Friday (September 10) is the final deadline for early-stage female entrepreneurs in rural areas to apply for the latest cycle of development initiative ACORNS.
This is the 7th year of the Government-backed ACORNS programme, which is supported by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, under its Rural Innovation and Development Fund.
A total of 50 new entrepreneurs will be selected from those who apply but applications have to be completed and submitted by midnight on Friday, September 10.
The is no charge to those selected to participate in ACORNS 7 and the free initiative will run over six months from October 2021 to April 2022.
More than 300 female entrepreneurs have taken part in the ACORNS initiative to date. Among the 50+ early stage entrepreneurs that took part in the last cycle of ACORNS during the Covid-19 pandemic, many changed their career direction completely to establish their businesses.
Despite challenges such as Covid and Brexit in recent times, the combined turnover of the overall ACORNS 6 group doubled from €1.8 million to €3.6 million over the six months of the programme. There were 29 new jobs (17 FT and 12 PT) created and seven participants exported for the first time.
Any woman with a new business based in rural Ireland — or an idea for a new venture they want to get off the ground — can get more information and register to receive an application form at www.acorns.ie. (Eligibility criteria in notes below)
Based on a belief that entrepreneurs learn best from each other, ACORNS is centred on interactive round table sessions facilitated by successful female entrepreneurs who have started and grown businesses in rural Ireland. These are known as ACORNS Lead Entrepreneurs, and they give their time free of charge to encourage and support the new business owners.
For ACORNS 7, the launch event and the round tables sessions are planned to be held in-person, adhering strictly to the Government’s guidelines.
This year’s voluntary Lead Entrepreneurs are Anne Reilly, PaycheckPlus, Caroline Reidy, The HR Suite, Eimer Hannon, Hannon Travel, Larissa Feeney, Accountant Online, Mary B Walsh, Ire Wel Pallets, Norma Dinneen, Bó Rua Farm and Triona MacGiolla Rí, Aró Digital Strategies.
Fitzsimons Consulting, specialising in entrepreneurship and growth, developed the initiative. Founder Paula Fitzsimons says:
“What the ACORNS participants achieved during the last cycle in challenging circumstances was remarkable – new sales, additional employees, and new exporters. We are delighted that, through the support of the Minister and his Department, we are in a position through ACORNS to continue to support entrepreneurial women in rural Ireland, as they start and develop their businesses.”
ACORNS 7 will run from October 2021 to April 2022 and will include a launch event, six roundtable sessions, an understanding the financials workshop, a briefing by the various development agencies and an end of cycle celebration.
To be considered for ACORNS, applicants must:
- Have set up a new business which has generated sales no earlier than the 1st January 2019; or be actively planning a new venture and have made good progress towards getting the new venture off the ground. Indicators of actively planning a business would include organising the start-up team, sourcing equipment / facilities, money saved for the start-up, writing the business plan, etc.
- They must own or part-own the business which must be located in a rural area, that is in an area outside the administrative city boundaries of Dublin, Cork, Galway, Limerick and Waterford.
- If selected, applicants must be available to attend the launch Forum and first round table session on 11th and 12th October,2021. It is hoped that this can take place in person, subject to prevailing circumstances and government guidelines.
- They must expect to become an employer within three years.
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