The call is open for early-stage female business entrepreneurs in rural areas to join the latest cycle of ACORNS, the highly-successful female entrepreneurship development initiative.
ACORNS is focussed on developing the potential of female entrepreneurs living in rural Ireland, who wish to start and develop new businesses or have recently started a business.
The call for applications follows the launch of the programme by Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Michael Creed TD, last week (Monday, August 27).
ACORNS is funded under the Department’s Rural Innovation and Development Fund.
Over 150 female entrepreneurs have taken part in ACORNS to date and the current cycle is looking for 50 new participants. The programme will run over six months from October 2018 to April 2019. The deadline for application for this year’s cycle is September 21.
Anyone with a new business — or an idea for a new venture they want to get off the ground — can get more information and register their interest in receiving an application form here. There is no charge for successful applicants.
ACORNS is based on peer support and collaborative learning and each participant will have the opportunity to learn from successful female entrepreneurs who have started and grown businesses in rural Ireland.
Acting in a voluntary capacity, these ‘Lead Entrepreneurs’ share their insights and experience with the group and support the participants to examine and address the issues and challenges they face in progressing their businesses.
This year, the Lead Entrepreneurs are: Alison Ritchie - Polar Ice, Laois; Anne Cusack - Critical Healthcare, Westmeath; Caroline McEnery - The HR Suite, Kerry; Deirdre McGlone,Harvey’s Point, Donegal; Mary B Walsh - Ire Wel Pallets, Wexford; Triona MacGiolla Rí - Aró Digital, Galway.
In addition, Heather Reynolds - Eishtec, Waterford, facilitates the ACORNS Plus roundtable for those who have already completed a cycle of ACORNS and wish to drive forward the growth of their businesses.
Many past participants of ACORNS report increased sales; exports and job creation. Progress made by participants on the last programme, which ran from October 2017 to April 2018, demonstrates these encouraging outcomes:
- Participants reported an increase in annualised sales of 97% over the six months of the cycle.
- Nine participants became exporters for the first time, representing an increase of 112%.
- 13 additional fulltime employees and 19 additional part-time employees were hired during the period.
Past participants of ACORNS are also offered the opportunity to participate in a further development phase and to join the ACORNS Community, to ensure they continue to reap the benefits of the programme and of the valuable connections they have made through broadening their support network.
Michael Creed TD, Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, launching the call for applicants, said:
“This is a tremendous opportunity for rural-based female entrepreneurs and I urge them to apply to participate in this exciting initiative. Each year, the participants give an overwhelming endorsement of the role ACORNS has played in supporting them to grow their business.”
“Once again, female entrepreneurs have the opportunity to avail of ACORNS and all that it has to offer to help them realise their ambitions. This is an opportunity not to be missed”.
Paula Fitzsimons, founder and Managing Director of Fitzsimons Consulting, the company that developed the ACORNS initiative and has been awarded the contract to run the programme, said: “ I am delighted that this opportunity is being offered once again to other female entrepreneurs in rural Ireland.”