WREN rouses women to hunt for ‘role model’ ideas

A French woman who is married to a Cork dairy farmer has plans to establish ‘An Fheirm’ – an eco-friendly holiday haven for families – after completing the Women’s Rural Entrepreneurial Network (WREN) programme.

Helene Aubazac, who lives with her husband and two children outside Macroom, wants to offer people the opportunity to break away from the hustle and bustle of modern life through the natural surroundings on a farm.

She sees her target market as families, of all sizes – including single parent families. As a mum to a child diagnosed with autism, she is particularly interested in facilitating children with special needs.

Helene, who met her husband Patrick Roche while she was on an Erasmus year at Mary Immaculate college in Limerick, is in the early stages of developing her idea.

I don’t have a background in farming; but my parents have a small campsite and guesthouse accommodation outside Avignon in France.

“My husband qualified as an electrical engineer; but then took over the farm from his father. We would like to diversify,” said Helene.

She said she found the WREN programme, which was delivered in Midleton, very beneficial.

Great foundation

“A friend told me about it and it was exactly what I was looking for. It gave me a great foundation.”

Led by South and East Cork Area Development (SECAD), it supports female entrepreneurs and start-ups led by women, or those interested in becoming self-employed through training and business development supports.

The programme is operated in partnership with Ballyhoura Development; Cork Institute of Technology’s Rubicon Centre and Hincks Centre for Entrepreneurship Excellence.

It is funded by the Department of Justice and Equality and the European Social Fund.

At total of 17 entrepreneurs have created new business ideas over the last nine months as a result of the Cork-based initiative.

“Over the past nine months, the WREN participants have established diverse businesses across a number of sectors – from food and hospitality, to photography, craft. Many also have international and export potential,” said Ryan Howard, CEO, SECAD.

He said it was vital for rural communities that female entrepreneurship is supported, adding that the programme demonstrated how creative and successful rural businesses could be.


The WREN programme includes: personal development and business skills training; one-to-one and group mentoring; female role model experience sharing and support; themed networking and experiential learning events; networking sessions; and business pitching events.

The programme was delivered in the Ballyhoura region, as well as Middleton, with participants being trained in both Limerick and Cork.

The business training modules commenced last January and ran until May. Business training was held at Croom Enterprise Centre for the 14 Limerick participants; and at the Rubicon Centre, on the Cork Institute of Technology (CIT) campus, for the Cork-based participants.

The programme is currently recruiting for the next round of potential female entrepreneurs to begin the next WREN programme in September 2018 until May 2019.

“Given the success of the WREN programme to date, we are keen to recruit more women to the programme,” said Suzanne Kearney, assistant CEO, SECAD.

“The programme will provide the option of accredited training; as well as business and employment supports. It is hugely valuable in terms of economic development in rural areas and as equality of opportunity.”

George Bulman, operations manager, Rubicon Centre, CIT said: “The Rubicon Centre was delighted to be involved in the delivery of the business section of the WREN programme.

“The participants were charged with delivering business models, marketing reports and business plans for their respective businesses.

The enthusiasm was tremendous. All participants were eager to produce quality reports to further enhance their businesses and ideas.

“The effort and commitment was very evident from day one and culminated with a wonderful showcasing in the Radisson Blu Hotel in Little Island recently,” he said.

Those interested should contact Frances Doyle at SECAD or visit: www.secad.ie.