Harnessing Scotland's entrepreneurial spirit

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This week is Global Entrepreneurship Week, which sees over 10 million people in more than 170 countries connecting, learning from and inspiring each other to make a difference to society through enterprising thought and action. In a global context, Scotland’s reputation for fostering entrepreneurship is renowned, and we’re very fortunate to have an extensive and diverse network of support in Scotland that is driving this forward.

With 18-years of experience of working in enterprise and leadership development, I am currently focused on the delivery of Unlocking Ambition, a £4 million flagship entrepreneurial development fund created by the Scottish Government and delivered in partnership with the Royal Society of Edinburgh. We have worked with 40 highly ambitious entrepreneurs from across the country and spanning a multitude of sectors providing intensive, wrap-around business support and leadership development.

Since the programme began in March 2018, I have consistently been reminded that there is no support quite like peer support. Throughout Unlocking Ambition, we have seen many impactful connections made; from collaborations between the cohort companies to global masterclasses delivered by experts and introductions made to key industry contacts. We also engaged a masterclass speaker who then decided to personally invest in members of the cohort. Without a doubt, one of the most valuable and yet unquantifiable impacts of the programme has been the access and connection to other entrepreneurs.

Alison Loveday

The fact is, any entrepreneur at any stage can help build Scotland’s collective success by mentoring those behind them on the journey – they don’t have to wait until they’ve ‘made it’ themselves. If it takes a village to raise a child – it surely takes a cohesive, whole-system approach to help raise our nation’s enterprising success. Proactive, agile and productive partnerships must be in the very fabric of what we do in Scotland to inspire future generations into entrepreneurship as a viable career path.

It is fascinating to watch as the investment of time and experience from those more experienced proves just as valuable as direct financial investment into burgeoning companies, perhaps arguably more so. To me, real success is when we start to see those receiving business support quickly turn and start to reinvest into other entrepreneurs earlier on the journey, because this is how we all rise – by giving back whilst still on the journey ourselves.

Recently, working closely with Young Enterprise Scotland, we launched the Unlocking Young Ambition pilot, which offers up to 40 college students the opportunity to be personally mentored by Unlocking Ambition entrepreneurs and gain hands-on insight into what it takes to build a business. The response to this initiative has been excellent as the Unlocking Ambition companies enthusiastically do their bit to support the next generation and pay it forward. This is encouraging at a systemic level as it demonstrates public, private and third sector organisations pulling together to ensure that people are emerging from our education system with confidence that they can become leaders - tomorrow’s employers, not only tomorrow’s employees.

The power required to perpetuate a circular entrepreneurial economy lies in genuine collaboration. Unlocking Ambition is a strong example of this, with key partners including the Globalscot Network, Scottish EDGE, Entrepreneurial Scotland, Young Enterprise Scotland, First Port for Business, Cultural Enterprise Office, Social Investment Scotland, the Scottish Investment Bank and many more coming together; bringing their best to create something that will have a legacy effect on generations to come.

Only by working earnestly together will we truly unlock the full potential of our nation’s enduring entrepreneurial spirit.

Alison Loveday, Programme Manager, Unlocking Ambition/Scottish Enterprise