Female entrepreneurs urge others to apply for new rural business support

Sache Ben Elmansour, founder of Zizo, being presented with her ACORNS 7 course completion certificate by Annamarie McNally, Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine. (Picture: Coalesce)

Female entrepreneurs are urging 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 8, was launched earlier this month by Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Charlie McConalogue T.D.

A total of 50 new entrepreneurs will be selected and the free initiative will run over six months from October 2022 to April 2023, with the deadline for applications being midnight on September 23.

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.

This is the eighth year of the ACORNS programme and over 350 female entrepreneurs have taken part to date and a significant proportion of these are still actively involved.

Past participants from Waterford include Sacha Ben Elmansour of Zizo, a luxury lifestyle clothing brand that produces planet-based cosy essentials for coastal living. ‘Planet-based’ means that safeguarding the environment is prioritised through the production process. Company founder Sacha Ben Elmansour is originally from Kilmeadan, but now lives in Dunmore East.

“ACORNS was an amazing experience. I felt like I developed a lot as a business owner, and I know where I see my business,” Sacha says. 

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, Paycheck Plus; Caroline Reidy, The HR Suite; Deirdre McGlone, Hospitality & Tourism Advisor; Eimer Hannon, Hannon Travel; Larissa Feeney, Accountant Online; Mary B Walsh, Ire Wel Pallets and Triona MacGiolla Rí, Aró Digital Strategies. 

Any woman with a new business based in rural Ireland — 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. ACORNS is funded under the Department’s Rural Innovation and Development Fund – certain eligibility criteria apply.