Scotland landscape

Small Scotland, big business idea

University of Strathclyde Business School student Barbara Mills has launched a social business idea to link businesses in small communities across Scotland.

Great Gifts from Small Scotland is a non-commercial Facebook campaign supporting small businesses in small communities across Scotland. The campaign includes online gift guides which take buyers straight to the websites of a range of fantastic businesses from all across Scotland - from Ardalanish, traditional weavers from the Isle of Mull, to luxury handbags made in the Borders by Dunmore Scotland.

Launched on Small Business Saturday in December, Great Gifts from Small Scotland is a first step to towards creating – a marketplace platform for small town and rural retailers, inspired by the quality of the products made and sold across small Scotland. However Barbara decided to start by building a community through a non-commercial social media campaign as a first step towards building a social enterprise.

While Scotland’s quaint wee towns and villages are popular summer destinations for tourists it may surprise you to know that over one third of Scotland’s population live in towns with fewer than 10,000 people. That is the equivalent of the population of Greater Glasgow.

Many of these towns have long traditions of crafts and textiles and food and drink production – think cashmere, single malt whisky and tweed. However, many smaller and more remote places also now rely more on tourism and include boutique and independent retail stores.

Just like high street retailers in large cities, small businesses in small places are vulnerable to economic shocks and changes in consumer behaviour and they can often find it harder to keep up with the big brands and take advantage of the opportunities on the internet.

Local Caledonia’s big vision is to use the opportunity of e-commerce to reinvigorate the economies of the small towns and rural areas of Scotland. However we are only at the start of that journey.

The University of Strathclyde Business School’s MSc in Entrepreneurship, Innovation and Technology – particularly the Design Lab module, a live challenge taking place over three days that takes students through the core stages of the design process – and joining Entrepreneurial Spark were key in influencing Barbara in thinking about ways to develop and test her concept but without the investment required to develop a full scale independent platform.

Barbara said: “Finding real ways to create prototypes when you don’t have significant financial backing can be challenging, so Design Lab at SNOOK was a really practical way to learn the skills of thinking creatively but in a way which creates real design insight and business value at the early start up stage and that is what we have applied with developing Great Gifts from Small Scotland and an independent entity. But more than the insight, if we can start to build a community with Great Gifts from Small Scotland that will be a huge benefit for Local Caledonia.

“In the longer run we have much bigger ambitions and the insight we can gain from Great Gifts from Small Scotland will definitely be valuable.”

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