Kilkenny’s female entrepreneurs urge others to apply for program to support new rural businesses

Kilkenny’s 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 program — ACORNS 8 — was launched earlier this month by Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Charlie McConalogue ACORNS is funded under the Department’s Rural Innovation and Development Fund.

Program organizers are looking for female entrepreneurs living in rural Ireland, who wish to start and develop new businesses or who have recently started a venture.

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 midnight on September 23, 2022.

Kay Lyngo

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

Past participants from Kilkenny include Kay Lyng of K Kajoux Jewels, Carla Tayor of 1721 Spirits and Roisin Cahill from RoCa Healthcare.

K Kajoux Jewels offers original jewelery made from semi-precious stones, Swarovski crystals and freshwater pearls. The pieces are produced from Kay Lyng’s studio in the hills of Clonmatagh in Kilkenny. Kay participated on ACORNS 4.

Kay says: “The ACORNS network is a key necessity for any female entrepreneur that wants to achieve growth in a strategic way. The network gives access to a wealth of expertise in a multitude of disciplines.”

Carla Taylor was a member of the ACORNS Pilot program. Her company, 1721 Spirits, is a boutique drinks company bringing Irish beverage products to global markets.

Carla says: “I continue to stay in touch with my family of ACORNS participants, who have formed a strong bond and regularly meet and support each other.”

Roisin Cahill was a participant on ACORNS 5. She set up RoCa Healthcare in 2018, beginning as an online store. It now provides products, support and and advice for promoting good gut health and immune systems.

“Meeting other female entrepreneurs through ACORNS, at different stages of their businesses, gave me support and direction with my own company,” Roisin says.

Based on a belief that entrepreneurs learn best from each other, ACORNS is centered 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 Well Pallets; Triona MacGiolla Rí, Aró Digital Strategies.

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Charlie McConalogue says:

“Now in its eighth year, and going from strength to strength, ACORNS continues to support early stage female entrepreneurs living in rural Ireland. This is an incredible opportunity and a wonderful support for rural-based female entrepreneurs, particularly in the current environment and I encourage those who have recently started or are about to start a new business to apply to participate in this very exciting initiative.”

Fitzsimons Consulting, specializing in entrepreneurship and growth, developed the initiative. Founder Paula Fitzsimons says:

“What the ACORNS participants achieved during the last cycle in challenging circumstances was remarkable – new sales, additional employees, and new exporters. We are delighted that, through the support of the Minister and his Department, we are in a position through ACORNS to continue to support entrepreneurial women in rural Ireland, as they start and develop their businesses.”

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 at There is no charge for participation. (Eligibility criteria in notes below)

For more information or to interview the Director, any of the Lead Entrepreneurs – or past participants – contact Martha Kearns at StoryLab on +353 87 2720212.

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