Inverness Courier: Business Focus

Published in the Inverness Courier. September 4th 2018.​​

Stewart Nicol, chief executive, Inverness Chamber of Commerce

International trade is a subject on many business minds at the moment, particularly as we approach Brexit, and it is an area in which Inverness Chamber of Commerce is helping many local firms.

The Local Export Partnership (LEP), led by Inverness Chamber in association with other agencies, provides small and medium-sized businesses across the Highlands and Islands with increased opportunities to export their goods and services.  

A recent example of its success came during an overseas trip, when an LEP-assisted business had the opportunity to visit Norway, courtesy of Loganair, to mark the recent launch of flights between Inverness and Bergen.

Our LEP programme manager Sarah Maltman was liaising with Orkney Ice Cream, which had identified Norway as a target market, and arranged for the company to be on the flight. Sarah spoke with the Enterprise Europe Network, which is delivered and supported by Highland Council and Scottish Enterprise, and was able to organise a meeting with a contact who has extensive experience of the Norwegian food sector, including launching new brands across Scandinavia.

The link up looks highly promising not just for Orkney Ice Cream, but also for other Orkney products, and could lead to new markets opening up in future.

Similarly, we hope another island firm, Uist Wool, will soon benefit from our support. The company is the first to receive money from our Export Fund, through the LEP programme, which will contribute to the cost of attending the Rhinebeck Sheep and Wool Festival in New York this November. Attending this event will showcase the company to a huge potential audience and we look forward to hearing how such an important marketing and sales opportunity works out. 

These two examples demonstrate how well these networking and advice programmes can provide practical help to businesses seeking to expand their horizons even in these uncertain times.

They offer an abundance of advice and support, including action planning, financial support, market research information and mentoring services, for businesses across the Highlands and Islands region through all stages of exporting. This support is available to any SME within the region, regardless of size, sector or location and is not exclusive to members of a chamber of commerce. 

It also shows the power of our global chamber network which enables us to make connections across the world, tapping into an array of business professionals looking to offer their support services to businesses in the Highlands and Islands.

Later this month, Inverness will host an event during Scottish International Week which is designed to support Scottish-based companies expand across the UK and internationally, through the delivery of peer-lead events.

All these events and initiatives are designed to help businesses navigate their way through what can be complex regulations to find the right customers and maximise their potential.

They are also a reminder that in business it can be a case of who you know and what you know.