A business initiative for aspiring rural female entrepreneurs has been announced by Minister Michael Creed.

This is the second year of the ACORNS (Accelerating the Creation of Rural Nascent Start-ups) programme which involved 56 start-up female entrepreneurs living in rural areas.

The initiative focuses on developing the potential of female entrepreneurs living in rural Ireland who have recently started a business or have taken concrete steps towards setting up a business.

On announcing the initiative Minister for Agriculture Michael Creed said, "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."

Growing businesses in rural Ireland

The programme is fully funded under the Department’s CEDRA Rural Development and Innovation Fund and there is no charge for successful applicants.

The pilot ACORNS programme last year was completed by 44 entrepreneurs; with all reporting that participation was of value to their business.

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.

Local economies

Paula Fitzsimons, of Fitzsimons Consulting, the company awarded the contract to develop the latest phase of the ACORNS programme she said, “The ACORNS approach provides a safe, supportive, challenging, informative and highly collaborative environment where entrepreneurs help entrepreneurs, learn from each other, and benefit from positive peer pressure. In addition to being of benefit to the individuals concerned, the knock on impact of the ACORNS programme for local communities and the wider Irish economy is very significant."

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

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