Shetland has a long and proud history of entrepreneurialism; the remote location, need for local knowledge and way of doing things has helped foster an enterprising and independent culture. For many local high school students, their first foray into the world of business is through the Young Enterprise scheme.
Young Enterprise, which was founded in the early 1960s, is a charitable body which aims to help young people develop skills and experience through enterprise. The Shetland YE scheme has been running for over 20 years and, following a restructure 2 years ago, the isles students receive exactly the same experience as those down south.
In Shetland, Young Enterprise companies are a common sight in both the Anderson and Brae high schools, with around 20 students involved each year. The participants are encouraged and supported to develop their business ideas, which can either be a profit-driven company or social enterprise, and are supported by business advisors, link teachers and the YE Shetland Board.
Business advisors give their time freely to help the teams develop business acumen and skill such as communication, negotiation and time-keeping. One of YE Shetland’s business advisors, Jonathan Williamson of Fjara Cafe, won the Business Advisor of the Year Award at the 2018 YE Awards.
With a heavy focus on ethics and responsible business practice, local YE companies have produced everything from clocks made from recycled newspapers to colouring-books and wristbands raising awareness of teenage suicide.
Innovation, teamwork and a proactive attitude are necessary for any idea to go from a concept on paper to a profitable business, and a bit of friendly competition is to be expected. Each year, a number of YE companies go head-to-head to produce the best business idea, with awards at the local and national levels for the best enterprise.
This year, the Anderson High School’s Shetland Gift Co, which produced a line of isles-themed cards and gifts, won the regional finals at a ceremony in the Shetland Museum and Archives. Having beat off stiff competition from rival local groups Emunio and Equipo, Shetland Gift Co went on to represent the isles at the national Festival of Enterprise 2018 in Glasgow, competing against YE businesses from all over the country.
As the business world evolves, so too does the YE scheme. Each team is judged on a written report discussing and reflecting on their journey, an interview with the judges, a presentation and- as of this year- their e-commerce and online sales ability (which replaces the more-traditional, but increasingly less relevant, trade stall).
Each year another group of your entrepreneurs leave school armed with a head-start on succeeding in the world of business; perfect training for Shetland’s innovative and fast-moving entrepreneurial sector. For young business people, there really isn’t a better environment to get started in than Shetland.