Is Scotland getting smaller? – High Growth Scotland with Kim McAllister

My business operates in three cities – not because I planned it that way – but because we kept moving.

I set up Impact Online in Glasgow in 2010. Three years later we moved to Aberdeen and in 2016 we relocated to Edinburgh.

A lot of people tried to put me off along the way. Their concerns ranged from lack of experience and contacts to putting too much pressure on myself to the oldest chestnut – not prioritising my family.

I’m very proud to have proved them all wrong.

The truth is, very few barriers still exist to businesses wanting to relocate or expand into new cities. Scotland is a small place to start with – but now I feel like we’re really pulling together and building quite a special ecosystem for SMEs, startups, scaleups and unicorns.

In 2013 didn’t know anyone in Aberdeen, so I researched the networking clubs and arranged meetings with the owners. I read the local papers to get up to speed and discovered SBNN. I decided to rent a desk in a co-working space so I could work and network at the same time. I found two great toddlers groups so both my son and I could make friends. I threw myself into this new life and pretty quickly I felt settled.

When the time came to move again, I wasn’t fazed. I’d done it before – and this time it was to Edinburgh, where we actually knew people.

Interestingly, our move coincided with a time of huge change in Aberdeen. A number of clients and friends were looking to the central belt for expansion. Now, I speak to a lot of Edinburgh and Glasgow companies interested to see what opportunities there are in the north-east. The Oil and Gas Technology Centre is doing some amazing work right now, which companies outside Aberdeen should be all over. I know because I worked on a project there last summer. Codebase has just announced its partnership with Opportunity North East (ONE) – signaling its first move away from Edinburgh and Stirling. Barclays has invested in business relationship managers all over Scotland – including Inverness – because it recognizes the ideas and future business leaders are coming from all over Scotland, not just the traditional hubs.

I don’t know about you but I find this all immensely exciting.

Entrepreneurial Scotland – which has just received £650,000 investment from the Scottish government – has the single goal of making us ‘the most entrepreneurial society in the world’. Big talk – but why not? Of course, there are a few things we need to sort out – broadband speed in rural Scotland being the most obvious – and it’s going to take time for the entrepreneurial mindset to spread within companies as well as among individuals.

I think we have one killer card (I won’t say trump card – just one more thing he’s destroyed) which we perhaps don’t play enough. Scotland is a great place to live. Our education system, transport links, food and drink industries, culture, sports and scenery make it a wonderful place to raise a family. Yeah, the weather’s a bit rubbish and we’ve got some political stuff going on and the bloody midgies will be out soon, but we can handle all that. I feel like we can handle pretty much anything. We’re not scared of a bit of hard work – and there’s plenty of support here if we need it. A bit more joined up thinking on funding would be nice – but otherwise, I think we’re doing well. Off you go and have a great weekend.


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