Having completed the ‘Going for Growth’ initiative, – the brainchild of Paula Fitzsimons of Fitzsimons Consulting, which was based on the idea of ‘entrepreneurs helping entrepreneurs’, I was delighted when Paula approached me to be a Lead Volunteer in the ACORNS Pilot programme last year. So I went from being mentored to being a mentor. A daunting enough transition, but one that has been richly rewarding. My role as Lead is to facilitate round-table meetings over a six-month period at which the participants share their stories and experiences and the group acts as an advisory board to assist each other. I am proud to be in a position to help women in business develop their new business ideas. I understand the challenges (and opportunities) that exist when building a business outside the main urban areas. Twenty-seven years of developing Harvey’s Point in the hills of Donegal has taught me so much.
Acorns Forum Launch
The ACORNS 2 Residential Forum, held recently held in Mullingar, was organized by Paula and her team and it was an intensive but inspiring event. We were joined by the forty three enterprising ladies who completed the pilot programme. It was incredible to hear their stories of success during the past year. Sales were up, jobs were created and there is no doubt that this has had a positive impact on the local and wider economy. During the time we worked together on the round- table sessions last year, there was laughter, there were tears and above all, there was a great sense of community, collaboration and friendship amongst the participants.
Thanks to additional government funding, fifty-seven early stage female entrepreneurs, living in rural Ireland, have been selected to participate in ACORNS 2. The Residential Forum gave everyone an opportunity to meet and introduce their business to the group. There were topic-based workshops on Strategy, Finance and Website Development. There was a high level of engagement and dynamic energy in the conference room as discussions took place. Looking around, I could only marvel at the level of talent, skills and expertise in the group. What amazed me most was the level of interaction during the networking sessions. Women helping women, offering contacts, advice etc.
The participants are at various stages of start-up. Some have their ‘office’ at home on the kitchen table, some are juggling domestic and or motherly duties with fine tuning the perfect business idea. But all share the same passion for their individual goals and dreams.
According to a lovely quote from Paula Fitzsimons in ‘Women Mean Business’ magazine;
“Rural Ireland is being revitalized, one new business at a time, and many of these are being started by women. The future is in good hands”.