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Chamber’s 46th Annual Dinner, Bigger and better than ever!

Caithness Chamber of Commerce celebrated another successful year for business in the North Highlands at its 46th Annual Dinner, held on 21st September 2018 at the Norseman Hotel, Wick.

With around 200 businesses in attendance, the Annual Dinner celebrated the achievements of businesses old and new in the North Highlands, and once again showcased the opportunities the region has to offer.

After a warm welcome from the Chamber’s Chairman, Stephen Sutherland, and an opening speech from Chamber Patron Rt. Hon The Viscount Thurso, guests were treated to a speech from Cathy Craig, Commercial & Memberships Director of Entrepreneurial Scotland.

Cathy Craig spoke passionately about entrepreneurialism in Scotland and shared how her grandmother sparked her own interest in business. She encouraged individuals and pre-existing businesses to continue the hard work with their projects as entrepreneurialism can come from unlikely sources. Cathy emphasised how the path of an entrepreneur should not be shied away from, that young people and businesses should be encouraged to grow and learn as they develop.

Later in the evening, Andy Cameron MBE regaled guests with hilarious anecdotes about his life and experiences as an entertainer.

Following the dinner, the Chamber presented the award for Most Promising New Business 2018 to Ice and Fire Distillery.

Stephen Sutherland, Chair of the Chamber, said: “This year’s entrants to the New Business Award showed great potential and it is always heartening to see so much new talent coming through in the local business community. With so many great products and services on offer, we look forward to seeing how these businesses develop over this coming year and encourage those that weren’t the lucky winners this time around, to think about applying for next year’s award.

“Out of a strong field of entrants, Ice and Fire particularly stood out to the Board, with so many developments in a short space of time and a strong set of future plans for investment in the business. We were delighted to recognise them as this year’s Most Promising New Business.”

Launched earlier this year by local entrepreneur Jacqueline Black and her family, Ice and Fire Distillery has already seen significant success with its inaugural gin products – Caithness Gin and Crofter’s Tears.

The Ice and Fire team have a strong connection to the local area, representing generations of crofters and gamekeepers, and took the bold step to launch this new enterprise on recognising the need for their crofts to diversify in order to survive.

Starting with small copper stills to aid in recipe development, the team quickly moved into small-scale production, and their efforts have already paid off, with demand for their gin exceeding all expectations. The first full-size bottles are expected to be on the market in October, and the team already has ambitious plans to expand into rum and vodka production.

Trudy Morris, Chief Executive of Caithness Chamber of Commerce, said: “The business community of the North Highlands has once again proven its resilience and ambition in the face of continuing political and economic uncertainty. This year has given us much to celebrate – from ambitious new businesses taking their first steps to existing businesses growing and diversifying into new markets.

“Not only that, we have seen some significant opportunities for the area move forward over the past year, with work progressing on the Beatrice Offshore Wind Farm, as well as the announcement of the UK’s first vertical launch site in Sutherland.

“Our annual dinner has always aimed to celebrate the business community of the North Highlands, and 2018 has been a great year for the region. We look forward to seeing local businesses continuing to grow and thrive, and we hope to have much more to celebrate at next year’s dinner.”