireland Business Woman of the Year 2012.” McCabe, however, wasn’t about to rest on her laurels.

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“I wanted a bigger picture,” she told U2B in an email interview. “I wanted more career and life options. I wanted to discover my next step.”

In 2019, she did just that with an MBA. The experience didn’t just advance her existing marketing skills – it also gave her the know-how to lead. 

Today, McCabe is the founder and CEO of Effective Marketing Communications (EMC) Agency – an Ireland-based one-stop shop for businesses looking for expert insights on marketing, communications, PR, events, business strategy, the art of pitching, and more.

From a marketing and PR professional to an entrepreneur with an MBA

With over 16 experience in the marketing and PR arena, including working at the C-suite level, McCabe chose Trinity College Dublin’s Trinity Business School as her launchpad for entrepreneurial success.  

It’s a passion she’s had since young.

“I have always wanted to be an entrepreneur, from when I was a young child. I had an extreme interest in business, I was always reading, researching and looking at what companies were doing to be successful coming up with hair brained schemes to invent new products to take over the world. And that was when I was 10 years old!” she says.

What was missing all these years was her confidence. McCabe knew that networking, collaborating, competing, and learning in a world-class business school – and studying alongside business professionals who were already at the top of their field – could change that. And it did.

“Trinity’s career facilitation and development gave me the tenacity to explore what I truly wanted to happen in my future – which was to own my own business and finally realise that my success was just a decision away.”

Her classes at Trinity focused on the practical application of theories in the business realm. Since professors knew they were educating business professions looking to evolve into experts, McCabe and her peers were encouraged to express their opinions and investigate their thought processes before making decisions.

Outside the classroom, the Trinity MBA enabled her to visit and interact with the offices of Google, Hubspot, and EY. At these organisations, she led discussions, conducted classes on the relevant business knowledge she was gaining, and expanded her network. 

The overall experience helped McCabe gain essential hard skills that would help her launch the marketing business of her dreams as its CEO. Through financial analysis and reporting classes, she learned to look at the viability of being a sustainable business owner, the targets to meet, and the prices that would keep clients coming back for more.

Exposure to research taught her to investigate the market she was entering. It also showed her how to build sustainable business profiles for her future clients. Through lessons in project management, McCabe learned the art of juggling diverse clients with various goals – all at once, ensuring she would be able to deliver high-quality service, consistently. 

Close to the finishing line, McCabe began feeling the confidence growing.

“The skills I learned and the network I gained from the MBA were invaluable for me to achieve this,” she says. “For the first time, I had the business acumen and resources necessary to make a business plan, formulate a strategy, talk to potential clients and launch EMC Agency.”

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An MBA helped her press the reset button to start a marketing business

Living her childhood dream, McCabe is currently helping businesses reach their audiences in the most effective and efficient ways – and at an affordable price.

“We made sure our clients are on the right frequency at the right time, with the right content,” she explains. “With a love for both the written word and the digital world, we let our creativity flow to make sure our customers are recognised as top choices in their respective fields.”

With McCabe’s comprehensive understanding of the metrics, messaging, and branding needed for a business to excel, EMC Agency is thriving. Under her leadership, they are currently providing a 360-degree solution to their customers by launching websites, analysing Google rankings, developing brochures, and strategising radio coverage, to name a few.

She plans to take her agency to greater heights. 

“I want to scale the company to a national level,” McCabe explains. “We plan on growing the business to be a major marketing agency throughout Ireland, offering quality marketing services to its biggest organisations.”

While the thought of expanding a young company might be daunting to some, McCabe is more than ready to embark on the journey.

“The MBA has taught me there are no hurdles, only those you make in your mind,” she says. “Hurdles, as some call them, are opportunities to grow and learn. Smart navigation can often be what makes a company great.”