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Young entrepreneurs welcomed onto innovation project Board

Published: 26/05/2023

Three young entrepreneurs have been appointed to the Board of a £14.2m Highland based innovation project.

Three young entrepreneurs have been appointed to the Board of a £14.2m Highland based innovation project.

The Northern Innovation Hub was set up by Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) in 2017 with £11m UK Government funding from the Inverness and Highland City-Region Deal.

It is a virtual rather than physical entity aimed at strengthening innovation and competitiveness among businesses in life sciences, tourism, food and drink and creative industries across The Highland Council area.

Young people is a key theme for the Hub, and its range of initiatives includes the 12-month IMPACT30 programme, designed to foster the next generation of the region’s entrepreneurs.

IMPACT30 began in 2018, with the aim to support at least 30 young entrepreneurs each year. One of the newly appointed Northern Innovation Hub board members is Finlay Macdonald, who took part in the very first cohort.

Finlay founded Chocolates of Glenshiel when he left school in 2016. He describes his involvement in IMPACT30 as a ‘huge blessing’ to his business, which has grown to include a visitor centre and campsite.

“I really wanted to stay in the Highlands, in Glenshiel in particular,” he said. “I reckoned if I could make a living from selling chocolates that would be my key to staying. So, I started that seven years ago and today I manage a team of 15.

“I’m so glad to be where I am and one of my unofficial business aims is to put Glenshiel on the map. It’s been really interesting for me following the work of the Northern Innovation Hub and seeing it growing its scope.”

Finlay Macdonald, Chocolates of Glenshiel
(photo by Lynne Kennedy)

Christina Mackay, one of the other project board appointees, lives on the Black Isle. She took part in IMPACT30 in 2021 with her fundraising consultancy, Pledge to Thrive. The programme gave her the confidence to grow her own business and ultimately take up a Europe-wide senior role with one of her former clients, Hitachi Solutions Europe Ltd.

“Having now been at Hitachi Solutions over six months, I’m blown away by how far I have come,” she said. “I wouldn’t have had the confidence or ability to negotiate myself a new role at a world class tech company, without the growth I experienced by running my own business and through the investment on the IMPACT30 programme.”

The third appointment to the project board is that of Calum Kemp of Invernes-shire, who has a background in general and performance management in the retail sector. Calum spent over a decade with Dixons Carphone before returning to the Highlands to start his own artisanal cured meats business, Moocdu.

“This is something that I did not have a background in and so I had to learn an awful lot and very quickly,” he said. “I sought out support and whether I was doing things like watching the XpoNorth conference, taking part in IMPACT30, or getting involved with the new and exciting food and drink tech hub, one thing was a constant and that’s the Northern Innovation Hub.

“To get the opportunity to be able to have influence on the delivery and impact of these programmes and to share my ideas and get involved in that way is something that is incredibly exciting to me.”

Calum Kemp, Moocdu (photo by Moocdu)

Nicola Ewing is HIE’s head of client products and services and chair of the Northern Innovation Hub project board. Commenting on the new appointments, she said:

“The theme of young people has been fundamental to the Northern Innovation Hub since the outset. This is not just because they bring fresh thinking and energy but because fostering young entrepreneurial talent is crucial to our region’s prosperity.

“We’re delighted to have Finlay, Calum and Christina on board. Together they bring a variety of experience, enthusiasm, and energy that they are keen to share and apply to help further the achievements of the Northern Innovation Hub.”