11th September 2019

Caithness Chamber of Commerce celebrated a successful year for business, and the entrepreneurial spirit in the area, at its 47th annual dinner held at Wick’s Norseman Hotel on Friday 6th September 2019. Among the highlights of this year’s event – attended by more than 200 businesses – were the awards for young businesses and entrepreneur, with a strong field of applicants resulting in three awards being made.

After a welcome from the chamber’s chairman, Stephen Sutherland, and an opening speech from Chamber patron Viscount Thurso, guests were treated to a speech from Peter Lederer, CBE. He has held many high-level posts over the years, with a total of 31 years as managing director and chairman of Gleneagles Hotels, and is currently chairman of the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo. Later in the evening, Graham Cole, OBE, better known to most as PC Tony Stamp from The Bill, regaled guests with anecdotes about his life and experiences as an entertainer and gave some examples of his charitable work with organisations such as Childline and PTSD999.

The Young Entrepreneur of the Year 2019 award, sponsored by Saffery Champness, was presented to Iona McLachlan of North Coast Watersports. Started up earlier this year with her partner Finn MacDonald, the company has already proven to be a great success and Iona and Finn have ambitious plans to expand it as an outdoor activity retreat. This was followed by the Young Business of the Year 2019, for which two awards were made in recognition of the number and strength of the applications received. A highly commended award was made to Dr Keith Nicholson of Cyber Security Scotland, while the overall winner of the Young Business of the Year was Norse Stone. Managing director Michael Ronaldson embarked on the Norse Stone journey just four years ago inside a storage container with a single saw to make his first products. Since then, the business has grown tremendously, now employing a team of 11. Norse Stone prides itself on using traditional materials to create a versatile product range using contemporary and innovative processes.

Chamber chairman Stephen Sutherland said: “The board were faced with a near-impossible task this year to select winners from such a strong field of applicants, particularly with regard to the Young Business of the Year. It is fantastic to see so much entrepreneurial spirit and activity happening, despite the political uncertainty over the past few years, and it goes to show that businesses here in the north Highlands have a real drive and ‘can-do’ attitude.

“Both North Coast Watersports and Norse Stone stood out as businesses with great potential, and with the final decision so difficult to make it was felt that Cyber Security Scotland should be recognised as well as a very strong entrant. We were very impressed with the quality of applications this year and would strongly encourage those that weren’t winners this time around to think about applying for next year’s awards.”

Chamber chief executive Trudy Morris said: “This year has once again proved the resilience of the business community of the north Highlands in the face of continuing political and economic uncertainty, but has also shown us how much we have to celebrate.

“We’ve seen projects such as the Beatrice offshore wind farm come fully online, new investment announced in infrastructure at Scrabster harbour, plans progressing for the vertical launch site in Sutherland, and exciting new opportunities such as the planned DeepWind cluster in the North Sea.

“Our annual dinner has always been an opportunity to celebrate the achievements of the business community of the north Highlands and this year has proven no different. We look forward to seeing what our award winners achieve over the coming year and hope to have much more to celebrate in 2020.”

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