2023 UHI Business Competition open for entries

ASPIRING entrepreneurs are invited to apply to the 2023 UHI Business Competition which has £8,000 in prize money up for grabs.

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The UHI Business Competition has opened many doors for 2022 winner Ciara Bow, founder of Gledfield Distillery

The competition is now open for entries from anyone over 16 living in the Highlands and Islands, Moray, Argyll and Perthshire, as well as all students studying across the UHI partnership.

Now in its 17th year, the competition enables people with enterprising ideas to take their first steps on the road to starting their own business. All finalists receive feedback and support from some of the region’s top entrepreneurs and business advisors.

The competition has attracted a total of 1,649 entries since its inception in 2006. The prize money total will pass the £100,000 milestone when the 2023 winners are presented with their awards in May.

The top prize in the 2022 competition went to Ciara Bow (23), founder of Gledfield Distillery, who impressed the judges with her passion to bring craft distilling back to Sutherland with her family’s age-old botanical spirit recipe. Ciara was inspired by her great, great grandmother – one of Ardgay’s last illicit distillers in the 1800s. Ciara won £1,000 and a combined legal and accountancy package, sponsored by Harper Macleod LLP and Johnston Carmichael. She also won £500 for the Best Presentation Award.

Ciara said: “Winning this competition was a huge milestone for me. It gave me confirmation that my wee dream might someday become a reality, because someone else – the competition judges – believed in me and my idea. I entered the competition looking for feedback, never in my wildest dreams was winning the competition a consideration, but it just goes to show that anyone with an idea can turn it into a success!

“Since winning the competition, so many doors have opened, networking opportunities, business development opportunities, offers of support and encouragement. It has brought my idea to life, and I have gone a long way in taking strides to achieving my goals. My business, Gledfield Distillery is in the exciting stage of finalising recipe development, and I’m really looking forward to sharing the results.”

Professor Vicky Johnson, Director of the Centre for Living Sustainability, said: “Our communities need talented people who are willing to apply their ambition and imagination to develop their commercial ventures, particularly as we continue to recover from the pandemic and face the financial pressures of the cost-of-living crisis. The UHI partnership has a key role to play in encouraging and enabling environmentally and socially sound entrepreneurship. The purpose of our business competition is to foster an innovative and resourceful mindset that enables people to achieve their potential and realise their ideas. This competition changes people’s lives by providing them with the confidence and support to start their own businesses.”

Once again there will be special cash prizes for the best engineering ideas, with these awards sponsored by the Engineers in Business Fellowship, a charity that promotes the importance and value of business education for engineers.

The UHI Business Competition is organised by strategic partners CREATE, UHI and UHI Inverness, with additional funding and support from The Apprentice Store, Engineers in Business Fellowship, Harper Macleod LLP, Johnston Carmichael, the Northern Innovation Hub and Whyte and Mackay.

Apply online by noon on 18 April 2023. Entries will be shortlisted to 15 and finalists will be invited to meet the competition judges to discuss their ideas further on finals day on Wednesday, 24 May.