Pictured are Larissa Feeney, founder and CEO of Accountant Online and one of this year’s voluntary lead entrepreneurs; Minister for Agriculture, Food and Marine, Charlie McConalogue and former ACORNS participants Feena McBride of The Arty Fox and Niamh Dooley of BioSol. Photo: James Connolly

Female entrepreneurs double revenues with ACORNS scheme

A programme focussed on aiding female entrepreneurs in rural locations has shown very strong results once more.

The latest group of early-stage female entrepreneurs who took part in the ACORNS programme, doubled their combined turnover to €3.1m in just six months.

Applications are now open for ACORNS 8, the innovative business development programme for female entrepreneurs in rural areas, now in its eighth year. ACORNS stands for Accelerating the Creation Of Rural Nascent Start-ups.

Combined turnover for the 48 companies who completed ACORNS 7 increased over the cycle from €1.5m in October 2021 to €3.1m by April 2022. The firms involved also increased their combined workforce over the cycle from 94 to 116 (19%), an increase of 22 new jobs in rural Ireland.

The results are even more impressive given the disruption of the Covid-19 public health restrictions throughout the Christmas and New Year period and mirror the doubling of revenues for firms involved in ACORNS 6.

Charlie McConalogue Minister for Agriculture, Food and Marine launched the call for applications for the latest cycle. The deadline for applications is midnight on Friday 23 September.

From the applications, up to 50 new early stage female entrepreneurs living in rural areas will be selected for the six-month programme which will run from October 2022 to April 2023. ACORNS receives well over 240 completed applications each year for the fifty places available, so those who apply will be selected on a competitive basis.

There is no charge for those participating in ACORNS. The scheme is open to women based in rural Ireland who are at an advanced stage of starting a new business or who want to develop a recently-established existing venture. The intention of the programme is to provide them with the knowledge, support and networking opportunities to meet and exceed their current aspirations.

Participants learn from each other’s experiences through monthly roundtable discussions facilitated by lead entrepreneurs who are all female business people with first-hand experience of owning and managing a successful business in rural Ireland.

Each of the lead entrepreneurs give their time to the programme on a voluntary basis. This year’s voluntary lead entrepreneurs include Anne Reilly, Paycheck Plus; Caroline Reidy, The HR Suite; Eimer Hannon, Hannon Travel and Larissa Feeney, Accountant Online.

Larissa Feeney, founder and CEO of Accountant Online and one of this year’s ACORNS Lead Entrepreneurs, says: “Starting a new business may seem like a lonely road. It is so important to realise that you are not alone in the challenges that you are facing as an early stage entrepreneur and that your problems are not unique. The ACORNS round tables really help here in building confidence, motivation and sharing insights. While the businesses are all different, the issues that they encounter are often similar.”

Participant on the recent ACORNS 7, Feena McBride, The Arty Fox said: “From the moment you begin the ACORNS programme you are welcomed into this supportive community. Group sessions are full of ideas, encouragement and questions that will challenge and support you. Our lead entrepreneur created a wonderful atmosphere where we could share our struggles and our achievements. I look forward to remaining part of the ACORNS community.”