22 May 2022

Kilkenny female entrepreneurs encourage others to apply for programme to support new rural businesses

Kilkenny female entrepreneurs encourage others to apply for programme to support new rural businesses

Former Kilkenny participant Roisin Cahill

Kilkenny female entrepreneurs are encouraging 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 7 — has been launched 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 2021 to April 2022 with the deadline for applications midnight on September 10, 2021. 

Past participants from Kilkenny include: Kay Lyng of K Kajoux and Roisin Cahill of RoCa Healthcare. Both business women are still part of the ACORNS community and encourage anyone interested in ACORNS to apply for the programme.

Kay Lyng of K Kajoux says:

“The ACORNS network is a key necessity for any female entrepreneur that wants to achieve growth in a strategic way. The network gives access to a wealth of expertise in a multitude of disciplines.”

Among the 50 new businesses that took part in the last cycle of ACORNS during the Covid-19 pandemic, many changed their career direction completely to establish their businesses.

A desire to make lifestyle changes was a common thread among the participants. Resilience and flexibility – especially during the challenging economic circumstances – was particularly evident. There was great variety and diversity in the new businesses.  

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, PaycheckPlus; Caroline Reidy, The HR Suite;  Eimer Hannon, Hannon Travel; Larissa Feeney, Accountant Online; Mary B Walsh, Ire Wel Pallets; Norma Dinneen, Bó Rua Farm and Triona MacGiolla Rí, Aró Digital Strategies.

In addition, Monica Flood, formerly Olas IT and a Going for Growth Lead Entrepreneur, will facilitate an ACORNS Plus round table for selected previous participants who are committed to driving forward the growth of their businesses. 

The previous cycle of the programme — ACORNS 6 — was held during nationwide restrictions to reduce the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic. 

Despite the challenges that they were facing, the ACORNS 6 participants were very positive, and their businesses grew. Over the six-month period of the programme, the combined turnover of the overall group doubled from €1.8 million to €3.6 million. 

Six new businesses started to trade during the programme and there were seven new exporters. At the end of the cycle, ACORNS 6 participants employed 107 people — an increase of 29. 

A further 150 past participants were actively involved in other Community aspects of the initiative during the sixth cycle. 

Charlie McConalogue T.D., Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, says: 

“Now in its seventh year, and going from strength to strength, ACORNS continues to support early stage female entrepreneurs living in rural Ireland. Over 300 female entrepreneurs have taken part in ACORNS to date and a significant proportion of these are still actively involved. The progress made by participants in previous years has been remarkable. 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 Kilkenny — 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 

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