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29 Sept 2022

Offaly female entrepreneurs urge others to apply for rural business initiative

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Jennifer Doyle, Millbee Studio, Offaly and Senator Pippa Hackett, Minister of State for Land Use and Biodiversity TT3505GS

Offaly female entrepreneurs are urging others from the county to join the latest cycle of ACORNS - a highly-successful development initiative to support early-stage female entrepreneurs living in rural Ireland. 

The call for applications for the latest cycle of the programme — ACORNS 8— was launched earlier this month by Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Charlie McConalogue T.D.  ACORNS is funded under the Department’s Rural Innovation and Development Fund. 

Programme organisers are looking for female entrepreneurs living in rural Ireland, who wish to start and develop new businesses or who have recently started a venture.  

A total of 50 new entrepreneurs will be selected and the free initiative will run over six months from October 2022 to April 2023 with the deadline for applications midnight on September 23, 2022.

This is the eighth year of the ACORNS programme and over 350 female entrepreneurs have taken part to date and a significant proportion of these are still actively involved.

Past participants from Offaly include: Jennifer Doyle of Millbee Studio and Anna Carmody from Little Red Edu.

Millbee Studio produces beeswax food wraps, a reusable alternative to clingfilm, as well as its own brand of raw Irish honey. Founder Jennifer Doyle was part of ACORNS 4.

Jennifer says: “I highly recommend any budding female entrepreneur to apply for ACORNS. It has made a huge positive impact on my business and given me such motivation to keep going.”

Anna Carmody was part of ACORNS 3. She set up Little Red Edu in 2018 with Hazard Farm and at the start of the Pandemic pivoted to developing an e-learning platform for children aged between three and six whose parents wish them to learn and speak English as a second language.  

Anna says: “When I first joined ACORNS, I was at the very start of my business journey. ACORNS provided me with a community of support, seeing other female entrepreneurs at all different stages helped me believe that I could also achieve the same things. Starting a business in rural Ireland has its benefits but it can be isolating. I never felt alone with ACORNS, the network drove me and continues to drive me forward, helping me achieve milestones for my business.” 

Based on a belief that entrepreneurs learn best from each other, ACORNS is centred on interactive round table sessions facilitated by successful female entrepreneurs who have started and grown businesses in rural Ireland. These are known as ACORNS Lead Entrepreneurs, and they give their time free of charge to encourage and support the new business owners.

There is no charge for those participating in ACORNS, thanks to the continuing support of the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine and the voluntary contribution of time by the Lead Entrepreneurs.

This year’s voluntary Lead Entrepreneurs are Anne Reilly, Paycheck Plus; Caroline Reidy, The HR Suite; Deirdre McGlone, Hospitality & Tourism Advisor; Eimer Hannon, Hannon Travel; Larissa Feeney, Accountant Online; Mary B Walsh, Ire Wel Pallets; Triona MacGiolla Rí, Aró Digital Strategies. 

Charlie McConalogue T.D., Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, says: “Now in its eighth year, and going from strength to strength, ACORNS continues to support early-stage female entrepreneurs living in rural Ireland. This is an incredible opportunity and a wonderful support for rural-based female entrepreneurs, particularly in the current environment and I encourage those who have recently started or are about to start a new business to apply to participate in this very exciting initiative.”

Fitzsimons Consulting, specialising in entrepreneurship and growth, developed the initiative.  Founder Paula Fitzsimons says:

“What the ACORNS participants achieved during the last cycle in challenging circumstances was remarkable – new sales, additional employees, and new exporters. We are delighted that, through the support of the Minister and his Department, we are in a position through ACORNS to continue to support entrepreneurial women in rural Ireland, as they start and develop their businesses.”

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 get more information and register to receive an application form at www.acorns.ie.  There is no charge for participation.

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