Ballachulish and Barra businesses scoop national FSB awards

Glencoe Activities' Laurence Young holds the award while surrounded by his family. NO F52 Glencoe Activities and FSB Award 1
Glencoe Activities' Laurence Young holds the award while surrounded by his family. NO F52 Glencoe Activities and FSB Award 1

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A Lochaber business has been given a national innovation accolade in the FSB Scotland Small Business Awards 2020.

As last year, the Highlands and Islands  performed exceptionally well in the 2020 FSB (Federation of Small Businesses) Scotland Small Business Awards, with five of the 12 winners coming from this region.

This year’s FSB Scotland Business and Product Innovation Award was won by Glencoe Activities, Ballachulish, and the Community Business of the Year Award has been won by Bùth Bharraigh, on Barra.

Originally an arable farm and transformed by the previous owner into a nine-hole golf course, the current owners of Glencoe Activities have expanded the course and diversified, adding a café, activity centre – including the Scottish Segway Centre – and, most recently, eight designer-led luxury lodges with hot tubs – RiverBeds.

The whole enterprise is owned and operated by Ossian Developments Limited, a fourth generation family business in Lochaber owned by the Young family.

The Business and Product Innovation Award is for bold, new business models and innovative products delivering dramatic results.

Judges look for businesses which either offer a ground-breaking product or service, or that are using an exciting new approach to improve or disrupt a traditional market.

Welcoming the award, Glencoe Activities’ Laurence Young, said: ‘The entire team is delighted to receive this national recognition – everyone now bounces around the estate with an even greater spring in their step!

‘The people within this family firm are renowned for each ‘running the extra mile’, and it’s their creativity and enterprise that gives the real ‘rocket fuel’ to the innovation in the business.  This FSB Award is a tribute that means a lot to them.

‘Our innovation was driven by a passion to completely re-invent hospitality.  Sounds a tall order, yet four years of guest feedback and extraordinary business performance indicate just how successfully we have met this ambition.’

Development Director James Young, Laurence’s son, added: ‘There’s been a complete rebrand and the essence of this is clearly spelled out in our new website, www.woodlands.scot

‘Woodlands Glencoe focuses on providing memorably romantic breaks and adventures in a carefully nurtured and natural rural setting. Not only that, but we have acquired a 100-acre woodland on the North Coast 500 route, and Woodlands Ullapool is an innovation in the making.’

Callum Young, James’ brother, commented on another innovation realised over the Covid months: ‘We have just opened a completely new accommodation concept, for SeaBeds re-invents hospitality all over again.

‘We now have five ‘luxury lookout lodges’, each with a breath-taking infinity hot tub. This business is doing its bit to help support the recovery of Scottish tourism and build Scotland’s reputation as a global leader thanks to the warmth and style of our welcomes.’

Meanwhile, Barra-based Bùth Bharraigh took the Community Business of the Year award.

Bùth Bharraigh is a community hub and visitor information centre serving Barra and Vatersay. This social enterprise also provides a route to market for island producers, showcasing and selling goods and services made by people from the islands.

It also sells wholefoods, craft materials and books, concentrating on filling in the retail gaps in this remote location.

Bùth Bharraigh's Fiona MacLean, right, pictured with Naomi Robarts who works in the shop. NO F53 Buth Bharraigh - Fiona MacLean right - Naomi Robarts left.
Bùth Bharraigh’s Fiona MacLean, right, pictured with Naomi Robarts, who works in the shop.

Welcoming the award, Bùth Bharraigh’s founder and manager, Sarah MacLean, said: ‘We are delighted and honoured to have received this award for our volunteers and our community.

‘We opened our doors in April 2013 and we’ve been going strong ever since. Besides being a community shop, Bùth Bharraigh helps our community flourish by providing islands suppliers with a route to market, and by acting as a point of contact for islanders, especially in the long winters. We also provide visitor information and we both help visitors find accommodation and signpost them to activities and events.

​’Volunteering, employment, training and work experience opportunities are also core to what we do, and, as a social enterprise, we support our islands producers and boost the economy by keeping money on the island.

‘In 2019, research showed that every £1 spent in Bùth Bharraigh results in £2.58 for the economy of Barra and Vatersay.

‘Since the Covid crisis began in March we have been working on deliveries, sewing facemasks for the community, and doing whatever we can to help people through this difficult time.

‘We are looking forward to the future – to conducting more business online and to the new visitor season, and we also have a few hush-hush developments in the pipeline, so watch this space.

‘This award has given us all – staff, directors, volunteers, and producers – a much-needed boost.’

Congratulating the two winners, FSB Highlands and Islands Area Leader Hamish Fraser said the Highlands and Islands stood out from the crowd yet again this year.

‘I am particularly delighted to be able to congratulate the two West Highlands and Islands winners, Laurence Young of Glencoe Activities and Sarah MacLean of Bùth Bharraigh, for doing so well,’ he said.

‘Businesses here must innovate and evolve if they and our region are to keep ahead of the game and, taken together, the Young family’s ambitious, enterprising and exciting projects at Ballachulish represent outstanding examples of best practice.

‘Bùth Bharraigh has a vital role to play in sustaining one of our remotest and most fragile communities.

Both the standard of living and quality of life enjoyed by everyone in the Highlands and Islands are dependent to a high degree on the strength and vibrancy of our communities, and just one glance at the Bùth’s website shows that it is going above and beyond to maintain Barra’s vitality.

‘In fact, while you’re looking at the website you might like to book a Barra holiday or buy some locally-made goods online.’

This year’s FSB Scotland Small Business Awards Ceremony was to have taken place in Edinburgh but it had to be cancelled due to lockdown and the pandemic has prevented it from being rescheduled.