Bridge to Business Seminar at Lochaber High School is informative, fun and interactive!

As part of Lochaber Ideas Week, we ran a Bridge to Business event at Lochaber High School which focused on business start up and young person entrepreneurship. Lochaber and Kinlochleven High School pupils and two Ferguson Transport & Shipping apprentices listened excitedly to our five entrepreneurs who talked passionately about their business start-up journeys, informing pupils of the involved highs and lows and the essential personal attributes needed to succeed. After hearing each entrepreneur speak, pupils had the chance to ask questions to gain more knowledge about business start-up. Donna McEwan, from Skills Development Scotland also spoke to the pupils about the importance of business skills to ensure that self employment is a long term success. One Kinlochleven High pupil commented:

“I liked hearing how the entrepreneurs didn’t know what they wanted to do when they left school. I felt I could relate to this as that’s how I feel”

The Speaker’s Stories

Damien Forster along with wife Nix is the proud owner of retail shop, Off Beat Bikes in Fort William which specialises in the making and selling of bikes for all ages and necessary bike parts. The shop also sells open water swimming gear, running shoes and has a kitted-out workshop where mechanics sort out bike maintenance problems. Damien realised he had a passion for biking and sport after working in the Alps at a ski resort where he cooked and cleaned before training to be a ski instructor.

Jonathan McCook, at the age of only 24, now owns Tough Cookie Fitness  gym and is a qualified personal fitness trainer. Admitting that he never knew what he wanted to do and working a string of jobs that he had no interest in, Jonathan encourages young people to follow their dreams and find a career related to their passions.

Nikki Roberts realised that university wasn’t for her at a young age and instead chose to go travelling where she learned life skills which were highly valuable to her when she set up Floral Elegance. Nikki has since worked with a range of celebrities and other high profile people that put her through intensive training to give her the confidence and capabilities she has today. She advised our young people that excellent customer service, communication, marketing and planning skills are essential to succeed.

Archie MacDonald is the director and co owner of the Highland Soap Company, which has shops based in numerous areas around Scotland selling a range of luxurious soaps, organic bath and body products and candles. Archie is the son of well known entrepreneur and author, Angus MacDonald and recommends that all young people follow their dreams, stating that everyone has the ability to succeed if they have the determination, strong work ethic and creativity needed to find their niche.

Hannah Barnes is 31 and is a busy staff nurse at the Belford Hospital as she realised from a young age that she enjoyed helping people. A woman of many talents, Hannah has trained sled dogs and is also an athlete and brand ambassador for Specialized Bicycles and BMW, travelling the world for events and advertising her wonderful Instagram photos along the way!

Learning the Tools of the Trade

After an eventful and informative morning of listening to our inspiring line up of entrepreneurs, high school pupils and company apprentices participated in an interactive and fun workshop, hosted by Young Enterprise Scotland where they learned about how to run a social enterprise.

Pupils and apprentices worked together in small groups to create an effective business plan, market their product and pitch their business ideas. The groups came up with wonderful social enterprise initiatives that included marketing shoes for the homeless, recycling plastic to save the ocean wildlife, supplying makeup and clothes for both men and females and many more! Lisa from Social Enterprise Scotland commented:

“We loved delivering our social enterprise workshop. The pupils were very engaged, and all came up with fantastic ideas! One of the best groups we have worked with when delivering this workshop!”

Practical sessions such as these, also teach young people core employability skills such as teamworking, presentation, creativity, leadership and communication skills as pupils and apprentices were placed together to work on their individual, enterprise projects. These transferable skills can be used to help young people thrive and develop in the workplace. Ferguson apprentices commented:

“We really enjoyed Wednesday and thought it went well. The speakers were really inspirational and it was interesting to learn how all of them started their own business before taking part in an afternoon workshop.”

We hope that our young people enjoyed the event and will use the skills and advice gained from this experience to go on and become the budding entrepreneurs of the future!

Special thanks go to Lochaber High School, all the attending young people, entrepreneurs and employers who came along to support us on the day!

For more information regarding how to get involved with future DYW West Highland events, contact the team on: / 01397 705 765 / Facebook / Twitter or call in and see us in the office at 15 High Street, Fort William, PH33 6DH