Donegal female led businesses awarded a place on rural start-up acceleration programme. Eight Donegal women battled strong competition to earn a coveted place on the ACORNS initiative- a peer-led support network for female entrepreneurs in rural Ireland, which launched at a high energy event in Mullingar on Monday 14th October 2019. Less than 1 in 5 applicants across the country were awarded one of the coveted 49 places, out of which the highest number of women led businesses, selected in particular for their judged potential for future success, are from Donegal.

Donegal Female entrepreneurs awarded places on ACORNS 5 programme – (Above L-R) Joanne Butler OURganic Gardens, Carlene Lyttle Sailespin, Avril McMonagle Meantóir, Deirdre McGlone Lead Entrepreneur, Meg O’Gara Megnificent Creative, Nicola Gavigan Seclusion Spa, Sinead Fox The Salty Fox Coffee Shop, Marie Hutchinson Mojo Yoga and Wellness Studio.

Inis Eoghain is well represented with 2 participants running their business from the peninsula. The places went to Avril McMonagle founder of Meantóir, a specialist training and professional support service for early childhood education; and Carlene Lyttle of Sailespin a specialist business support service for companies looking to foster growth.

The mantle for the south of the county is being carried by Joanne Butler of OURganic Gardens – a garden project combining education, tourism and community based in beautiful Gort a’Choirce and Meg O’Gara of Megnificent Creative based in Kilcar offering graphic design and creative illustration.
Bundoran also features well with Nicola Gavigan from the unique experience Seclusion Spa at Ardfarna and Sinead Fox from the already award winning Salty Fox Coffee Shop.

Marie Hutchinson from the well-being focused Mojo Yoga and Wellness Studio in Donegal Town and Sinead Glackin of Donegal Food Tours based in Ramelton complete the Donegal posse of entrepreneurs embarking on this exciting opportunity.

Built on a belief that entrepreneurs learn best from each other, the ACORNS initiative is facilitated by ‘Lead Entrepreneurs’; women who have started and grown successful businesses in rural Ireland. The Donegal Acorns group is led by successful businesswoman Deirdre McGlone, former ‘Donegal Person of the Year’ and President of the Donegal Women in Business Network. Over the next six months Deirdre will work with the eight women-led businesses to maximise their business through peer-support, mentoring, and networking.

The businesses supported by the previous Acorns initiative recorded a 43% increase in turnover. Access to finance and marketing were the barriers to developing businesses in rural Ireland, as identified by the participants, which ACORNS aims to address over the next 6 months.

ACORNS is funded under the Rural Innovation and Development Fund through the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine. For more information, see