Entrepreneurs celebrated with £5,000 boost

Entrepreneurs celebrated with £5,000 boost

Over 40 businesses attended an awards ceremony in Inverness on Wednesday, where winning entrepreneurs took home £5,000 to help boost their businesses.

The event, hosted by Entrepreneurial Spark Powered by Royal Bank of Scotland, was to celebrate the success of chiclets on board the Virtual Accelorator programme.

Hosted by Entrepreneurial Spark excellence engineer Anne Ferguson, and opened by CEO Lucy-Rose Walker, attendees were given the chance to hear from Freda Newton, MD of Loch Ness by Jacobite.

Freda has grown the multi-award-winning cruise and tour company substantially – building the customer base from 38,000 a year to more than 180,000.

She spoke about the rollercoaster journey of running a business, and offered words of advice to the assembled audience. 

Jamie MacGowan of family business Buth Bheag Candle Co., scooped the #GoDoAcceler8 award and £2,000 prize, having continued to grow his business significantly since joining the Virtual Accelerator.

Employing new members of staff, securing new premises, and increasing the number of outlets his unique candles and diffusers are sold in, Jamie has scaled up Buth Bheag Candle Co. to trade internationally.

Blair Fraser, founder of A2Z Signs, which supplies a variety of signage and display products, and Craig Innes, founder of independent craft distillery Pixel Spirits, both won #GoDo prizes and £1,000 for their businesses as a result of their commitment and drive to taking their start-ups to the next level.

Joanna Mackenzie, founder of Clean Bees, which provides cleaning solutions for homes and business, and Glen Tonkin, founder of Toncam Flooring & Interiors, a wood, stone and tile restoration company, also walked away with £500 each during the Pitching Competition, having impressed the judges with their concise and expertly delivered 60 second pitch.

Lucy-Rose Walker, co-founder and Chief Entrepreneuring Officer at Entrepreneurial Spark, said: "Since we launched the Virtual Accelerator programme in September this year, our Enablers have been blown away by the commitment and dedication our Chiclets have shown.

"We are delighted to celebrate the success of our Chiclets across the Highlands and Islands, and we would like to say a massive well done to our winners and everyone who took part in the pilot. Now it’s time for us to #GoDo and help make even more UK entrepreneurs credible, backable and investable."

The pilot Virtual Accelerator programme, was run in partnership with Royal Bank of Scotland and Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) and aimed at helping start-ups and early stage businesses from across the region accelerate their growth.

The 12-week course covered everything from business model validation; securing investment and increasing turnover to the mindset and behaviours of an Entrepreneurial Leader.

The awards marked the event of the pilot which saw chiclets on board grow turnover by 24%, secure 13% more investment, create 22% more jobs, and increase overall business performance by 20%. 

Malcolm Buchanan, chairman of the Royal Bank of Scotland’s Scotland Board, said: "The diversity and standard of winners – and quality of businesses of all the organisations who took part in this pilot programme - highlights the talent we have across every part of Scotland.

"The enthusiasm shown towards this virtual Hatchery emphasises the need and importance of offering Scottish start-ups the support they need at all levels to help make their business grow.

Donna Chisholm, regional head of Sectors, Innovation and Programmes, Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE), said: "The energy, motivation and commitment to succeed demonstrated by the entrepreneurs on the virtual accelerator is to be commended.

"The Highlands and Islands needs confident and skilled entrepreneurs to drive economic growth in the region and the pilot has contributed to this goal."

Additional funding and support was provided by Scottish Government and law firm Harper Macleod

Paula Skinner, a partner at Harper Macleod, added: "These 40 businesses have been pioneers of a different way of growing businesses in the Highlands and Islands.

"It has been great to help them develop and the results after only three months are incredible – and this is only the start."