Steve Dunlop
Steve Dunlop

£4 million Unlocking Ambition business stars announced

Twenty of Scotland’s most talented, innovative and ambitious entrepreneurs will start the first Unlocking Ambition Challenge to find Scotland’s next business success story.

(List at end of story)

Unlocking Ambition aims to follow the success and impact of Scottish companies such as Brewdog and SkyScanner – businesses that have grown to an international scale and whose leaders are committed to supporting other companies reach similar achievements.

The Unlocking Ambition Challenge is a £4 million fund created by the Scottish Government that will support entrepreneurs chosen for their individual potential, the quality of their ideas and the contribution they can make to the Scottish economy and wider society.

The first twenty candidates to receive Unlocking Ambition support were announced by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon while visiting Cumnock during a travelling cabinet to East Ayrshire. The group will receive support from Scottish Enterprise, a mentoring programme from Entrepreneurial Scotland, access to the GlobalScot network and help from the Scottish Investment Bank.

The challenge will link established and accomplished business people with the candidates, who have demonstrated their ideas can be successful, inclusive, create jobs and benefit society. This core will see Unlocking Ambition entrepreneurs supported to grow businesses that have a social conscience, through products, services or an inclusive recruitment commitment that can have a positive impact on the lives of its workers.

The First Minister said:

“Scotland’s future as a progressive nation is built on creativity and innovation. Through the Unlocking Ambition Challenge, we will ensure these talented, enthusiastic entrepreneurs receive every support available to help them grow their businesses with the ultimate aim to benefit our communities, drive competitiveness and create jobs – this is exactly what we mean by inclusive economic growth.

“The programme will develop the commercial strength of these companies to ensure they are equipped with the skills necessary to succeed in today’s fast-paced global business environment, and be part of the story that shows Scotland as a world-leading entrepreneurial country.”

One of the Unlocking Ambition recipients, Scott Weir, CEO of Pillow, an online travel agent and property management company based in Ayrshire, met the First Minister during the travelling cabinet which marked the Year of Young People. Mr Weir told the First Minister of his commitment to the young local workforce.

Mr Weir’s ambition is to build an internationally recognised group of hospitality and property companies that have a positive impact on the lives of the staff they employ.

“I’m immensely proud to be part of the Unlocking Ambition Programme. Being selected was an amazing feeling as the impact on my business will be something money couldn’t buy. But on top of this, it gives me a great sense of pride to know Scotland is at the forefront of entrepreneurialism.  For a small country, we punch above our weight and always produce world-class people and ideas.  The Unlocking Ambition Programme will help strengthen Scotlands reputation through the world”

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Steve Dunlop, Chief Executive of Scottish Enterprise, said:

“Entrepreneurship can be contagious, and I believe this handpicked group of ambitious entrepreneurs has the potential to positively change lives with their innovative products and services.  They also have a role to inspire other businesses to succeed and help drive Scotland’s future economic prosperity.

“The next year will no doubt be challenging for these entrepreneurs as they flex their businesses in pursuing opportunities to scale up.  I’d encourage each of them to embrace their Unlocking Ambition Challenge journey, challenge themselves, try new things, make new connections and invest in their skills and experiences.  I look forward to following their journeys closely and helping them unlock their full potential.”

Other businesses which will benefit from Unlocking Ambition support include game-changing innovations for football goalkeepers, pre-biotic drinks, clean and safe drinking water, contract bottling, craft chocolatier, digital patient services, environmentally friendly sanitary products, new fibres for textiles, omega-3 rich algae from industrial by-products, corporate donations from routine transactions, anti-maritime piracy barrier, speedy beverage delivery, bio-based construction systems, SME HR outsourcing and online travel agent and property management.

The first 20 entrepreneurs participating in the Unlocking Ambition Challenge are:

  • Alan Mahon – Brewgooder (Edinburgh)
  • Calum Haggerty – Coco Chocolatier (Edinburgh)
  • Celia Hodson – Hey Girls (Edinburgh)
  • Deborah Wake – MyWay Digital Health (Dundee)
  • Douglas Martin – MiAlgae (Edinburgh)
  • Hannah Fisher – The Start-Up Drinks Lab (Glasgow)
  • Iain Findlay – Aurora Sustainability Ltd (Moray)
  • Ian Arbuckle – Linian Supply Co Ltd (Glasgow)
  • Jo Halliday – Talking Medicines Limited (Glasgow)
  • Joan Johnson – Bespoke Fabrics (Elgin)
  • John Robertson – Drinkly (Edinburgh)
  • Kenny Arthur – Kaliaaer Ltd (Strathaven)
  • Lisa Thomson – Purpose HR (Edinburgh)
  • Loral Quinn – Sustainably (Edinburgh)
  • Paul Blackler – Drink Baotic (Glasgow)
  • Scott Dickson – Phox Water (Glasgow)
  • Scott Simpson – IndiNature (Edinburgh)
  • Scott Weir – Pillow (Kilmarnock)
  • Stephanie Terreni Brown – Clean Water Wave (Edinburgh)
  • Steve Regis – ARX Maritime (Edinburgh)