Digital Business of the Year Winners at the Scottish FSB Awards

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Life in the FSB is always varied, fascinating and rewarding, but there is no doubt that last Tuesday will prove to be one of the highlights of 2018: the Scottish final of FSB’s inaugural Celebrating Small Business Awards in Edinburgh University’s Playfair Library.

On that day the word “entrepreneur” was made flesh, and the room was really buzzing as the finalists, drawn from all types of business and corners of the country, exchanged news, views, ideas and business cards.

The Scottish winners of each category will go forward to the UK final in May, and it was a real pleasure to see two Highland businesses in their ranks. Unsurprisingly, given tourism’s importance, both Highland winners’ businesses are based heavily on that industry, and both award categories are of particular importance to this region too: the environment and making best use of digital technology.

Lesley and Kenneth McKenzie, who have operated Highland Farm Cottages, a 5-star, 10-cottage self-catering business situated just outside Dingwall, for more than a decade, won the Ethical Green Business of the Year Award.  They put environmental considerations first and their business incorporates a range of green energy and sustainable measures, including heating 12 houses via a wood-chip-fuelled underground heat network, electricity generated by solar PV panels, and the provision of two electric vehicle charge points.

Jamie Smith’s Ice Factor Group, based in Kinlochleven, won the Digital Business of the Year Award. Jamie started Ice Factor – the National Ice Climbing Centre – in 2003, going on to acquire Glasgow’s snow sports centre in 2011. Radically restructuring what was one of the worst performing snow domes in Europe, the centre is now known as Snow Factor and is a huge success. Much of this is thanks to the introduction of a digital-first marketing strategy, which has seen online sales grow by an average of 65% a year for the past 5 years.

So what’s so special about FSB’s Celebrating Small Business Awards?

First, entering requires business owners to analyse what, why, when and how things are done – something that effective entrepreneurs do as a matter of course. These reviews frequently lead to improvements and innovations.

Second, to win a Scottish FSB Award category – and better still, an award at the UK finals – is a huge feather in any business’s cap. Including it in marketing sends out a very strong and positive message about quality to potential customers, and it also rubs off on the area as a whole. The more national accolades businesses in a particular area win, the more the area is taken seriously as a quality place to do business or visit.

Finally, in this uncertain world it is important that all businesses fire on all cylinders if we are to compete on the world stage, and there is nothing like seeing competitors succeed for galvanising rivals into action.

There is no doubt that all present last week left Edinburgh feeling energised and inspired and let’s hope that at least one business from Badenoch & Strathspey is amongst their number next year!