Galway food entrepreneurs urge women to apply for programme to support new rural businesses

Grainne Mullins, Grá Chocolates, Galway — Pic Orla Murray Coalesce

Grainne Mullins, Grá Chocolates, Galway — Pic Orla Murray Coalesce

A prominent Galway food entrepreneur is 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 programme — ACORNS 8— was launched earlier this month by Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Charlie McConalogue T.D. ACORNS is funded under the Department’s Rural Innovation and Development Fund.

Programme organisers 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.

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

Past participants from Galway include: Gráinne Mullins of GRÁ Chocolates and Kim Young from Misunderstood Heron.

GRÁ Chocolates produces luxury, handcrafted artisinal chocolates from the firm’s base near Ballybrit. Founder Gráinne Mullins participated in ACORNS 6.

Grainne says: “Taking part in ACORNS, and engaging with other entrepreneurs, was fantastic as it really helped me define my business plans.”

Kim Young was also on ACORNS 6. Her business, Misunderstood Heron, is a café operating from a 20ft shipping container in Killary, Co. Galway.

Kim says: “I found ACORNS priceless as it allowed me to discuss ideas and problems in a safe space. Without that sounding board and wealth of knowledge around the table, I don’t believe the business would be where it is today.”

Galway also boasts one of the voluntary Lead Entrepreneurs on the programme – Triona MacGiolla Rí of Aró Digital Strategies.

Triona says she is honoured and delighted to be a Lead Entrepreneur again this year.

“I am energised by the creative determination of the amazing ACORNS ladies. It’s a massive privilege for me to facilitate, as they figure out the best path forward.”

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

Charlie McConalogue T.D., Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, 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, specialising 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.


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