Meet the Business Gateway team

All our team are committed to helping businesses in Argyll and Bute to flourish.

We have an experienced team of professional and approachable business advisers, support officers and a network of expert contractors, available to provide the right support for your business.

Meet the Business Gateway Team

Meet our team

Angela Vernel - Business Advisor

Angela has a background in business investment, having worked for many years for Highlands and Islands Enterprise. She has also been involved in the property sector. Angela holds a BA in Accountancy, an MSc in Economic Development and the Premier Adviser qualification.

Angela Vernel

Donald Meville - Business Advisor

Donald joined the team in 2013 from Highlands and Islands Enterprise where he was a Development Manager for the Strengthening Communities Team. Prior to that, Donald provided support to Business Start-ups and was previously recognised as Business Advisor of the Year for the Prince’s Scottish Youth Business Trust. He has qualifications in Business Counselling, Business and Enterprise Support and also Premier Adviser. 

Donald Melville

Jen Smith - Business Advisor

Business Adviser Jen has been a Business Gateway adviser for over 20 years. Having set up and operated small businesses including picture framing, craft manufacturing, cookery classes and several business consultancies, Jen understands the skills that business owners have to quickly learn to grow the business. Jen has a background in catering and a passion for food and customer service. She has an HND in Hotel Keeping and Catering, a BA (Hons) in Service Sector Management and an MPhil in Social Science Research. Jen has been a Visiting Lecturer at Glasgow Caledonian University in Economics and Enterprise, has a Diploma in Business Advice and Counselling and is Premier Adviser accredited.

Jen Smith

John MacDonald - Business Advisor

John joined the team in 2023 after working in consulting and investment management for 25 years advising a wide variety of businesses, large and small, as well as setting up two businesses himself.  With a PhD in Physics, an excellent understanding of the financial underpinnings of business and particular experience with private equity, including venture capital and growth equity, John is well placed to help Business Gateway's small business clients to set up, grow and potentially move on to the next level.

John MacDonald

Sam Ford and Katie Rafferty - Business Support Officers

Sam (on right in photo) has been with the team since June 2009. Sam has a varied background having studied Fashion and Textiles, Business Administration and Digital Marketing and worked in a variety of different positions from PA for a design company to the buyer for a construction company. Sam moved back to Argyll in 2002 to join the Highlands and Islands Enterprise team, where her roles included managing the Business Start-up Programme and as a Development Manager working with businesses and social enterprises in the area. Sam has also run a couple of her own part time businesses over the years as a nail technician, Zumba Instructor and property rental, she has also dabbled in the MLM industry with a couple of different companies.

Katie (on left in photo) joined the team in 2023 after being part of Economic Development and Business Gateway in another region for nearly 10 years. She has a BA in Marketing and has been a Business Adviser in the Young Enterprise programme. Katie has a background in hospitality after running her family hotel in Kintyre and has a passion for social media. 

Sam Ford and Katy Rafferty

Kate Fraser - Senior Development Officer

Kate (bottom right of photo) has a background in managing marketing teams for large companies in the financial services and telecoms sectors. Kate moved to Argyll in 2005 and spent three years helping young people in the area to start up in business, before joining the Council in 2009 to establish the Business Gateway service for Argyll and Bute.  Kate holds a Post Graduate Diploma in Marketing from the Chartered Institute of Marketing and the Premier Adviser qualification. 

Kate Fraser and the Business Gateway team
Expert help contractors - business gateway

Expert help contractors

NS Design Ltd - Digital expert help

NSDesign Ltd is a specialist training and consultancy firm, working with people, businesses and organisations to improve their digital skills.  Headed up by Managing Director (and Chartered Marketer) Gary Ennis, the company has been going for over 25 years. With over a dozen specialist digital advisers on the team, you can be sure NSDesign can assist you with your own digital requirements. As well as being familiar faces on the Argyll & Bute framework, NSDesign also supply similar services to a number of other Scottish local authorities and public sector bodies such as Scottish Enterprise, Skills Development Scotland, Glasgow City Council, and Ayrshire Councils, and for the last 2 years have been the sole supplier of Business Gateway’s National DigitalBoost webinars.

Tuminds Ltd - Digital expert help

Rene Looper is the Founder and Managing Director of Tuminds Ltd, with over 20 years of experience in digital and business support. He excels at keeping himself and his team up to date with the latest digital trends and opportunities, particularly in social media. Rene's passion lies in sharing his expertise in digital marketing to drive results for his clients. 

The Tuminds team includes Alastair Miller, a senior trainer and consultant with expertise lies in website design, e-commerce, data analysis, search engine optimisation, online advertising, email marketing, and digital marketing strategies. Emma Gibb, is a Content Marketing Executive and Trainer for Tuminds, with 12 years' experience in digital marketing and copywriting. She loves helping businesses learn how to create engaging content for social media that reaches, and resonates with, their target audience. As well as delivering social media training, she creates strategies and digital audits. James Beaumont specialises in paid advertising on both social media and Google Ads. Much of his time is spent working on Facebook, helping clients understand and implement paid campaigns for their businesses. Fiona O'Fee, is our extremely organised, customer-focused office manager and serves as the primary point of contact for clients. 

Delfinity - Finance and HR expert help

Sarah Whitman has worked in HR for over 20 years. She has extensive experience in undertaking and implementing strategic HR reviews and organisational design projects in small and large organisations, including community organisations. Sarah is experienced in all aspects of HR including employment law, organisation, design, talent and capability management, succession planning, recruitment and attraction, and culture and employee engagement. She has supported over 300 SME’s with HR specialist advice across Aberdeenshire and Aberdeen City, Lanarkshire, Tayside and Fife.

Hazel Allen is a Chartered Accountant with over 20 years’ of a broad and deep range of experience, including recent business planning, structures, tendering, financial and operational advice to enterprises in sectors including retail, tourism, hospitality, health and social care, renewable energy, and manufacturing. Hazel has Senior Director experience in finance, planning, and corporate governance. Hazel works with clients at all scales, from multi-million pound global Groups to local social enterprises. Hazel has an MSc in European Environmental Policy, focusing on sustainable development in rural areas.

Derek Leslie is a founding Director of Delfinity. Derek is a Chartered Accountant with over 30 years’ experience in finance and business including 15 years as a Director of Finance in large diverse organisations. Derek has worked for and with businesses across many different sectors including oil and gas, finance, hospitality, manufacturing, retail, healthcare, food and drink and the third sector. Throughout his career Derek's combination of finance and wider business expertise has allowed him to work with clients of all sizes, from Blue Chip organisations such as Diageo and Merrill Lynch, to community start-ups, advising at both the strategic level and at the hands-on operational level, such as supporting clients on margin and pricing strategies.

Uxl Ltd - Growth strategy expert help & Intensive Growth programme

Jim Dearie brings over 40 years of experience gained in industry, consultancy, and the public/ third sector. With a background as a mechanical engineer, Jim received training in OEM manufacturing in defence and commercial electronics. He further enhanced his skills with an MBA, specialising in SME internationalisation. Jim has worked on over 300 SME growth strategy projects in domestic and international markets. He has extensive experience in business planning and pitching for debt and equity finance, utilising the Business Model Canvas framework. Jim's expertise also extends to coaching SMEs in sales pipeline management, turnaround and recovery projects, innovation strategies, and developing a culture of innovation. He has conducted technical and commercial diligence on over 500 projects and successfully secured R&D funding for clients. He has led business improvement projects focused on value analysis, process redesign, and lean methodologies. With a deep understanding of sector challenges, Jim leverages his research and project experience to deliver valuable insights and solutions.

Michael Kearns, co-founder of Uxl, is dedicated to helping organisations succeed. With 30 years of experience in design and manufacturing, his expert guidance and coaching helps develop effective growth strategies. 

Michael's early working life was spent in international engineering and product companies, where he gained considerable experience working with people from diverse backgrounds. He developed skills relating to small businesses in the supply chain of large companies. His analytical skills enable him to get to the root cause of performance issues quickly. As a qualified sports coach, Michael has successfully transferred many skills acquired on the sports field to the boardroom, where he has coached business owners. He brings a fresh and positive attitude to working with people to achieve greater success.

Uxl work with a range of associates including food and drink specialist Andy MacLachlan, business strategy and market development specialist Neil MacCallum, sales specialist Stuart Hamilton, innovation specialist Elaine Baxter, technology specialist Jeremy Birnie, entrepreneur Derek Gamble, business development specialist Drew Hamilton and business strategy specialist Nicola Hanssen.

Lornal Ltd - Marketing and Internationalisation expert help

Alastair Kennedy has over 30 years marketing experience and has worked across the UK and global markets. He has held senior positions within major UK businesses and has experience of developing existing UK markets and opening up new export markets. He has extensive Sales Management and Marketing experience. He is an experienced business adviser having worked over the last 15 years with more than 1400 companies. He has run his own manufacturing business as well as his current marketing and exporting consultancy. 

He has experience of export and advising on commercial terms, marketing, route to market and financing. He also has customs qualifications and is able to advise on regulatory issues involved with exporting as well as great knowledge in developing and implementing complex, time-controlled supply chains. He is approachable, pragmatic, and practical in his approach. He is based in Helensburgh but has worked in Asia, Africa, Europe, and the USA.

Comsteria Limited - PR expert help

After a career in journalism and the media, Colin Kelly founded public relations consultancy Comsteria Limited in 2012. The company has delivered training and consultancy to Business Gateway businesses for several years, helping them develop communications strategies and raise their profiles without a budget. Colin enjoys working with clients across a wide variety of sectors including food and drink, retail, energy, third sector, education, start-ups and many more.

Businesses Colin works with often enjoy positive coverage in newspapers and on radio and television, but he can also help manage crisis situations and keep clients out of the media as well as supporting businesses looking to improve their presentation skills or get started with podcasting. In short, if your business has something to say, Colin and his team can help you say it better! 

Emma Baker joined Comsteria Limited after a career in education where she was a secondary school English teacher. She specialises in video production - either making videos for clients or training them to make their own. Powerful storytelling is at the heart of Emma’s work and she has a wealth of experience helping clients craft compelling messages about who they are and what they do. In an era of bland corporate communications where Artificial Intelligence can quickly churn out vast amounts of content, Emma believes it is those businesses who engage audiences on an emotional level that will triumph. Small businesses are in a strong position to take advantage of this but often don’t realise their own strengths. 

Tinto Procurement - Tendering and supply chain development expert help

Judith is an experienced, skilled professional with more than 20 years’ procurement experience working in Manufacturing including Electronics, Medical and Heavy Engineering (Oil & Gas and Aerospace).

Judith has been providing Supply Chain Consultancy Services including SMEs via the Business Gateway programme across multiple regions since 2016.  Judith is flexible and adaptable and will utilise her broader business skills to add further benefits to your business.

Having started up her own business, Judith is aware of the challenges that SMEs have such as juggling a new business with full/part time employment, family commitments, limited business experience and skills, and will tailor the support around your own challenges.

Recognising that many SMEs struggle to navigate, utilise and benefit from the many public contracts available Judith will help you find a way to access this business whether directly or via a third party.

Each business she works with is at different stages of growth therefore her support is very much bespoke and tailored to individual needs.

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