Orkney is set to host its first ever Business Festival in April, aimed at providing advice and inspiration for anyone keen to launch their very own enterprise in the future.
Festivals are, by their very nature, filled with fun, creativity and thought provoking moments which stimulate the senses. Just because this one ‘means business’, don’t expect things to be a staid, stale affair.
From open sessions to events for existing and new businesses, Orkney’s entrepreneurial spirit will be showcased over the course of the three day event.
Those who have already taken successful steps into business locally will be on hand to share their secrets. Meanwhile experts from elsewhere will provide hints, tips and advice to everyone involved on how to start, grow and maintain their own business models.
‘We know that taking the leap into the business world can be daunting and that’s part of the reason we wanted to launch the festival,’ said Claire Kemp, Business Gateway Orkney’s Manager. ‘We also want to give people the chance to enhance their own skills and knowledge, learn from other people and realise that there are services out there to help them, no matter what stage they’re at’.
Island life has always meant that people have had to be self-sufficient. Farmers and fishermen provided food before supermarkets made their mark. Blacksmiths made sure horses were fit and able to work. Orkney’s towns and villages were full of shops and services, providing everything islanders needed.
Although times have changed since then, Orkney’s business community is still envied across the country. From innovative renewable energy companies, talented designers and small shop owners to accountants, consultants and computer technicians, the islands are full of business acumen.
Since the local business gateway service launched in 2009 there have been more than 2,500 enquiries, showing that the business spirit in Orkney is alive and well.
‘There are so many people in Orkney who have made a real success from starting their own businesses and have overcome barriers like age, finance, risk and fear of failure,’ said Claire. ‘These people can be an inspiration to others and we felt it was important to make sure folk coming along to the events can hear from those who have already taken that leap’.
A view of Kirkwall's businesses around a hundred years ago - image courtesy of the Orkney Library and Archive
Three of those people will take to the stage on the opening night to talk about their experiences. After a keynote speech from Stephen Leckie, Chief Executive of the Crieff Hydro, the ‘Let’s Talk Business’ event will get underway, hosted by BBC Radio Orkney’s Dave Gray. Neil Stevenson from Grooves, Sheila Fleet from Sheila Fleet Jewellery and Lewis Hill from the Swannay Brewery will be on hand to take part in a question and answer session.
The second day is all about existing businesses. ‘Ready, Steady, Grow’ will see a series of events hosted by experts on a range of subjects, including international marketing, support services, social media and customer care.
New businesses are the focus of day three. ‘Speed Business’ features short, sharp workshops for anyone planning to launch or just starting their own companies. Claire hopes the programme will help provide plenty of inspiration for those attending.
‘I really hope that people coming along will be left with a strong desire to get started – whether it’s launching their own business, getting on social media, delegating more to staff or simply getting in touch with someone for support and advice. It’s all aimed at being motivational and we want to see folk get energised by taking part. I love hearing people talk about their own businesses as they’re so passionate about what they do. It’s hard not to be affected by that’.
There will also be a number of sessions running during the festival specifically aimed at social enterprises and community groups, so watch out for email invitations to attend these.
Feedback will form an important part of the festival as well, with plans in place to make it a bi-ennual event.
So, a festival with a difference, yes. But one with a similar message to all the rest.
Come along, have fun, be inspired and go home with your head full of ideas.
The Orkney Business Festival is being organised by Business Gateway Orkney, Orkney Islands Council and Highlands and Islands Enterprise. It will be held at the Pickaquoy Centre in Kirkwall between the 20th and 22nd of April. All the events are free – book soon to guarantee your place.