Over 50 local entrepreneurs and members of the business community came together on 2 February at the launch of a new business networking initiative hosted by Argyll and Bute Council’s Business Gateway at the Oban Bay Hotel.
Award winning young entrepreneur, Fraser Doherty of SuperJam, proved an inspiring guest speaker at the event which was held over breakfast and attracted a broad mix of businesses. “Demand for this type of event was evident from the excellent turnout and confirmed how the business community in Oban relishes the chance to network”, says Nicky Archibald, Business Gateway Advisor for Oban. Guests heard how Fraser - who at the age of 14 started his jam-making business from his parents’ kitchen - became the youngest ever supplier to a supermarket chain. His products are now sold in over 1,000 supermarket outlets across the UK and he is now looking to Europe and the USA to develop sales.
“The event was a very useful opportunity to meet local business people against the backdrop of an inspiring presentation by such a young and successful entrepreneur” says George Seaton of D M MacKinnon. Reinforcing this view is restaurateur Callum MacLeod of Ee-usk “I think these networking sessions are essential to explore and develop the aspirations of our town. Mr Doherty was refreshing and it was great to hear his story”. Graham MacQueen of MacQueen Bros added “Business Gateway must have been delighted to see the high turnout of prominent local business people so animated and involved in what would be best described as a bustling social occasion with hugely beneficial networking outcomes. The venue, food and company were all worth getting out of bed for. We are all looking forward to the next one.”
Business Gateway, which offers wide ranging advice to pre-start and existing businesses across Argyll, is now considering how this initiative can be continued to benefit local businesses and is hoping to organise a follow-up event for the Spring. The early morning get together also proved a popular choice for business owners as it had a minimal impact on the working day. “The event was both informative and inspirational and it was a great opportunity to talk to business people from many different sectors - all of whom share a common goal - to be successful and prosperous in Argyll and contribute to the local economy” says Linda Battison of Oban Lorn Tourist Association. “It is events like this that build common ground and allow the relationships between businesses to develop and grow. I hope there will be more events and thank Business Gateway and Oban Bay Hotel for a great breakfast!”
Highland cow adds bling for local jewellery- maker
Business Gateway can help with more than employment advice. One new Argyll-based entrepreneur who has recently benefited from the support on offer is Samantha Macphee of Highland Bling, a business making individually crafted items of ‘everyday wearable’ jewellery.
“Business Gateway, and in particular my business adviser Ann Scott, was very helpful when I set up my business,” explains Samantha. “Not only did I get good advice on marketing my businesses and protecting my brand, but they helped signpost sources of funding to help with my start-up costs.”
Originally from East Anglia, Samantha moved to Scotland to be with her ‘Real Highlander’ husband some years ago. Having given up her career to be a stay at home mum, she wanted to make a living by working at home and doing something creative and enjoyable. Samantha started making jewellery for Christmas and birthday presents for friends and family, a hobby which quickly grew as the jewellery sold through word of mouth.
Inspiration for Highland Bling came from Samantha’s children who suggested that they dress up Phoenix, a good natured Highland cow, by placing jewellery on her horns. They managed to place several bracelets on her horns and lots of photographs and plenty of laughs later ‘Highland Bling’ was born. “In honour of Phoenix I made a charm based on her head and horns. This charm is now used on most of my jewellery and has become the sign of an ‘Original piece’ from Highland Bling Crafts. I’ve since launched a men’s range featuring a Highland bull called Roddy Dubh” adds Samantha.
Business Gateway helps local business with designs on success
Munro Landscape, a newly established Landscape Architect practice based in Slockavullin run by Landscape Institute Chartered Landscape Architect Kelda Platt. In the early stages of the business start-up process, Kelda received support from local Business Gateway adviser Barbara Halliday. “This really helped to focus my ideas and start to make sense of some of the complexities of the financial side of things” said Kelda. Business Gateway also runs a range of practical workshops for small businesses and Kelda and her partner attended one of these. “We went to the book-keeping course which was really good. In a way one of the best bits was meeting other people starting out and making it all feel more possible”.
Previously Kelda worked for the Forestry Commission, implementing community woodlands and infrastructure. “A key aim was to maintain involvement in a design to the point of construction on the ground, to ensure that the passion and excitement of the clients’ and communities’ design wishes were followed through to the completion of the projects” she explains. Her new venture builds on this experience and specialises in rural and environmental design. “Munro Landscape covers all scales of work including garden plans, community open spaces and woodlands, urban plazas, forest design and visitor centres and a wide range of recreation and play facilities” adds Kelda. “We are experienced in all stages of design work, from concept to detailed design and implementation, providing a full service from the early stages of design right through to over-seeing the work in the ground.”