Sligo’s Soak surfs to success

How Kaz Kearney’s side project Soak became a full-time endeavour for the ACORNS alumni.

We talk to rural women entrepreneurs from across Ireland who recently took part in the ACORNS programme.

Originally a native of Dublin, Kaz Kearney moved to Dromore West in Co Sligo in 2021.

“Being able to bounce ideas off the community of likeminded entrepreneurs while learning from each other as we progressed their businesses was a great benefit of the ACORNS programme”

Kaz started her business as a side project, before deciding to give it her full-time attention in June 2022.

Brisk winds and a beautiful idea

Soak is a multi-award winning Atlantic sea salt and herbal wellness range that helps with sleep, anxiety, mood and skin health.

The accolades won by Soak include Best in Sleep Wellness Award at the Irish Tatler Spa Awards and three wins at this year’s Hi Style Awards – Best Candle for Sleep, Editor’s Choice Award for Joy Connects bath soak, and Best Sustainable Scrub for Bedtime Bliss. Her most recent win was a Vegan Beauty Award for her Joy Connects scrub.

Kaz was inspired to set up Soak when she saw the benefits her son, who has additional needs, got from being in the Atlantic Ocean while surfing.

That is why she uses 100% Atlantic sea salt, organic Irish seaweed and her own homegrown organic herbs.

“As a busy single parent, I was particularly conscious of wanting to create something that would bring a self-care and spa experience to the home.

“Soak now has nine products and is available in 20 shops along the Wild Atlantic Way and in Dublin, as well as in the online store.

“Being able to bounce ideas off the community of likeminded entrepreneurs while learning from each other as we progressed their businesses was a great benefit of the ACORNS programme.”

Her plans include launching new body oils and Atlantic sea sprays in September. She has developed spa treatments, Soak Wellness Rituals, in partnership with Dr Jen McKee, who is a physiotherapist, massage therapist, yoga instructor and mindfulness coach, and Kaz has been pitching to hotel spas.

Get going, get growing

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 9.

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.

ACORNS is based on the belief that early-stage entrepreneurs learn best from their peers. Participants interact with each other in the monthly round table sessions, which are facilitated by a Lead Entrepreneur, who has first-hand experience of starting and successfully growing a business in rural Ireland. There are 50 places available for ACORNS 9.

Those wishing to apply for ACORNS 9 should register on the website before midnight 22 September.

In a survey carried out at the end of the eighth cycle of the programme in April, 100% of participants said they would recommend the programme to others. The 46 entrepreneurs in ACORNS 8 also reported significant growth in their new businesses. Their combined turnover, which doubled in the six months to April 2023 – from €1.9m to €3.6m.

Participants in ACORNS 8 employed 96 (55 full-time, 41 part-time) staff at the end of the cycle, an increase of 16. There were also five new exporters over the cycle. 

A total of 96% of the participants said that they felt closer to achieving their ambitions after having completed ACORNS.  While 89% said that their participation brought about a practical change within their business. 

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