Saturday 22 February 2020

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Cork Independent

Business & Professional

From ACORNS grow great rural businesses

Thursday, 22nd August, 2019 8:53am


Accelerating the Creation of Rural Nascent Start-ups (ACORNS) is a rural female entrepreneurship development initiative holding open calls seeking new applicants from rural Ireland.

The past year saw an increase in female entrepreneurship, with the rate of early-stage female entrepreneurs in Ireland now ranked fifth across Europe. Over 200 rural female entrepreneurs have taken part in ACORNS to date and 50 new participants are being sought for ACORNS 5. The programme's fifth incarnation will run over six months from October 2019 to April 2020. The deadline for application for this year’s cycle is Friday 20 September.

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 that it is possible to start and grow a successful business in rural Ireland.

Founder and Managing Director of Fitzsimons Consulting, the company that developed the ACORNS initiative, Paula Fitzsimons said: “In most countries more men than women are early-stage entrepreneurs. This is also true in Ireland. However, the ratio in Ireland continues to narrow and now stands at 1.6:1 (men to women early stage entrepreneurs) as more women plan and start new businesses. The ACORNS programme is critical to assist this growing body of female entrepreneurs to get their businesses off the ground and on the road to success.”

Past participants of ACORNS are also invited to participate in a further development phase and join the ACORNS Community, so they can continue to build their support network. In addition, Going for Growth Lead Entrepreneur Monica Flood will facilitate an ACORNS Plus roundtable for previous participants, who are committed to growing their businesses. Female entrepreneurs from Co. Cork who have previously participated on the programme are urging their fellow business owners to apply before the deadline.’s Joann O’Brien said: “ACORNS provides an excellent support network, where the fundamentals of business are covered providing clarity and focus to help you in your business.”

Bo Rua Farm co-owner and entrepreneur Norma Dinneen said: “A very useful programme, which provides a great opportunity to learn from other successful business experiences. The programme gave me the opportunity to take time out from the business and take a ‘helicopter view’. I launched a new range of products during the programme and Bo Rua Farm continues to go from strength to strength.”

Many past participants of ACORNS report increased exports and job creation. Progress made by the 46 participants that completed ACORNS 4 (the last cycle) reported combined turnover increased by 43 per cent over the six-month programme cycle. They also reported 19 additional part-time employees were hired during the cycle, with 26 companies planning to hire additional staff this year.

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 There is no charge for successful applicants.

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