Annamarie McNally, Department of Agriculture Food and the Marine and past Longford participant Marie O'Dowd, Wilder & Gold
Former Longford participants of a development programme aimed at female entrepreneurs in rural locations have encouraged others to apply.
This is the 6th year of the government-backed ACORNS programme which has never been more vital than in the current climate.
ACORNS is a highly-successful initiative for early-stage female business owners in rural areas and is supported by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine under its Rural Innovation and Development Fund.
A total of 50 new business owners will be selected for ACORNS 6 which will run from October 2020 to April 2021 with NO charge to participants.
The deadline for applications is September 21, 2020 and the programme is open to those with new businesses or a well-developed idea for a new venture.
Longford’s Marie O’Dowd of Wilder & Gold and Ann O’Reilly of Zobi are previous participants and still part of the vibrant ACORNS community. Both have benefitted from participating and urge others to join the programme.
Marie O’Dowd of Wilder and Gold says: “I found that ACORNS helped me to set early goals and achieve them and was particularly beneficial for networking and support. I stay in contact with many of my ACORNS group.”
Ann O’Reilly of Zobi (pictured) says: “Within a short space of time, I felt I was among friends who had my back, could support me and shared the ups and downs!”
The latter part of the previous cycle of the programme – ACORNS 5 — coincided with the nationwide restrictions to reduce the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic.
This had a severely negative impact on businesses across Ireland and the participants were not immune to their effects. ACORNS immediately moved online, and the final round table sessions and workshops were held remotely.
However, supported by their Lead Entrepreneurs, 75% of ACORNS 5 participants pivoted their business to take account of the changed circumstances and 27% reported a positive impact on their business.
ACORNS is based on peer support and collaborative learning and each participant will have the opportunity to learn from successful female entrepreneurs called Lead Entrepreneurs who have started and grown businesses in rural Ireland.
Acting in a voluntary capacity, this year’s ‘Lead Entrepreneurs’ are: Anne Reilly of Paycheck Plus, Co Louth; Caroline McEnery of The HR Suite, Co. Kerry; Eimer Hannon of Hannon Travel, Co. Meath; Larissa Feeney of Accountant Online, Co Donegal; Triona MacGiolla Rí of Aró Digital Strategies, Co Galway and Mary B Walsh, Ire Wel Pallets, Co. Wexford.
Having successfully completed ACORNS 6, participants will be offered the opportunity to participate in a further development phase and to join the ACORNS Community. This will contribute to ensuring that they continue to reap the benefits of the programme and of the valuable connections they have made through broadening their support network.
Fitzsimons Consulting, specialising in entrepreneurship and growth, developed the initiative. Founder Paula Fitzsimons says:
“ACORNS is a real grassroots movement, illustrating the strength of peer support, with entrepreneurs supporting one another. Psychological isolation is reduced, confidence is increased, and new networks are formed. This initiative has never been more vital than in the current climate and I am delighted the programme continues to be offered thanks to the support of the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine and the contribution of the voluntary Lead Entrepreneurs.”
Any woman with a new business based in rural Ireland, or a well-developed idea for a new venture they want to get off the ground, can register their interest at www.acorns.ie