Offaly female entrepreneurs urge others to apply for business development programme

Two former Offaly participants of a development programme for female entrepreneurs in rural areas are encouraging others to apply for it ahead of the upcoming deadline of September 21.

Anne Marie Feighery of Feighery's Farm and Jennifer Doyle of Millbee (both pictured above) spoke about the boost which the Government-backed ACORNS programme had given their businesses.

This is the sixth year of ACORNS, an initiative for early-stage female business owners in rural areas. The programme is supported by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine under its Rural Innovation and Development Fund.

A total of 50 new business owners will be selected for ACORNS 6, which will run from October 2020 to April 2021, with no charge to participants.

The deadline for applications is September 21, and the programme is open to those with new businesses or an idea for a new venture.

Offaly’s Anne Marie Feighery and Jennifer Doyle are previous participants and still part of the ACORNS community. Both businesswomen have benefited from participating and have urged others to join the programme.

Anne Marie Feighery of Feighery's Farm said: "The ACORNS programme has been a truly rewarding experience for me on my entrepreneurial journey to date.

"To meet such a group of supportive, focused and positive women was truly inspiring and incredibly motivating alongside the wealth of knowledge and vast experience offered up by our Lead Entrepreneur. I am very grateful to the ACORNS Network and proud to be a part of it."

Jennifer Doyle of Millbee stated: "I highly recommend any budding female entrepreneur to apply for ACORNS. It has made a huge positive impact on my business and given me such motivation to keep going."

The latter part of the previous cycle of the programme – ACORNS 5 — coincided with the nationwide restrictions to reduce the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic.

This had a severely negative impact on businesses across Ireland and the participants were not immune to their effects. ACORNS immediately moved online, and the final round table sessions and workshops were held remotely.

However, supported by their Lead Entrepreneurs, 75% of ACORNS 5 participants pivoted their business to take account of the changed circumstances and 27% reported a positive impact on their business.

ACORNS is based on peer support and collaborative learning and each participant will have the opportunity to learn from successful female entrepreneurs called Lead Entrepreneurs who have started and grown businesses in rural Ireland.

Acting in a voluntary capacity, this year’s 'Lead Entrepreneurs' are: Anne Reilly of Paycheck Plus, Co Louth; Caroline McEnery of The HR Suite, Co. Kerry; Eimer Hannon of Hannon Travel, Co. Meath; Larissa Feeney of Accountant Online, Co Donegal; Triona MacGiolla Rí of Aró Digital Strategies, Co Galway and Mary B Walsh, Ire Wel Pallets, Co. Wexford.

Fitzsimons Consulting, specialising in entrepreneurship and growth, developed the initiative. Founder Paula Fitzsimons said: "ACORNS is a real grassroots movement, illustrating the strength of peer support, with entrepreneurs supporting one another.

"Psychological isolation is reduced, confidence is increased, and new networks are formed. This initiative has never been more vital than in the current climate."

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 register their interest at www.acorns.ie.

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