Pilot programme now completed

The pilot of the ACORNS programme has now been completed. The final event was a residential Forum held on the 4th/5th April 2016 in Portlaoise. Participants who successful completed the programme were presented with certificates by Ann Derwin, Assistant Secretary in the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine.

The participants are pictured below with their Lead Entrepreneurs.

Alison Ritchie's Group

LtoR: Niamh White (Horetown House, Wexford), Aedamar Cassidy (Aedamar’s Curds, Kildare), Alison Ritchie (ACORNS Lead Entrepreneur and CEO of Polar Ice, Laois), Geraldine Byrne (MEDISKIN, Tipperary), Maryrose Simpson (MyLadyBug, Laois), Carla Taylor (An Sean-Teach, Laois), Barbara Brown (Brown’s Vineyard, Laois) and Ailbhe Gerrard (Brookfield Farm Hiveshare, Tipperary).

Anne Cusack's Group

LtoR: Catherine Cocollos (Celtic Escargot, Galway), Ann Shields (Anneco Beauty, Laois), Angela Mahon (Truzees, Offaly), Anne Cusack (Lead Entrepreneur, ACORNS and MD of Critical Healthcare, Westmeath), Clare Colohan (The Galway Food Company, Galway), Diane Nevin (Health Evident, Westmeath), Lisa Larkin (Durrow Mills, Offaly), Helen Conneely (Mementooh, Westmeath), Ann O’Reilly (The Sewing Boutique, Longford).

Anne Reilly's Group

ACORNS Participants all wearing capes designed by Siobhan Quinn of Ballyboy Design.

From LtoR: Alma Jordan (AgriKids, Meath), Nessa Duggan (Rightify, Louth), Lisa Marie Clinton (Avail Support, Monaghan), Collette McGowan (Stripe Marketing, Leitrim), Anne Reilly (ACORNS Lead Entrepreneur & MD of Paycheck Plus, Louth), Jing Farrelly (Zatino Travel, Meath), Mila Khokha (Baked with Love, Monaghan), Catriona Whyte (Naul Brewing Company), Siobhan Quinn (Ballyboy Design, Longford).

Caroline McEnery's Group

From LtoR: Sandra Burns (Joe’s Farm Crisps, Cork), Valerie Murphy (Valerie’s Breast Care, Limerick), Maeve Sheridan (Western Herd Brewing Company, Ennis, Co.Clare), Caroline McEnery (ACORNS Lead Entrepreneur and The HR Suite,Tralee, Co. Kerry), Denise Bourke (Divas and Dudes, Kerry), Breda English Hayes (MOET Accountants, Limerick), Norma Dineen (Bo Rua Farm, Cork) and Grainne Bagnall (Sense about Maths, Cork).

Deirdre McGlone's Group

LtoR: Helen McArdle (Feedthepulse, Galway), Ciara Shine (Shine’s Seafood, Donegal), Deirdre McGlone (ACORNS Lead Entrepreneur and Harvey’s Point Hotel, Donegal), Martha Kearns (StoryLab, Sligo), Aisling Gillespie (Bidlims Moods, Donegal), Wendy Kavanagh (Irish Food Tours, Kildare), Jenny Lawlor (Sligo), Ruth Graham (Aye Do, Donegal).

Mary B. Walsh's Group

LtoR: Sarah Martin (Creva Club, Meath), Martina Walsh (KnitAnything.com, Kerry), Mary B. Walsh (ACORNS Lead Entrepreneur & MD of Ire Wel Pallets, Wexford), Carla Mooney (Silk Road ON DEMAND, Offaly), Nicki Hoyne (My Shining Armour, Kilkenny), Aileen Barron (Green Acre Marketing, Waterford),  Niamh Hogan (Holos Skincare, Wexford).
Missing from picture: Margaret Howlin (Wexford).

Summary of Available Supports

A booklet outlining supports which may be available to early stage female entrepreneurs based in rural Ireland has been published as part of the ACORNS pilot.

Section 1 features an overview of the Local Enterprise Offices (LEOs), LEADER and Enterprise Ireland.

Section 2 includes details of supports available from those above and a selection of others under the following headings -
  • Information and Advice,
  • Training,
  • Mentoring,
  • Finance,
  • Networking.

This booklet is intended to assist the progress made by the participants in this pilot initiative. It is hoped that this booklet will also fill an information gap for other rural entrepreneurs, who may not be aware of the range of supports available.

ACORNS Inaugural Developmental Forum takes place in Portlaoise

The participants selected for the pilot of the ACORNS programme came together in Portlaoise on the 30th September / 1st October 2015. Six groups of up to eight rural-based female entrepreneurs each met with their Lead Entrepreneur for the first time.

Minister of State for Rural Affairs, Ann Phelan, TD gave the opening address. Pictured at the event with Minister Phelan were Paula Fitzsimons, Director, ACORNS, the participants, guest speakers and Lead Entrepreneurs.


Early stage female entrepreneurs, living in rural Ireland, are invited to apply for a fully funded place on a new pilot initiative, ACORNS. The intention is to provide up to 48 entrepreneurs with the knowledge, support and networking opportunities to meet and even exceed their current aspirations. To find out if you qualify to apply click here.

The programme will run from September 2015 until March 2016. Selected participants will be those who, on a competitive basis, best demonstrate their potential to advance their businesses and their commitment to fully engage in the initiative. If you would like to find out more about the initiative or have any questions about ACORNS please feel free to contact us at info@acorns.ie, phone the office at 01 8450770 or download our brochure here.

Closing date for receipt of completed applications is the 11th September 2015. There will be no charge for those selected to participate in ACORNS and their accommodation costs associated with the residential elements of the initiative will be covered. To register your interest click here. Successful applicants must be available to come together on the 30th September / 1st October 2015 for the first residential ACORNS Forum which will be held in Portlaoise, Co. Laois.

Voluntary Lead Entrepreneurs, Mary B. Walsh (Ire Wel Pallets Ltd.), Alison Ritchie (Polar Ice Ltd.) & Deirdre McGlone (Harvey's Point)

Our Role Models

The ACORNS Role Models, who will facilitate the interactive round table meetings and the residential developmental sessions, have the practical knowledge that comes from first-hand experience of owning and managing a successful business in rural Ireland. They believe in the philosophy of entrepreneurs supporting entrepreneurs and are giving their time to assist others on a voluntary basis. They are known as Lead Entrepreneurs. To learn more about the Lead Entrepreneurs click here.

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