Belinda O’Neill is a motivational speaker, writer and the founder of her own creative brand, Be Inspired To Be which she established in 2017. We caught up with Belinda to find out what motivates her, and to hear her hopes for 2022.
You created your incredible platform "Be Inspired To Be" and your community has grown to over 150,000 people. What inspired you to start the platform and did you ever expect it to get this big?
In 2016, my return to education and the completion of a 3rd level qualification, reignited a love of creative writing.
In January 2017, a very close family member was diagnosed with Cancer, it was during this difficult time when I really turned to my writing, as a form of self-therapy. I then established my brand ‘Be Inspired To Be®’ and I began to share some of my words with the aim of helping others who might also be going through some challenges.
Over the past 5 years I have set up pages on multiple social media platforms, with the biggest growth happening in 2020. Through the global pandemic, I believe that more people went online for some inspiration, for a little ray of hope.
In 2020 and 2021 on the LinkedIn platform, my global community grew from just 70 to now over 140,000. This was extremely overwhelming and I am incredibly grateful for the engagement and indeed the support.
Being a writer and motivational speaker wasn’t your day job though, tell us about your journey from banking to inspiring?
That’s a great question! By profession I was a Banker for almost 25 years, leaving the Bank on December 31st 2021 to pursue my own entrepreneurial dreams!
I joined the Bank at the age of 19, straight after completing my A-Levels. With a career in mind, I proceeded to develop myself, I got involved in many local business organisations and I raised my profile in the local community. This drive to succeed, led me to become the youngest member of the then Management team, at the age of 25. At the age of 28, I then became the youngest member of Senior Management.
My management roles involved me helping customers and businesses to achieve their goals and ambitions. This gave me great joy, as a core personal value - since my school days – has been to help others and to make a little difference.
Throughout my career, public speaking was a key part of my role, speaking at events on behalf of the bank and the business organisations I was a member of.
So when I embarked on my university journey in 2015, which reignited a love of creative writing, I merged the writing and the public speaking together. I have delivered many talks over the past 5 years under my creative brand ‘Be Inspired To Be®’ sharing my words and my journey thus far.
I am a ‘women empowerment’ advocate and I have been a keynote speaker at a variety of women led business events in Northern Ireland.
What have been the challenges and highlights of your journey and career so far?
I have been fortunate to have had many highlights and a fair few challenges too, but that is the journey of life, it is filled with constant highs and lows.
On a personal level, having my son Leo, aged 13, is a huge highlight. Having had major gynaecological related issues from the age of 16, he was indeed a miracle, which my husband Peter and I were thrilled to welcome, into our lives.
In terms of career, my continuous growth and development both personally and professionally have given me a great sense of achievement and joy.
Embarking on and successfully completing a 3rd level qualification, whilst working full time and balancing home life, has too been a wonderful highlight.
I am also a Past President of Lisburn Chamber of Commerce, a voluntary role that I thoroughly revelled in and one of only 3 females who have held the position, since its inception in 1961.
I have been associated with Chambers of Commerce in various locations, since 2002, it is a wonderful network and my involvement has taken me to the European Parliament in Brussels, on two occasions, to Vienna and to many towns and cities across the UK.
In terms of challenges, my gynaecological issues remain part of my life, which post pregnancy, involved two major operations, with subsequent fertility challenges an now the early onset of Menopause. However, in 2017 I almost lost my very close family member to cancer and this really was an awakening for me. Since then, I have vowed to take life, one moment at a time and to be grateful for every blessing, that I am fortunate to have.
If you could go back and tell your younger self one thing, what would it be?
“To believe in all that you are, to savour every moment and to move fearlessly forwards” - O’Neill,B
What would your advice be for someone who is thinking about taking the risk in starting a new project, business or changing their career?
“You will never know, if you don’t take a chance and give it a go.” (O’Neill, B)
I firmly believe we all have a unique purpose, we all have an abundance of talent which needs to be expressed and shared.
If you have a true desire to pursue a different path, set up a business or to make a change, then do it. Do it with passion, with love and with wholehearted self-belief and ambition.
You have just launched your debut book of Inspiration. Tell us about this.
I have indeed. I launched my ‘Be Inspired To Be’ book of daily inspiration on December 8th 2021. It has been 5 years in the making and is a collection of inspirational poems, quotes and reflections which I have written for every day of the year. It’s all original work, written from my heart, which I feel makes it special. The aim for my book is to inspire, empower and to highlight that there is always hope.
My book cover was hand painted by a wonderful Artist and friend Pamela Manson, who took my vision and created a stunning scene.
My book was published through the Bookhub Publishing group and I’m very grateful for their unwavering support.
When you pursue a dream you are never sure how it might work out, I’m thrilled with the response to my book, which became a best seller within 72 hours post launch through direct sales and it has been shipped across the world.
Your community is all about inspiring others, but who inspires you?
I draw inspiration from many sources, but largely the people who surround me, my family, my friends, my colleagues and my connections.
I love to read articles and books and to listen to inspirational talks, those which make you pause, reflect and that uplift you.
A few favourites are;
The Path Made Clear Book - Oprah Winfrey
The Little Book of Peace Book - Tiddy Rowan
The Call To Courage Talk - Brené Brown
The Year I Said Yes To Everything Talk - Shonda Rhimes
Inspiration is all around us, I love to cloud watch and to take photos of some of the amazing sunrises and sunsets, we get to witness. I live in a rural location, with beautiful scenery, which I love to capture when I can.
Finding joy in the simple things, really makes you appreciate the big moments, when they arrive.
What's next for you and how can we support your journey?
2022 is my year to be ‘fearless’ as I embark on developing my Be Inspired To Be® brand and business on a full-time basis. I have several speaker engagements already confirmed and events in the planning stages too, together with launching a new aspect of my business in the weeks ahead.
I am excited to convert my vision into reality. However having left a very fast paced banking career, I will be proceeding slowly, ensuring that work-life balance is at the centre of all that I do.
I’m humbled by the support of ‘The Female Lead’ to date and I do hope that this collaboration will continue, focusing on empowerment, connection building and highlighting the importance of “being kind to our mind, because our body is listening.” (O’Neill,B)
What is your favourite quote?
One of my favourites is by Brené Brown “You either walk inside your story and own it, or you stand outside your story and hustle for your worthiness”.
One of my self-penned favourites, which I refer to repeatedly is “Never get so busy ‘doing’, that you forget to ‘be’” (O’Neill, B), this really sums up my brand's ethos.
About the author
Belinda O’Neill is a bank manager, working in the same bank for almost 24 years. She is also a writer and the founder of her own creative brand, ‘Be Inspired To Be®’ which she established in 2017. She graduated from the University of Ulster, graduating in 2016, at the age of 38. Belinda says “It’s never too late to graduate!” Belinda is also a motivational speaker and has been a keynote speaker for over 15 years. Belinda is an active fundraiser, mainly for cancer-related charities and has organised and hosted two sell-out charity events with the support of her sister, raising £14,000 and undertaking two major hospitals, family room refurbishments, for their local Intensive Care Unit.