Female entrepreneurs living in rural Ireland, who wish to start and develop new businesses or have recently started a business, are being encouraged to apply for the current cycle of ACORNS, the highly-successful development initiative funded under the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine’s Rural Innovation and Development Fund.

50 new participants are being sought for ACORNS 5, which will run over six months from October 2019 to April 2020.


ACORNS is based on peer support and collaborative learning, each participant will have the opportunity to learn from successful female entrepreneurs – “Lead Entrepreneurs”. Female entrepreneurs who have previously participated on the programme are urging their fellow business owners to apply before the September 20 deadline.

Norma Dinneen of Bo Rua Farm based in Ballynoe, Fermoy, a business owners who has participated on a cycle of the programme, is amongst those encouraging applications.

“The programme gave me the opportunity to take time out from the business and take a “helicopter view”. I launched a new range of products during the programme and Bo Rua Farm continues to go from strength to strength,” commented Norma.

“A very useful programme, which provides a great opportunity to learn from other successful business experiences”.

Acting in a voluntary capacity, the programme’s ‘Lead Entrepreneurs’ will share their insights and experience with the group and help the participants to address the issues and challenges they face in progressing their businesses.

They also act as role models, illustrating by their actions that it is possible to start and grow a successful business in rural Ireland.


Many past participants of ACORNS report increased exports and job creation. Progress made by the 46 participants that completed ACORNS 4 (the last cycle), which ran from October 2018 to April 2019, demonstrates these encouraging outcomes:

  • Combined turnover for participants is €2.3m – an increase of 43% over the six-month programme cycle;
  • Thirteen participants became exporters for the first time;
  • 19 additional part-time employees were hired during the cycle, with 26 companies planning to hire additional staff this year;
  • 86% said ACORNS brought about practical change within their business; 95% felt nearer to achieving their ambitions and 100% would recommend participating in ACORNS to others.

There is no charge for participation (eligibility criteria apply). 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 get more information and register their interest at www.acorns.ie