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Creed Encourages Rural Female Entrepreneurs to Apply for New Cycle of ACORNS Programme

Department funded initiative will provide 56 places. Past participants reported increased sales, exports and jobs.

The Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Michael Creed TD welcomed the launch of the third year of ACORNS, a six month part time development programme for aspiring rural female entrepreneurs.

Minister Creed said, “I am delighted to announce that ACORNS is being offered to rural female entrepreneurs for a third year.  Once again, they will have the opportunity to avail of the tremendous supports it can give them to develop and grow their businesses, increase employment, and to make a real contribution to their local communities.  I am greatly encouraged by what ACORNS has achieved to date, and I urge early stage female entrepreneurs in rural Ireland to apply.”

Fully funded under the Department’s Rural Innovation and Development Fund, the initiative is focused on developing the potential of female entrepreneurs living in rural Ireland who have recently started a business or who have taken concrete steps towards setting up a business. There is no charge for successful applicants.

ACORNS is based on a clear understanding that entrepreneurs learn best from each other and the initiative is focussed on peer support and collaborative learning.  Participants work in interactive round table sessions facilitated by other female entrepreneurs who have started and successfully grown businesses in rural Ireland.  Acting in a voluntary capacity, these Lead Entrepreneurs share their insights and experience with the group and support the participants to examine and address the issues and challenges they face in progressing their businesses. 

Over 100 female entrepreneurs have taken part in ACORNS to date, and past participants testify to the difference this programme has made both to themselves and to their businesses.  Progress made by participants on last year’s programme demonstrates this:

  • Nine business began trading for the first time
  • There was a 21% increase in turnover among the 47 trading businesses during the six-month cycle of the programme
  • Eight participants made export sales, including three that were first time exporters.

Paula Fitzsimons is the founder of Fitzsimons Consulting, the company awarded the contract to design, develop and implement the latest phase of the ACORNS programme.

She said, “I have been hugely impressed by the talent, commitment and sheer determination that I have seen among Irish female entrepreneurs that have taken part in previous cycles of ACORNS.  I believe that there is significant further untapped potential in our rural communities.  ACORNS is about unleashing this potential and supporting these women to realise their ambitions.  The support of the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, and the contribution of the voluntary Lead Entrepreneurs are greatly welcomed and are critical to making this happen”.

The deadline for application for this year’s ACORNS programme is Friday 22 September 2017. Interested female entrepreneurs can access information and register their interest at

Note for Editors:

ACORNS is the acronym for - Accelerating the Creation Of Rural Nascent Start-ups

Eligibility Criteria for participation on ACORNS

To be considered for ACORNS, applicants must

  • have set up a new business (generated sales no earlier than the 29th of June 2015), which they either own or part-own, or be actively planning a new venture and have made good progress towards getting the new venture off the ground. Indicators of actively planning a business would include organising the start-up team, sourcing equipment / facilities, money saved for the start-up, writing the business plan, etc.
  • live in rural areas – all areas outside the administrative city boundaries of Dublin, Cork, Galway, Limerick and Waterford; commit to attending the developmental fora over two days in October 2017 and in April 2018, the monthly meetings from November 2017 to February 2018; give the required personal commitment to advancing their business ideas over the 6-month programme duration; and expect to become an employer within three years.

Testimonials from previous participants on ACORNS

Below is a sample of testimonials from previous participants on ACORNS.  Further information is available at

‘Participating on the ACORNS programme has been hugely beneficial to myself and my company.  The support given to start-up female entrepreneurs is invaluable.  I would highly recommend the programme to any female living in rural Ireland’.

 Clare Colohan, The Galway Food Company

 ‘ACORNS did exactly what it says – ‘accelerates’ you and your business.  My Lead Entrepreneur Deirdre McGlone and the women in our group were fantastic support and I am so thrilled I got a chance to take part’.

Aisling Kelly, WB’s Coffee House

‘ACORNS was an amazing experience.  It helped me take stock and be proud of my business while giving me the know-how and connections to move forward with confidence’.

Finn NíFhaoláin, Fin’s Fit Food/Finn’s World

Lead Entrepreneurs

The ACORNS 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, Harvey’s Point, Donegal
  • Mary B Walsh, Ire Wel Pallets, Wexford
  • Triona MacGiolla Rí, Aró Digital Strategy, Galway

As past participants of another female entrepreneurship initiative –Going for Growth – all of the ACORNS Lead Entrepreneurs have first-hand experience of the round table peer learning approach and of its benefits.

Rural Innovation and Development Fund

€1.5 million of current expenditure has been provided by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine in 2017 under the Rural Innovation and Development Fund for innovative projects, which progress the potential identified. Initiatives rolled out in 2017 are:

(a) Female Rural Entrepreneurs, (see above) 

(b) Social Farming (A Request for Tender was published on in June with a deadline of 26 July)

(c) Agri-Food Tourism (A Request for Tender was published on in June with a deadline of 26 July)

(d) Food Waste Reduction Pilot Project (Call for Proposals: was published on in July with a deadline of 11 August)

added 24.08.17

The Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Michael Creed, TD, today launched a call for applicants from rural female entrepreneurs for 56 places on ACORNS, a six month part time development programme, funded through the Department's Rural Development and Innovation Fund.

Added 24.08.17

The Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Michael Creed, TD, today launched a call for applicants from early stage female entrepreneurs living in rural Ireland for 56 places on ACORNS, a six month part time development programme, funded through the Department's Rural Development and Innovation Fund. Pictured with the Minister were ACORNS voluntary Lead Entrepreneur  Mary B Walsh, Ire Wel Pallets, previous participant Alma Jordan, Agrikids, Paula Fitzsimons, Director of ACORNS ,Trín O’Brien, Wellnice Pops and ACORNS voluntary Lead Entrepreneur Alison Ritchie, Polar Ice.


Date Released: 24 August 2017