‘Young Enterprise’ and ‘Entrepreneurship’ were the two overriding themes of North Highland Regeneration Fund’s Annual General Meeting held last Friday at the Pentland Hotel in Thurso. North Highland Regeneration Fund is a company limited by guarantee set up by the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) as part of its input to economic development in the area. The NDA has a remit to help maintain dynamic, sustainable local economies for communities living near their sites and has committed £1.85m to the loan Fund since its inception and there is over £500k currently available.
As part of its AGM proceedings, NHRF ran a ‘dragon’s den’ style event with Young Enterprise Teams from Farr and Wick High Schools and North Highland College. Local dragons included Willie Watt of Subsea 7, Stephen Sutherland of JGC Engineering, Rob Arthur of Thurso Cinema and Andrew Mackay of the Castletown and Norseman Hotels. Prior to their pitches in front of the judges, the teams were given a ‘warm-up’ motivation session using sports psychology techniques by Kris Hamilton, Caithness Chamber of Commerce’s Young Entrepreneur of the Year. Each team pitched for money from a £500 pot donated by North Highland Regeneration Fund, which was then generously topped up by another £100 by the judges.
After the formal AGM proceedings, the audience heard inspirational talks from Rob Arthur and Andrew Mackay about what inspired them to get into business. Both went into what they perceived as safe jobs in their early years but actually found it wasn’t something they really wanted to do. Both felt their lives had been enriched by their life experiences, the people they met and the role models they had on the way. Their key messages to the young people in the audience were ‘do something you enjoy’, ‘follow your instinct’ and ‘have the courage to move out of your comfort zone’. Andrew Mackay commented: “I whistle on my way to work in the morning and I whistle on my way back, even at 3am!”
NHRF Chairman John Thurso MP said: “We are delighted the Young Enterprise Teams were able to take part in our AGM proceedings this year. It enriched the whole event. For me it is about inspiring a new generation and these young people are potentially our business leaders and entrepreneurs of the future. The North Highland Regeneration Fund is not only about helping existing businesses grow, it’s also about giving seed-corn loan funding to young start-ups businesses that traditionally find it difficult to raise finance.”
Samantha Fraser a student from North Highland College said: “It was a really good experience and something that will enhance our CV’s.”
David Charnley, teacher at Farr High School commented: “Not only did the team have the benefit of another opportunity to refine their presentation and develop performance skills, they were introduced to networking and some useful business contacts were made as people were keen to talk to them”.
The Fund offers support by the way of loans of between £5,000 and £50,000. Applicants must be in the Dounreay travel to work area, must have an appropriate commercial structure to which funding can be delivered (such as a limited company) and be able to demonstrate long term viability and job growth and retention in the area.
If any business is interested in finding out more it can either visit www.nhrf.co.uk or ring the Managing Agent on 01847 500103 for an informal chat.