The ACORNs Programme, sponsored by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, addresses the skills, enterprise and capability gaps of rural start-up female entrepreneurs. The objective of ACORNS is to provide female entrepreneurs with the knowledge, support and networking opportunities to meet and even exceed their current aspirations.

ACORNS is now in its fourth year. In the course of the first three years, over 150 early stage female entrepreneurs were supported by ACORNS.

ACORNS 1: 43 entrepreneurs who participated in the pilot programme in 2016 availed of the opportunity to participate in a further development phase. The progress of these 43 entrepreneurs since their first involvement in ACORNS is very impressive. Their combined sales increased by just over €2million over the 15 months to the end of 2016 to €4million (103%). The number of exporters increased to 11. Their combined employment increased over the 15 months by just over a third to 107.

ACORNS 2: 55 participants completed ACORNS 2, which ran from October 2016 to April 2017. At the end of the cycle, 47 of the businesses were trading, including 9 that had started to generate sales for the first time during the cycle. Among those trading, there was a reported 21% increase in turnover over the 6-month cycle. 8 participants were already exporting before the start of the cycle, 3 more have since started to export.

ACORNS 3: Progress made by participants on this programme, which ran from October 2017 to April 2018, demonstrates these encouraging outcomes:

·         Participants reported an increase in annualised sales of 97% over the six months of the cycle.

·         There were nine participants that became exporters for the first time, representing an increase of 112%.

·         There were 13 additional fulltime employees and 19 additional part-time employees hired during the period.

Past participants of ACORNS are also offered the opportunity to participate in a further development phase and to join the ACORNS Community, to ensure they continue to reap the benefits of the programme and of the valuable connections they have made through broadening their support network.

has been selected to represent Ireland in the European Enterprise Awards 2018, investing in entrepreneurial skills.