There has been an increase in early-stage female entrepreneurs in Ireland over the past year and the call is open for more to join ACORNS 5.

ACORNS is the development initiative that supports female entrepreneurs living in rural Ireland, who wish to start and develop new businesses or have recently started a business. 

It is funded under the department's Rural Innovation and Development Fund.

Over 200 female entrepreneurs have taken part in ACORNS to date and 50 new participants are being sought for ACORNS 5. The programme will run over six months from October 2019 to April 2020. The deadline for applications for this year’s cycle is September 20, 2019.

Minister for Agriculture, Michael Creed, described the programme as a tremendous opportunity for early stage female entrepreneurs in rural Ireland to help realise their ambitions. "I would urge those who have recently started or are about to start a new business to apply to participate in this exciting initiative, as it is an opportunity not to be missed. Each year, the participants give an overwhelming endorsement of the role ACORNS has played in supporting them to start and develop their businesses."

Paula Fitzsimons, founder and Managing Director of Fitzsimons Consulting, the company that developed the ACORNS initiative, said that the rate of early-stage entrepreneurial activity increased among women in Ireland in 2018, while remaining stable for men. On average, 850 women are starting a new business every month in Ireland. The rate of nascent female entrepreneurs in Ireland is now ranked 5th across Europe.

"In most countries more men than women are early-stage entrepreneurs. This is also true in Ireland. However, the ratio in Ireland continues to narrow and now stands at 1.6:1 (men to women early stage entrepreneurs) as more women plan and start new businesses. 

"The ACORNS programme is critical to assist this growing body of female entrepreneurs to get their businesses off the ground and on the road to success."