Early-stage female entrepreneurs in the government-backed ACORNS programme doubled their combined turnover to €3.1m in just six months.
The announcement comes today as applications open for ACORNS 8, the innovative business development programme for female entrepreneurs in rural areas, now in its eighth year.
Letterkenny woman Feena McBride, founder of The Arty Fox was full of praise for the initiative and her experience of it. Feena’s locally-based start-up produces arts and crafts sets for children, aged 3 to 12.
Feena said: “From the moment you begin the ACORNS programme you are welcomed into this supportive Community. Group sessions are full of ideas, encouragement and questions that will challenge and support you. Our Lead Entrepreneur created a wonderful atmosphere where we could share our struggles and our achievements. I look forward to remaining part of the ACORNS community. ”
This year’s voluntary Lead Entrepreneurs include Deirdre McGlone, former Harvey’s Point owner and Hospitality & Tourism Advisor and Larissa Feeney, founder of Accountant Online Letterkenny.
Charlie McConalogue T.D. Minister for Agriculture, Food and Marine, will today launch the opening of the call for applications for the latest cycle ACORNS. The deadline for applications is midnight on Friday, September 23rd 2022.
From the applications, up to 50 new early stage female entrepreneurs living in rural areas will be selected for the six-month programme which will run from October 2022 to April 2023. The scheme is open to women based in rural Ireland who are at an advanced stage of starting a new business or who want to develop a recently-established existing venture. The intention of the programme is to provide them with the knowledge, support and networking opportunities to meet and exceed their current aspirations.
Charlie McConalogue T.D., Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, says: “I am delighted, along with my Department, to support ACORNS which is a successful and progressive initiative. Now in its eighth year, and going from strength to strength, ACORNS continues to support early stage female entrepreneurs living in rural Ireland. This innovative programme is funded through the Rural Innovation and Development Fund.
“Over 350 female entrepreneurs have taken part in ACORNS to date and a significant proportion of these are still actively involved. The progress made by participants in previous years has been remarkable, with many reporting increased sales, exports and job creation. This is an incredible opportunity and a wonderful support for rural-based female entrepreneurs, particularly in the current environment. I encourage those who have recently started or are about to start a new business to apply to participate in this very exciting initiative.”
Larissa Feeney, founder and CEO of Accountant Online and one of this year’s ACORNS Lead Entrepreneurs, 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.”
Athlone woman Niamh Dooley of BiaSol, who also took part in the latest programme, said: “I highly recommend ACORNS for any woman in business. The sense of community the programme has built is amazing, and it is a brilliant way to connect with other women in business.”
ACORNS receives well over 240 completed applications each year for the fifty places available, so those who apply will be selected on a competitive basis.
There is no charge for those participating in ACORNS, thanks to the continuing support of the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine and the voluntary contribution of time by the Lead Entrepreneurs.
The initiative is funded through the Rural Innovation and Development Fund by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (DAFM).