growing and harvested trees

South West Mull and Iona Development

South West Mull & Iona Development was set up in 2010 to help this remote part of Scotland reach its full potential by consulting with the community and focussing on areas of improvement.

youngster looking intently at piece of wood

Improving life locally

Funding from Highlands and Islands Enterprise ‘Growth at the Edge’ project allowed Morven Gibson to take on the role of Local Development Officer identifying solutions to issues which would improve life locally by facilitating economic, social and environmental regeneration.

South West Mull & Iona Development was formally recognised as a company in 2015, helping the organisation to achieve its goals, and has seen the promotion of Morven to General Manager, while creating a further four new jobs for local people.

Community focused companies can often face the challenge of convincing people of their commercial drive.

Morven said: “We are ambitious in our mission to transform South West Mull and Iona and we can only do this by generating an income. We need to be business-minded so we can reinvest our profits into the community, ultimately creating more jobs and attracting more individuals and families of working age. Ensuring we have facilities and amenities that are attractive to local people and visitors is also a priority. Our belief is that this multi-faceted approach will help to reinvigorate the area.

“In order to be commercially savvy we must be innovative and entrepreneurial and we need other organisations and individuals to understand our mission. We want to be seen as an organisation whose main focus is our community and improving life locally and who achieve this by taking a business-like approach.”

Funding is a challenge for organisations like South West Mull and Iona Development and individuals must feel empowered in order exploit opportunities available to them.

As long as I know my community and I know what people in my community want, I can work to address issues and make where we live and work a better place.
Morven Gibson, South West Mull and Iona Development

In January 2018 Morven was given the opportunity to take part in the world renowned MIT Entrepreneurship Development Programme through HIE, which saw her travel to Boston. Delegates get access to cutting edge academic learning, take part in practical teamwork exercises whilst networking internationally.

At first Morven was nervous about being out of her depth but quickly realised that confidence is key to success.

Morven said: “Being amongst a number of representatives from a variety of businesses taught me that we all have similar goals and face similar challenges regardless of the type of organisation.”

Armed with techniques to really drill down into her market, Morven was equipped with how best to understand her customer – the community.

She added: “As long as I know my community and I know what people in my community want, I can work to address issues and make where we live and work a better place. Every time I think about a new project, I go back to the process outlined in HIE’s Entrepreneurship programme. By following these steps, it gives me confidence in my decision making and the direction to take.”

Morven isn’t the only person to benefit, with her colleague Celia Compton, Finance and Project Manager, recently taking part in the Delivering a Digital Strategy workshop provided by HIE’s Entrepreneurship programme. Celia is in the process of drafting a whole new communications strategy based on what she learnt on the course.

Both Morven and Celia joined HIE’s Entrepreneurship Pitching Workshop with Maryanne Johnston in Oban earlier this year to crystallise their elevator pitch.

Morven said: “I thought it would be impossible to craft a succinct pitch that hit the nail on the head because there are so many strands to what we offer but with the support of Maryanne I was able to achieve it.”

“Being a part of HIE’s Entrepreneurship programme has been an eye opening experience, what we have achieved through access to experts, and peer to peer support has been extremely beneficial in determining the best strategy to take the company and community forward.

“I would urge anyone who is facing challenges within their business to tap into this support.”

three women at a HIE exhibition stand about community development

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