Donegal entrepreneurs are encouraging others from the county to join the latest cycle of ACORNS – a highly-successful development initiative to support early-stage female entrepreneurs living in rural Ireland. 

If you wish to start and develop new businesses or who have recently started a venture, the new cycle of ACORNS is for you.

Larissa Feeney of Accountant Online has been announced as a voluntary Lead Entrepreneur on this year’s programme. Larissa’s Letterkenny-based firm of Chartered and Certified Accountants serving over 1,800 clients across Ireland and the UK.

Charlie McConalogue TD,  Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine,  (l-r) Larissa Feeney, Accountant Online and ACORNS Lead Entrepreneur, and ACORNS previous participants Joanne Butler, OURganic Gardens and Anna Carmody, Little RED Edu at the launch of ACORNS 7 . Photo: James Connolly

Larissa says: “Starting a new business may seem like a lonely road. It is so important to realise that you are not alone in the challenges that you are facing as an early- stage entrepreneur and that your problems are not unique. The ACORNS round tables really help here in building confidence, motivation and sharing insights. While the businesses are all different, the issues that they encounter are often similar.”

Past participants of ACORNS from Donegal include: Avril McMonagle of Meantóir and Laura Cavanagh of Glitterbug, who both took part in ACORNS 6, Meg O’Gara, of Megnificent Creative; Joanne Butler of OURganic Gardens; and Bernie Murphy Irish Designer. All five business women have encouraged anyone interested in ACORNS to apply for the programme.

Joanne Butler says:“I found my ACORNS journey to be extremely positive. From the minute I signed up, the support and communication was excellent. I felt I belonged and was very proud to be involved. Becoming an ACORN helped me within my own community and made me stand out as a female business owner. The journey helped me grow confidence in myself as a woman in business and in turn helped me grow my business and take it to the next level and beyond. I would encourage anyone thinking of applying to ACORNS to take it as an amazing opportunity and one you won’t regret. With the help of ACORNS, my mentor and my team, I have achieved the goal of stepping out of my comfort zone and into a whole new world of female entrepreneurship. I am so proud to be part of the ACORNS family.”

Joanne Butler OURganic gardens

Laura Cavanagh says: “Being part of the ACORNS programme was a game changer for my business. The programme helped us to really see what our competitive advantages are and to focus our development, marketing and business strategy on these strengths. It also helped to set goals and targets and to work towards them. Being part of a group of female entrepreneurs was great from a personal perspective. Having your own business can be lonely and it is great to seek advice, share advice and meet other likeminded individuals.”

Laura Kavanagh and Colin Vaughan – Glitterbug Software Developers

Among the 50 new businesses that took part in the last cycle of ACORNS during the Covid-19 pandemic, many changed their career direction completely to establish their businesses. Despite the challenges that they were facing, the ACORNS 6 participants were very positive, and their businesses grew. Over the six-month period of the programme, the combined turnover of the overall group doubled from €1.8 million to €3.6 million. At the end of the cycle, ACORNS 6 participants employed 107 people — an increase of 29. 

The call for applications for the latest cycle of the programme — ACORNS 7 — has been launched by Donegal Minister Charlie McConalogue T.D.

A total of 50 new entrepreneurs will be selected and the free initiative will run over six months from October 2021 to April 2022 with the deadline for applications midnight on September 10, 2021.

Any woman with a new business based in Co Donegal — or a well-developed idea for a new venture they want to get off the ground — can get more information and register to receive an application form at  There is no charge for participation.

ACORNS is funded under the Department’s Rural Innovation and Development Fund.