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Catherina Cunnane
Catherina Cunnane
Catherina Cunnane hails from a sixth-generation drystock and specialised pedigree suckler enterprise in Co. Mayo. She currently holds the positions of editor and general manager at That's Farming, having joined the firm during its start-up phase in 2015.
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Are you a female entrepreneur in rural Ireland?

The Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine has issued a call for applicants with new businesses or “well-developed” ideas for its latest ACORNS 8 programme.

It will select up to fifty applications for the innovative business development programme for female entrepreneurs in rural areas.

Applications close on September 23rd, 2022, and the six-month programme will run from October 2022 to April 2023.

The scheme is open to women based in rural Ireland who are at an advanced stage of starting a new business or who want to develop a recently-established existing venture.

The programme intends to provide them with the knowledge, support and networking opportunities to “meet and exceed” their current aspirations.

Who is eligible?

To be considered for ACORNS, applicants must, as per the DAFM’s requirements:

  • Have set up a new business which has generated sales no earlier than the end of June 2019 or be actively planning a new venture and have made good progress towards getting the new venture off the ground. Indicators of actively planning a business would include organising the start-up team, sourcing equipment/facilities, money saved for the start-up, writing the business plan, etc;
  • They must own or part-own the business, which must be in a rural area, outside the administrative city boundaries of Dublin, Cork, Galway, Limerick and Waterford;
  • If selected, applicants must be available to attend the launch Forum and first round table session on October 24th and 25th, 2022;
  • They must expect to become an employer within three years.
How does it work?

Participants learn from each other’s experiences through monthly roundtable discussions facilitated by lead entrepreneurs.

Lead entrepreneurs are all female business people with first-hand experience of owning and managing a successful business in rural Ireland.

Each of the lead entrepreneurs give their time to the programme on a voluntary basis: in the philosophy of ‘entrepreneurs helping 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;
  • Triona MacGiolla Rí – Aró Digital Strategies.

Is there a change?

There is no charge for those participating in ACORNS due to the continuing support of the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine and the voluntary contribution of time by the lead entrepreneurs. The DAFM funds the initiative through the Rural Innovation and Development Fund.

According to the DAFM, over 200 female entrepreneurs –  who have previously successfully completed the cycle – are still involved in the ACORNS Community – taking part in ACORNS Plus, as well as attending topic-based workshops and networking opportunities, all of which are provided free of charge.

ACORNS receives well over 240 completed applications each year for the fifty places available, so those who apply will be selected on a “competitive” basis.

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