*Catherine O’Brien of ODODO.
Ireland has seen an increase in early-stage female entrepreneurs over the past year, new business and well-developed ideas are now being urged by Clare women to join ACORNS 5.
Female entrepreneurs from the county who previously participated on the programme have encouraged fellow business owners to apply before the September 20th deadline. ACORNS aspires to support female entrepreneurs living in rural Ireland who wish to start a new business or those that have recently done so.
Caitriona Considine of Moher Cottage, Western Herd Brewing Company’s Maeve Sheridan, I-Spy Clothing’s Louise Egan and Catherine O’Brien of ODODO. Caitriona described the programme as 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”.
“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 stated. Reflecting on her experience, Maeve commented that it was “a great way of learning from others’ experiences, meeting like-minded people and supporting each other through setting up a successful business”.
The call for applications follows the launch of the programme by Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Michael Creed TD. ACORNS is funded under the Department’s Rural Innovation and Development Fund. Over 200 female entrepreneurs have taken part in ACORNS to date and 50 new participChants are being sought for ACORNS 5. The programme will run over six months from October 2019 to April 2020.
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 their interest at www.acorns.ie.
ACORNS is based on peer support and collaborative learning. Each participant will have the opportunity to learn from successful female entrepreneurs – “Lead Entrepreneurs”. Acting in a voluntary capacity, these Lead Entrepreneurs will share their insights and experience with the group and help the participants to address the issues and challenges they face in progressing their businesses. They also act as role models, illustrating by their actions that it is possible to start and grow a successful business in rural Ireland.
This year, the Lead Entrepreneurs are: Alison Ritchie, Polar Ice, Laois; Anne Cusack, Critical Healthcare, Westmeath; Anne Reilly, Paycheck Plus, Louth; Caroline McEnery, The HR Suite, Kerry, Deirdre McGlone, formerly Harvey’s Point Hotel, Donegal; Eimer Hannon, Eimer Hannon Travel, Meath; Mary B. Walsh, Ire Wel Pallets, Wexford; Triona MacGiolla Rí, Aró Digital Strategies, Galway.
In addition, Monica Flood, formerly Olas IT – a Going for Growth Lead Entrepreneur – will facilitate an ACORNS Plus round table for previous participants, who are committed to growing their businesses.
Many past participants of ACORNS report increased exports and job creation. Progress made by the 46 participants that completed ACORNS 4 (the last cycle), which ran from October 2018 to April 2019, demonstrates these encouraging outcomes with a combined turnover of €2.3m – an increase of 43% over the six-month programme cycle. Thirteen participants became exporters for the first time. 19 additional part-time employees were hired during the cycle, with 26 companies planning to hire additional staff this year. 86% said ACORNS brought about practical change within their business; 95% felt nearer to achieving their ambitions and 100% would recommend participating in ACORNS to others.