Chris Gauld

Chris Gauld

A spark of inspiration

Chris Gauld recognised that the big six energy firms weren’t providing the customer service the letting industry needed. In 2007, Spark was created as an alternative.

Being an entrepreneur is all about spotting a gap in the market. And that’s exactly what Chris Gauld did.

While he was head of sales for real estate investment and management company Grant Property, Gauld witnessed first-hand the cost and hassle experienced by agents and tenants with the “big six” energy companies that dominate the power market.

So, he decided to do something about it. In 2007, Spark Energy was founded as a specialist energy provider to letting agents, landlords and tenants right across the UK. He moved his business from Edinburgh to Selkirk the following year.  Now, Spark employs around 450 people, turns over some £150m a year and has become a multi-utility player through its acquisition of broadband and telecommunications provider Home Telecom. The company has become one of the largest private-sector employers in the Borders.

Gauld’s achievements were recognised last year when he was crowned as Entrepreneurial Scotland’s emerging entrepreneur of the year at its 20th annual dinner on St Andrew’s night. More than 500 people watched Spark’s chief executive carry off the title.

John Hawkins, director of people and culture at Spark, says: “We’re a complex business and we require highly-skilled people to work within this business. Many of them come from the local area and we’ve helped them to grow their skills to become energy experts.

“The Borders Railway is great for us because it gives us access to other people too. They may have specialist skills that can help us to grow.

“The railway links the Borders to the Central Belt and that’s been incredibly helpful to us. We’ve grown dramatically over the past 18 months and we expect to continue to grow on that trajectory.

“We also have an office in Edinburgh, so the railway has helped us to link both parts of our business together. The Borders has been very good to us – it’s a great place to start and grow a business because the talent pool is exceptional and the landscape is stunning.”

Mark Ferguson, the media and public relations manager at Spark, adds: “My nearest station is Eskbank, which has great parking facilities, so it’s easy to drop off the car and jump on the train.

“The Borders Railways has been great for me. It makes the Borders much more accessible and makes it much easier for me to get to work.”

Hawkins highlights how Spark also wants to play a role in the wider community. “We recognise that we have a responsibility to work with young people and vulnerable people across the Borders,” he explains. “To that end, we’ve worked with local high schools to help develop pupils’ leadership and interview skills. We’ve worked with local charities to bring people into our offices and help them to develop the interview skills that will help them to get a job in the future, either here or elsewhere.”