ACORNS alumni Olive Keyes has combined her love of Pilates with local history and heritage to create an enriching wellness and cultural experience in Roscommon.
We talk to rural women entrepreneurs from across Ireland who recently took part in the ACORNS programme.
Women in rural Ireland with new businesses or at least with well-developed ideas are being invited to join next phase of the programme ACORNS 8. The ACORNS programme is designed to support early-stage female entrepreneurs living in rural Ireland through a peer learning approach. Thanks to the support of the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, and the voluntary contribution of time by Lead Entrepreneurs, there is no charge for those selected to participate.
“We’ve been approached by business owners from abroad who want to work with us for their annual away days”
The call is now open for applicants for ACORNS 8 and 50 female entrepreneurs from across the country will be selected to participate. Anyone interested in receiving an application form ahead of the midnight 23 September deadline for ACORNS 8 should register their interest here
Pilates and Wellness Retreats
Olive Keyes found that wellness retreats both in Ireland and abroad often placed too much focus on Pilates and yoga, and too little on the light entertainment of exploring local history and culture.
“Pilates should be central to the whole experience, but I want other things too,” she says.
A visit to a retreat in Co. Clare proved an inspiration for Olive and after building her own facility on the grounds of her home in Lecarrow, Co. Roscommon, the Athlone native set about offering her own retreats, which included food, cycling and walking tours of conservation areas to connect visitors to the history and heritage of the local area.
“My business, Ireland’s Heartlands Retreats, is an extension of my primary company, which offers Pilates classes in studio and online. We held our first retreat in Lecarrow in October 2021. Since then we’ve been approached by business owners from abroad who want to work with us for their annual away days,” she says.
“I’ve formed relationships with local businesses who can facilitate accommodation and food. This has enriched the experience for my clients, but my aim is to convert outbuildings for guest accommodation and kitchen facilities.”
Olive sees a growing market for wellness in Ireland and hopes to increase her number of retreats over the next 12 months.
She is delighted with the insights gleaned from her participation in the ACORNS programme, particularly in the areas of financial and social media management, as well as the help in sourcing additional supports through the LEADER scheme, which aids rural communities looking to drive development in their area.
“ACORNS is a brilliant programme that connects you with a network of businesswomen with similar issues and concerns, I can’t recommend it enough,” she adds.