Cothrom – the Gaelic word for "opportunity." An appropriate name, then, for the Community and Development organisation based on South Uist.
To further the opportunities, Cothrom launched Enterprise On The Edge, a programme funded by RBS Inspiring Youth Enterprise to help young people in the Outer Hebrides turn their enterprise dreams into realities. In turn, Enterprise On The Edge is launching the Inspiring New Business competition, with the deadline set for Thursday, March 26th at 5pm.
Thomas Fisher, who leads the Community Economic Development team at Cothrom, explains the purpose of the competition is to reach young people, from the ages of 16 and 30, who are based in the Hebrides and inspire them to develop their business and social enterprise ideas.
The competition has been deliberately designed to help the young people grow their ideas, from the first seed of inspiration, to the point where they are ready to submit an application to get their business up and running.
Although the competition is designed as a way of accessing young people with ideas, Thomas says that young people are encouraged to seek support in developing their business idea for the competition. Enterprise On The Edge itself, and agencies like Prince's Trust Youth Business Scotland, Business Gateway, FirstPort for social enterprise and Include-Us for younger entrepreneurs, can all help to develop their plans. Engaging with such agencies will also help them explore opportunities for grants or loans to set up in business.
Thomas stresses the importance of encouraging the young people to run with their business ideas. "That is so important," he explains. "Passion and vision are key qualities for entries in the competition. Enterprise On The Edge provides coaching, but this is very much to explore the young person's aspirations and visions for the future, running with the energy of the young person and supporting them."
The four prizes on offer consist of one £500 and three of £250. Judges will be asked to allocate one prize for a person under 21 and one for the Best Social Enterprise Idea. The young person can then use their prize money to invest in their business. "The money will act as an incentive to develop their idea," Thomas relates. "Once they have done that, they can be referred on to other agencies which can invest in them.
“But these young people are shrewd - for example, they may have large up-front costs for their business, but their money-saving approaches can sometimes half those costs. I am just so impressed with the young people - willing to put so much energy, sometimes even their own savings, into their ideas."
The award ceremony will take place in the middle of April. Thomas says: "This event in Uist will celebrate the young people involved in the project, but will also be integrated into an event to promote the value of mentoring and coaching within the community. By linking the enterprise and coaching aspects, we will celebrate the young people's achievements and highlight the entrepreneurial spirit of the islands."
More opportunities will be available in the future for young women who wish to further their business ideas. Thomas explains: "We are exploring the opportunity of setting up a group or network. The Uist community organizes an International Women's Day event every year. This year, it will take place on the 7th of March in Daliburgh and will have sessions on Women In Enterprise. If participants would like to join in an informal network of Women In Enterprise, Enterprise On The Edge will support that."