The cycle starts with a residential Developmental Forum. The theme of this Forum is Establishing Good Foundations. At this event, the participants will meet each other, their ACORNS Lead Entrepreneur and their round table group for the first time. An overnight stay is incorporated into the event. If selected, applicants must be available for this and dates will be confirmed when the new ACORNS cycle opens for applications. Accommodation and meals are provided by the programme, and participants must just cover the cost of their transport to and from the event.
Participants will subsequently meet with their ACORNS Lead Entrepreneur and their group of eight peers in separate round tables on 4 occassions between November and March. These sessions will last for about three hours and will explore the themes of Strategy, Marketing/Sales, Finance, and Implementation. The location of these sessions will be close to the assigned Lead. Some travel may be involved on the part of the participants. Dates for these sessions will be decided within the groups during the residential Development Forum
A second residential Development Forum is held in April. The theme of this Forum is SMART Planning – The Roadmap Ahead.
Selected candidates are expected to attend all events.
ACORNS Further Development
Past participants of ACORNS are offered the opportunity to participate in a further development phase and to join the ACORNS Community. This helps ensure that they continue to reap the benefits of the programme and of the valuable connections they have made through broadening their support network.
The Further Development phase is offered to participants in the year after their initial ACORNS programme and includes:
- Two round table sessions with their ACORNS Lead Entrepreneur,
- An opportunity to attend topic based workshops relevant to their development,
- Further networking opportunities,
- Development of individual participant profiles,
- Tracking of progress against agreed goals and milestones.
Former participants are also invited to continue to avail of ACORNS support through the ACORNS Community, through which they can attend a variety of topic-based workshops over a six-month period and take part in the annual ACORNS Forum and networking event. Those that have already completed a Further Development phase and who wish to strongly drive growth in their business, can also apply to participate in ACORNS Plus, a growth-focussed round table initiative.
The six month cycle of the ACORNS programme concludes with the ACORNS National Forum. This event includes a variety of elements designed to boost motivation and provide an opportunity for structured networking and engagement. A highlight is the ACORNS Showcase where those interested can apply to display their products and services, giving a flavour of the rich diversity of the new businesses being set up by rural female entrepreneurs from across the country.