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Caithness Chamber of Commerce celebrates 44th Annual Dinner

Caithness Chamber of Commerce celebrated a year of strong entrepreneurial spirit with two fledgling local businesses recognised at a prestigious ceremony attended by prominent members of the local business community.

Now in its 44th year, the Caithness Chamber of Commerce Annual Dinner, held this year at the Weigh Inn, Thurso on September 16th, has grown to become one of the most popular events in the local business calendar, with around 150 of the area’s most influential businesspeople in attendance.

2016 has been the strongest yet for entrepreneurial growth, with ambitious businesspeople of all ages and backgrounds seeking to establish themselves, taking advantage of the assistance Caithness Chamber is proud to provide.

Despite some challenging times for both the local and national economy, the Chamber has seen a sustained rise in applications to the various funds it manages, as well as its Business Support Programme, funded by Dounreay Site Restoration Limited and the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority, which provides support for those looking to start their business within the Caithness and North Sutherland area.

After a warm welcome from the Chamber’s Chairman, Stephen Sutherland, and an opening speech from Chamber Patron Rt. Hon The Viscount Thurso, guests heard an inspiring and thought-provoking keynote address from Elizabeth Padmore, Chair of Hampshire Hospitals Trust.

After an superb dinner served by the Weigh Inn team, guests were treated to some excellent entertainment from David Bryon, former MD of low-cost airline BMI Baby.

With colourful stories from the aviation industry peppered with interactive role-play, David dazzled with wit and charm, easing the audience into the evening.

Awards were then presented for the Chamber’s George Bruce Young Entrepreneur of the Year award and newly-established Young Business of the Year Award.

The Young Entrepreneur of the Year award recognises the achievements of young, local businesspeople who have displayed the necessary drive and determination to make their business idea a success. This year’s winners were brother-sister partnership Sean and Marysia Frame, who picked up the accolade for their Tartan Cracker and Gift Company, which produces Scottish-themed crackers, wedding favours and gifts made in Caithness for the tourist and wedding markets. The business idea was initially presented at the iStart Challenge, a “Dragon’s Den” style competition run by the North Highland Regeneration Fund and North Highland College in late 2015, where it won the award for “Best Creativity / Innovation.”

Since then, Sean and Marysia have been working hard to refine their products and develop their business. They have recently started trading and, in addition to their online, consumer-focused offer, have fulfilled an order for another local business and are looking to develop the trade side of their business as well.

The dynamic duo was presented the award, which was sponsored by Caithness Flagstone, along with a cheque for £500 presented by Coll Murchison-Macdonald of award sponsors Saffery Champness.

In its second year, the Young Business of the Year award was presented to Michael Barry for his company White Heather Home Care, which provides specialist care and support to the community’s vulnerable adults. The business commenced trading in May 2014 and has seen stratospheric growth since then, now providing 50 full-time equivalent jobs, providing in excess of 4,000 hours of care each month and turning over £1 million annually.

The company also has ambitious growth plans, recently expanding and building into the Inverness area, and sees potential to scale to be ten times the size in the next five years, becoming a very significant provider in the care sector.

Trudy Morris, the Chamber’s Chief Executive, said “This has been another strong year for entrepreneurial spirit in Caithness, with so many bright, talented businesses showing the spark for success.

“As always, competition was tight between the candidates for both awards and we had tough choices on our hands. We’re delighted with the entries and wish both the Tartan Cracker and Gift Company, and White Heather Home Care all the very best

 “We’re excited for the future of business in Caithness!”

Awards given and patrons entertained, the night was brought to a close by Stephen Sutherland, with special thanks going to the event sponsors: Dounreay (principal sponsor), Nuvia, Saffery Champness, John Gunn & Sons, Dunnet Bay Distillers, JGC Engineering & Technical Services, Duncorann House, and Caithness Flagstone.