New figures reveal positive economic boost as Business Gateway celebrates 10 years in the Highlands and Islands

From left - Claire Fletcher, Alicia MacInnes and Georgina Kitching from Lussa Gin
From left - Claire Fletcher, Alicia MacInnes and Georgina Kitching from Lussa Gin

The Business Gateway network was established in the Highlands and Islands ten years ago and in that time has helped create and safeguard over 7300 new jobs.

The organisation also supported almost 6200 start-up businesses including 250 in Shetland. 72 start-up businesses were supported in the Outer Hebrides in 2018/19 and over 500 new jobs created in Orkney.

51% of start-up businesses in Moray are now female led, compared to 35% in 2009.

Steven Heddle, Chair of the Business Gateway Board, said: “These figures demonstrate the crucial role that the Business Gateway service, managed and delivered by Local Authorities as part of their wider business support, plays in driving growth, skills, regeneration and sustainable communities across the Highlands and Islands.

“Since the Business Gateway network in the Highlands & Islands was established in 2009, we have seen the economic and business landscape change rapidly and dramatically. Throughout this time, Business Gateway local offices have delivered a comprehensive and accessible support service to thousands of new and existing businesses across this vast and beautiful landscape.

“Business Gateway has established itself as a key player in delivering Scotland’s Economic and Digital Strategies and ensuring that SMEs across the Highlands & Islands are equipped with the skills needed to drive inclusive economic growth and create new jobs for local people.

“Looking ahead, Business Gateway will continue to work in collaboration with a wide variety of partners, including Scottish Government and Highlands & Islands Enterprise, to help identify the missing pieces and provide the best advice and support to Scottish businesses.”

One of the thousands of businesses that have benefitted from Business Gateway support is Isle of Jura-based Lussa Gin, founded by Claire Fletcher, Alicia MacInnes and Georgina Kitching in 2016. They approached Business Gateway for advice to help launch Lussa Gin and have continued to access specialist support as the distillery has grown. 

Following unprecedented demand in their first year of business, Lussa Gin renovated and moved into an old stable building to upgrade its still and increase production. The firm now produces up to 8000 bottles of Lussa Gin each year, which are sold online, stocked in 50 retailers across Scotland and exported across the EU. 

The trio’s hard work and investment has paid off, as Lussa Gin was recently awarded the FSB Small Business Start Up of the Year Award 2019.

Co-founder of Lussa Gin Alicia MacInnes said: “Business Gateway offered us invaluable support whilst navigating our way through a competitive gin marketplace. As we live in a remote part of Scotland, the challenge to get Lussa Gin recognised in the market was initially problematic. However, with Business Gateway’s support, we attended training events, trade fairs across the country and accessed specialist advice on using social media.”

Barbara Halliday, Business Adviser for Business Gateway Argyll and Bute added: “Since we first spoke to Claire, Alicia and Georgina in 2016, they have accessed our one-to-one advice, EU funded grant support from our Local Growth Accelerator Programme, DigitalBoost support (such as website development, search engine optimisation and social media marketing) and recently moved through the Business Gateway growth pipeline to work with Highlands and Islands Enterprise. Lussa Gin has also been exported to Sweden and Germany and works with six different distributors.”  Business Gateway provides publicly funded local workshops, one-to-one support from business advisers, extensive online resources and expert support on topics including innovation, exporting, finance and new markets. Another key component of the service delivered is DigitalBoost – Scotland’s national digital business skills training programme. 

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