ACORNS given the green light for third year

The launch of the third year of ACORNS, a six-month part-time development programme for aspiring rural female entrepreneurs, has been welcomed by the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Michael Creed.

Minister Creed said: “I am delighted to announce that ACORNS is being offered to rural female entrepreneurs for a third year.

“Once again, they will have the opportunity to avail of the tremendous supports it can give them to develop and grow their businesses, increase employment, and to make a real contribution to their local communities.

“I am greatly encouraged by what ACORNS has achieved to date, and I urge early stage female entrepreneurs in rural Ireland to apply,” the minister said.

The initiative, which is fully funded under the Department of Agriculture’s Rural Innovation and Development Fund, is focused on developing the potential of female entrepreneurs living in rural Ireland who have recently started a business or who have taken concrete steps towards setting up a business.

There is no charge for successful applicants, the department said.

Pictured with Minister Creed are: previous participant Alma Jordan, Agrikids; ACORNS voluntary Lead Entrepreneur Alison Ritchie, Polar Ice; Paula Fitzsimons, Director of ACORNS; ACORNS voluntary Lead Entrepreneur Mary B Walsh, Ire Wel Pallets; and previous participant Trín O’Brien, Wellnice Pops

ACORNS (Accelerating the Creation Of Rural Nascent Start-ups) is based on a clear understanding that entrepreneurs learn best from each other and the programme is focused on peer support and collaborative learning.

Participants work in interactive round-table sessions facilitated by other female entrepreneu
rs who have started and successfully grown businesses in rural Ireland.

Acting in a voluntary capacity, these ‘Lead Entrepreneurs’ offer their insights and experience with the group and support the participants to examine and address the issues they face in progressing their businesses.

More than 100 female entrepreneurs have taken part in ACORNS to date, and past participants testify to the difference this programme has made both to themselves and to their businesses, according to the department.

Last year’s programme demonstrated the progress made by participants, with nine businesses trading for the first time, and export sales made by eight participants, of which three were first-time exporters.

In addition, there was a 21% increase in turnover among the 47 trading businesses during the six-month cycle of the programme.

Paula Fitzsimons is the founder of Fitzsimons Consulting, the company awarded the contract to design, develop and implement the latest phase of the ACORNS programme.

Commenting on the programme, Fitzsimons said: “I have been hugely impressed by the talent, commitment and sheer determination that I have seen among Irish female entrepreneurs that have taken part in previous cycles of ACORNS.

I believe that there is significant further untapped potential in our rural communities. ACORNS is about unleashing this potential and supporting these women to realise their ambitions.

“The support of the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, and the contribution of the voluntary Lead Entrepreneurs are greatly welcomed and are critical to making this happen.”

The deadline for application for this year’s ACORNS programme is Friday September 22, 2017. Interested female entrepreneurs can access information and register their interest at