The Minister for Agriculture, Michael Creed has welcomed the launch of the second year of “ACORNS”, a six month part time development programme for aspiring rural female entrepreneurs.
Minister Creed said, “I am pleased to announce the second year of this very effective programme. Job creation is a priority for this Government and an important focus of Foodwise 2025.
“The success of last year’s programme shows what a difference mentoring and peer learning can make to rural women in developing their new business ideas.”
Fully funded under the Department’s CEDRA Rural Development and Innovation 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.
A core element of the ACORNS initiative is the involvement of ‘Lead Entrepreneurs’, who have already started and successfully grown businesses in rural Ireland.
These business women, on a voluntary basis, facilitate the interactive round table sessions, act as role models and mentor the successful applicants.
Last year 44 entrepreneurs completed the pilot ACORNS programme, with all participants reporting that participation in ACORNS was of value to their business.
· Eight businesses began to trade for the first time during the pilot
· Of the 35 trading, 86% increased their combined sales by 43% during the pilot
· 10 participants made export sales during the pilot, including five for the first time
· Participants increased their total number of employees by 13%
The pilot participants expect to achieve significant further growth in sales, employment and in the number of exporters by the end of 2016.
They are being offered the opportunity of further ACORNS support to assist them to achieve their ambitious targets.
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, said,
“The objective of ACORNS is to equip these early stage entrepreneurs with the appropriate knowledge, confidence and networks to successfully start and develop sustainable businesses.
The deadline for application for this year’s ACORNS programme is Thursday 22 September 2016. Interested female entrepreneurs can access information and register their interest at www.acorns.ie.
The ACORNS Lead Entrepreneurs include:
· Alison Ritchie, Polar Ice, Laois