Enterprise Projects Going From Strength to Strength

Posted: 07 July 2010, in Sector News

By Stornoway Gazette

SOCIAL enterprises in the Isle of Harris are going from strength to strength, delivering community and environmental benefits for residents.

Supported by Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) a number of social enterprises are pursuing ambitious growth plans which are showing encouraging progress.

HIE’s Innse Gall team has supported improvements at the Isle of Harris Golf Course in Scarista helping it to become a key tourist destination and it is now self sufficient in terms of income.

Clachan Stores, at Leverburgh on Harris has been trading as a social enterprise for 30 years. HIE has provided assistance towards an extension project to cope with demand from residents and visitors to the area as they are seeing weekly sales at the shop and tea room increase up to 25 per cent compared to last year. 

Bill Lawson, chairman of Co Chomunn na Hearadh who runs the shop, said: “We are certainly seeing more visitors, and particularly camper vans, which have had a significant effect on sales in our shop. Since the introduction of the Road Equivalent Tariff we are experiencing a very busy year so far.”

The Seallam! Visitor Centre in Northton, Harris is another social enterprise experiencing higher visitor numbers during the past year. The centre is home to the Cò Leis Thu? Genealogy Service which is based on the work of genealogist Bill Lawson who, 10 years ago, donated his lifetime research to the trust. 

HIE is supporting Seallam!’s website design project which will include an integrated pay-to-view genealogical database in order that it can be preserved permanently and be made available to the growing number of people both locally and internationally with a passionate interest for family and social history. 

Jane Macintosh, Head of Communities at HIE said: “We have long been an advocate of community development, and social enterprises are absolutely natural for remote areas and essential for fragile areas such as Harris. We have seen real benefits in this area which have provided significant community and environmental benefits as well as jobs to the Outer Hebrides.”

HIE’s ‘account management’ approach is designed to ensure that social enterprises can fully access their expertise and contacts. HIE is working with locally significant community businesses to help them realise their ambitions, creating development plans and in some areas appointing a member of staff as a dedicated resource to work alongside the community.

Jane continued: “Through working with our partner agencies we have had closer working relationships with social enterprises in our region. The development plans are designed to maximise opportunities for each client’s ambitions and capacity with many achieving success. Each business is different and we can offer help in many ways, including advice on opportunities for growth, training, and access to consultancy, as well as financial support.”

For further information about how HIE can help social enterprises in the Outer Hebrides, contact the Stornoway office on 01851 703703 or the Benbecula office on 01870 604900