Final call for female entrepreneurs for ACORNS programme

50 new female entrepreneurs will be selected for the programme and they must be operating in rural locations across Ireland.

ACORNS, the Government-backed entrepreneurship programme, is calling on early-stage female business entrepreneurs in rural areas to apply for the latest cycle of it development initiative, with next Monday (September 21) being the deadline for applications.

Any woman with a new business based in rural Ireland, or a well-developed idea for a new venture, can register for the programme at

ACORNS is based on peer support and collaborative learning. Each participant will have the opportunity to learn from successful female entrepreneurs – ‘lead entrepreneurs’ – who act in a voluntary capacity.

A total of 50 new entrepreneurs will be selected for the latest cycle, and there is no charge to those who participate. The initiative will be run on a part-time basis over six months from October 2020 to April 2021.

“ACORNS is a real grassroots movement, illustrating the strength of peer support, with entrepreneurs supporting one another”

More than 250 female entrepreneurs have taken part in the ACORNS initiative to date and with the challenges surrounding the Covid-19 pandemic, support for new business owners is more important than ever.

The upcoming programme will have a specific focus on rural Ireland, with the lead entrepreneurs all running successful businesses across rural Ireland. They will share their insights and experiences with the participants to address the issues and challenges they face when starting and growing a business.

The lead entrepreneurs this year’s programme are Anne Reilly of Paycheck Plus, Caroline McEnery of The HR Suite, Mary B. Walsh of Ire Wel Pallets, Eimer Hannon of Hannon Travel, Larissa Feeney of Accountant Online and Triona MacGiolla Rí of Aró Digital Strategies.

“ACORNS is a real grassroots movement, illustrating the strength of peer support, with entrepreneurs supporting one another,” said Paula Fitzsimons, founder of Fitzsimons Consulting.

“Psychological isolation is reduced, confidence is increased, and new networks are formed. This initiative has never been more vital than in the current climate and I am delighted the programme continues to be offered thanks to the support of the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine and the contribution of the voluntary Lead Entrepreneurs.”

Now in its sixth, the programme is supported by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, under its Rural Innovation and Development Fund.

Eligibility criteria

To be considered for ACORNS, applicants must:

  • Have set up a new business which has generated sales no earlier than the 1st January 2018; or be actively planning a new venture and have made good progress towards getting the new venture off the ground. Indicators of actively planning a business would include organising the start-up team, sourcing equipment/facilities, money saved for the start-up, writing the business plan, etc.
  • They must own or part-own the business which must be located in a rural area, that is in an area outside the administrative city boundaries of Dublin, Cork, Galway, Limerick and Waterford.
  • If selected, applicants must be available to attend the virtual launch on the morning of 22 October and the first-round table session the following morning. This will take place either in person or remotely, depending on prevailing circumstances and government guidelines.
  • They must expect to become an employer within three years.

Pictured (L-R): Aisling Kelly, WB’s Coffee Shop + Sligo Oyster Experience, Sligo, Anne Marie Feighery, Feighery’s Farm Beetroot Juice, Kilcormac Co Offaly, Mary B Walsh, Ire Wel Pallets, Gorey, Co Wexford, Triona MacGiolla Rí, Aró Digital Strategy, Furbogh, Co Galway and Maeve Sheridan, Western Herd Brewing, Kilmaley, Co Clare. Pic Michael Dillon

By Stephen Larkin

Published: 14 September, 2020