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CLARE FEMALE entrepreneurs are urging others from the county to join the latest cycle of ACORNS – a highly-successful development initiative to support early-stage female entrepreneurs living in rural Ireland.

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Charlie McConalogue TD (FF) launched the call for applications for the latest cycle of the programme, ACORNS 8, earlier this month. ACORNS is funded under the Department’s Rural Innovation and Development Fund.

Programme organisers are looking for female entrepreneurs living in rural Ireland, who wish to start and develop new businesses or who have recently started a venture.

A total of 50 new entrepreneurs will be selected and the free initiative will run over six months from October 2022 to April 2023 with the deadline for applications midnight on September 23, 2022. This is the eighth year of the ACORNS programme and over 350 female entrepreneurs have taken part to date and a significant proportion of these are still actively involved.

Past participants from Clare include, Paula Hawes of the Burren Butcher, Caitriona Considine of Moher Cottage and Louise Egan of I-SPY Clothing.

The Burren Butcher is an online craft butcher offering a limited range of award-winning beef products traceable to farmers in the Burren hinterland. Founder Paula Hawes was a participant on ACORNS 7. “ACORNS was a brilliant investment of my time and has provided many opportunities over the past 6 months to evaluate and refine product concepts and sales opportunities that provide the greatest return on investment. Being a female in business in rural Ireland during a pandemic was a lonely place, but I was encouraged and informed by the different perspectives of my fellow ACORNS and Lead Entrepreneurs when I crucially needed it. My confidence and knowledge have grown over the course of the programme and with my network of fellow ACORNS, I feel equipped to face challenges that The Burren Butcher will encounter over the next five years,” Paula said.

Caitriona Considine was a participant on ACORNS 2. With breath-taking views across the Clare countryside and Liscannor Bay, she couldn’t have picked a better spot for the location of her gift and coffee shop, Moher Cottage. Supporting local business is important to Caitriona so Moher Cottage sells unique, local, Irish-made crafts and gifts, as well as Caitriona’s own artisan fudge and her photography. “The ACORNS programme was an invaluable opportunity for me to meet and now work with amazing talented ladies who continue to inspire and motivate leading to an acceleration of the development of my business,” she outlined.

Louise Egan, co-founder of I-SPY Clothing, a fitness and yoga clothing brand, was also a participant on ACORNS 2. She was carrying out her transition year work experience at branding agency, The Pudding, when inspiration hit to create her own business based on her interest in camogie and her mother’s experience as a yoga teacher. “I thoroughly enjoyed my experience in ACORNS and I honestly could not praise it enough. I feel like I have gained not only a support network but a group of friends that I can rely on and gain priceless business advice from,” Louise commented.

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.

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