30th June 2023

Trudy Morris, Chief Executive, Caithness Chamber of Commerce. Award recognition for the achievements of our enterprising business community.

With our venue confirmed and entertainment in place, plans for the Chamber’s Annual Dinner are in full swing. A highlight event in our calendar brings with it our much-coveted Young Entrepreneur and Young Business of the Year Awards, which once again are now open for entries.

Here at the Chamber, entrepreneurship has been at the forefront of our minds in recent weeks. For the last ten years, I have supported the Young Enterprise programme which challenges and empowers secondary school pupils through real-life learning, to set up and manage their own company. This year we were delighted to support Thurso High School Young Enterprise Team “Social-Eyes” whose creativity and innovation secured them a spot in the UK Finals. It was admirable to see their ambition and fearless approach to business. The determination of this young team secured stockists for their game right along the North Coast 500. Though their journey through the Young Enterprise programme culminated in the UK Finals, they will be continuing with their business. They will also always hold with them the accolade and honour of representing the best of Scotland at a national level and the confidence to know entrepreneurship is possible for everyone. To have the vision, skills and resolve to turn your ideas into a product or business is something very special indeed.

  • Thurso School High Young Enterprise Team 2023 Social Eyes with their awards at the Young Enterprise Scottish Finals
    Thurso School High Young Enterprise Team 2023 Social Eyes with their awards at the Young Enterprise Scottish Finals

Caithness Chamber’s Young Entrepreneur of the Year and Young Business of the Year Awards are designed to celebrate exactly this and give recognition to the achievements of our thriving enterprising business community.

It has been a great pleasure of mine to follow the journeys of many of our former award winners and witness their businesses flourish and evolve over the years to follow.

Our 2022 winners Puldagon Farm Shop are going from strength to strength with the development of their stunning destination venue, restaurant, and farm shop, whilst North Point Distillery have awards in bountiful supply and were recently recognised as both the Best Craft Producer of 2023 and the Most Sustainable Distillery of 2023 in the Icons of Rum Awards.

The Young Business Award is open to enterprises which have been operating in Caithness or North Sutherland for no more than five years, and The Young Entrepreneur Award is open to those aged between 18 and 30 who live in Caithness or North Sutherland.

The prestige and accolade which come with winning are invaluable and the prizes awarded to the winners are meaningful. Entries for the awards are open until 5 pm on August 11. Application forms and entry criteria can be found on the news page of our website, caithnesschamber.com.

Of course, within the current climate, it’s tougher than ever to establish and run a business, but sometimes the toughest challenges can bring the greatest rewards. Caithness Chamber of Commerce is here to support businesses at every stage of their journey. We offer support and expert advice, access to funding, network building, and promotion and we will be your biggest cheerleader.

Find out more and apply for the Caithness Chamber Young Business and Young Enterprise Awards online here.

  • Young Business and Young Entrepeneur Awards
    Young Business and Young Entrepeneur Awards

Laura O’Kane, Operations and Communications Manager, Caithness Chamber of Commerce.

Caithness Bakeries have the recipe for success!  

From shortbread to yum-yums and the perfect softie roll – Caithness has a long-standing love affair with bakeries, and with two national award winners here in our county, who could blame us?

With the excitement and anticipation of our own annual Chamber entrepreneurship awards on our minds, I took the opportunity to speak with two of our Chamber business members who have recently achieved well-earned success at the Scottish Baker of the Year Awards.

In the middle of an extra busy dispatch of Christmas export orders, I was lucky to catch up on a conversation with third-time awarded Scottish Wholesale Baker of the Year Winners, Gary and Tracy Reid of Reids Bakery, internationally renowned for their delicious all-butter shortbread and crumbly oat biscuits and loved locally for their cakes, pastries, cream buns and bread.

Against big competition, winning Wholesale Baker of the Year, alongside their numerous bakery product awards is a huge accolade and credit to their business. Significantly, this award demonstrates not only an exemplary product, but is also praise for their business operation, level of customer service, ambition, and professionalism. Indeed, the judging process is in-depth, requiring a great deal of commitment. It considers many aspects of a business, involving interviews and product tastings by leading and highly regarded industry experts, so winning is no small feat.

  • Some of the Reids team at the Scottish Baker of the Year Awards 2023
    Some of the Reids team at the Scottish Baker of the Year Awards 2023

Gary and Tracey explained the positive impact the awards had had on their team, and keen to show the accolades are a celebration of the whole business, colleagues are invited along to the event to take part in and collect the awards. The team at Reid’s are rightly very proud of their achievements.

With their premium bakery products successfully exported across the world, Reid’s are certainly putting Caithness on the map, but locally, the business has received great support following the awards too. In fact, their Gold Award-winning Jammy Hearts, sold over 500 packets one week alone in just one of their local independent retailers.

Across the county, experiencing the cheery sunshine yellow décor, relaxed atmosphere and signature “too adorable to eat”, prize-winning Highland Coo fondants – it’s not hard to see why Annie’s Bakery, was awarded “Best Bakery Café in Scotland” in the Customer Choice category.

Since opening her family-run café with views over Gills, Annie’s Bakery has become a destination venue for both locals and visitors to Caithness, even enticing NC500 tourists to deviate on their way to John O’Groats. Baker Annie Body described the excitement the Customer Choice award had brought to her whole team, particularly the younger members of staff (most of whom are still in school), all were keen to encourage votes from customers and in return, her customers were delighted to get behind the café and eager to help secure a win. Bringing the trophy home, was the icing on the cake, but the relationships and interactions with customers and seeing their personal investment in her business was the real prize.

  • Annie Body of Annie’s Bakery with her adorable fondant cup characters.
    Annie Body of Annie’s Bakery with her adorable fondant cup characters.

Although very grateful for the support of the retailers which she supplied at the beginning of her business, making the brave decision to pivot away from wholesale has allowed Annie to adapt her recipes towards more boutique “special treat” items. Despite numerous requests, Annie keeps her cakes and bakes exclusively for sale in her own café so the experience is unique.

Of course, somewhat removed from the glittering ceremonies and press-worthy photos is the dedication, grit and determination to bring a successful product or service to market. The long hours, teamwork and sleepless nights which go into turning a business dream into reality are indeed remarkable in themselves. Awards are not the only marker of success, but certainly, they are signifiers of excellence and indeed reason to celebrate.

Our flourishing food and drinks industry in the North Highlands is certainly something we can all be very proud of. Huge congratulations to both Reid’s and Annie’s on their well-deserved successes, we look forward to seeing what’s in store for the future!

Got a good news story you’d like to share? Get in touch with the Chamber today!

E: info@caithnesschamber.com
T: 01847 890076