he Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Simon Coveney TD and Minister of State for Rural Economic Development, Ann Phelan TD have welcomed the launch of “ACORNS”, a new six month entrepreneurial development programme for aspiring rural female entrepreneurs. This pilot business development initiative is funded under the Department’s CEDRA Rural Development and Innovation Fund. In a joint statement, both Ministers emphasised their “warm welcome for this exciting venture which is targeted at rural women who have the will and ambition to succeed in their chosen businesses. We expect that there will be tremendous interest in this project and indeed stiff competition for places. Overall, we see this as a very worthwhile, innovative and supportive programme. It will undoubtedly inspire the participants on a personal level but will also help them achieve their business growth ambitions as well as providing beneficial outcomes for rural areas. We are very pleased that the CEDRA fund is being used to foster entrepreneurial talent and that its support means that there is no charge for the successful applicants on the ACORNS programme” Applications are now being sought for this fully funded programme from aspiring female entrepreneurs who v have set up a new business (no earlier than the 9th of July 2013), which they either own or part-own, or who are actively planning a new venture and have a clear idea of what they want to achieve. Indicators of actively planning a business would include organising the start-up team, sourcing equipment / facilities, money saved for the start-up, writing the business plan, etc, and live in rural areas as defined by CEDRA –all areas outside the administrative city boundaries of Dublin, Cork, Galway, Limerick and Waterford and who commit to attending the developmental fora on 30 September/1 October and in February 2016 , the monthly meetings from October 2015 to March 2016 and to give the required personal commitment to advancing their business ideas over the 6-month programme duration.. The deadline for application to the ACORNS programme is Friday 11 September. Interested female entrepreneurs can access information and register their interest at www.acorns.ie. Application forms will be sent to interested applicants immediately. As the number of applicants will exceed the number of available places, there will be a competitive selection process based on the application forms received. There are no restrictions on the sector in which the new business is focused. A core element of the ACORNS initiative is the involvement of Lead Entrepreneurs, who have already started and successfully grown businesses in rural Ireland. These business women, on a voluntary basis, will facilitate the interactive round table sessions, act as role models and also mentor the successful applicants.