Former Sligo participants of a development programme aimed at female entrepreneurs in rural locations have urged others to apply.
This is the sixth 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 funded 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 an idea for a new venture.
Sligo's Aisling Kelly of WB's Coffee House and The Sligo Oyster Experience and Katrina McDaniel of Kate Connolly Jewellery are previous participants and are still part of the ACORNS community. Both urge others to join the programme.
Aisling says: "ACORNS did exactly what it says - 'accelerates' you and your business. My Lead Deirdre McGlone and the girls in our group were fantastic support and I am so thrilled that I got a chance to take part."
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.
Past participants of ACORNS are also offered the opportunity to participate in a further development phase and to join the ACORNS Community, to ensure they continue to reap the benefits of the programme and of the valuable connections they have made through broadening their support network.
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.
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 register their interest at www.acorns.ie.