New competition for entrepreneurial youths launched

The North Highland Regeneration Fund (NHRF) and North Highland College (NHC) are delighted to announce the launch of the iStart Challenge, a competition designed to encourage entrepreneurial spirit amongst young people in the area.

The competition, which is aimed at young people aged 16-24 living in Caithness and North Sutherland, invites enterprising individuals or teams to come up with a great business idea to be in with a chance of winning a cash prize and support to develop their business.

All applicants initially have to do is submit a form answering a few simple questions about their business idea. A panel of expert judges will then select the best applications to go forward to the next stage, inviting the shortlisted applicants to pitch their idea to the panel at the NHRF AGM on 2nd November at the Pentland Hotel in Thurso.

The winners will then be invited to an awards ceremony in early December, where they will hear a motivational speech from Ashleigh Porter-Exley, winner of the Young Apprentice, before being presented with their prizes.

The North Highland Regeneration Fund is a company limited by guarantee set up by the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) as part of its input to economic development in the area.  The NDA has a remit to help maintain dynamic, sustainable local economies for communities living near their sites and has committed £1.9m to the loan Fund since its inception and there is over £500k currently available.

John Thurso, NHRF Chairman, said: “The North Highland Regeneration Fund has long worked to support and encourage entrepreneurial spirit amongst young people in the area, and we are delighted to be involved in this exciting initiative as the main sponsor.

In our previous work with young entrepreneurs, we have always been impressed with the level of innovation, drive and commitment shown by young people in the area, and we expect that the entries to this competition will be similarly impressive.

North Highland Regeneration Fund is about more than providing funding; it’s about providing support to start-ups and existing businesses to help them grow.  Our support for this initiative is another example of the broader support the Fund has to offer to the local business community and we hope it will be catalyst for these young people to take their first steps into business.”

The College’s Business and Rural Studies section, while offering bespoke courses for students wishing to gain qualification for the business and land-based sectors, also works closely with other sections in the North Highland College to develop business, IT, entrepreneurial, core and softer skills in their students to help prepare them for future employment within their chosen industry.

Jane MacIntosh, of the Business and Rural Studies section at North Highland College, presently leads the promotion and development of enterprise and employability type events and activities for students across the College.  Jane has organised events and presentations from employers with great success and student numbers participating in these sessions has grown.  Throughout the College a number of staff, across a range of study areas, are active in promoting, supporting and engaging students in enterprise challenges and in working on enterprise projects with local communities, for which successful students achieve certification.  The iStart Challenge now provides an opportunity to include individuals from schools and the local community as well as college students in presenting and developing entrepreneurial ideas.

Jane MacIntosh said: “I am delighted to be involved in the iStart Challenge and see this as something which we here in the Caithness and North Sutherland area can do to contribute to the Government’s current initiative of ‘Developing Scotland’s Young Workforce’.  The iStart Challenge is aimed at encouraging and giving opportunity to young people from schools, colleges and from our local community to put forward ideas they may have for business start-ups and business development ventures. 

I believe that in our young people, there are many talented individuals with great entrepreneurial ideas and enthusiasm and hope that this iStart Challenge will give them the opportunity and confidence to promote their visions.

I hope that in participating in this challenge, individuals will gain confidence, develop skills and feel empowered to promote their entrepreneurial ideas and visions. I feel it is important that our young people contribute to and drive forward the development of our community because after all, these are the individuals who will be our business owners, employers and workforce of the future”

To enter the competition, simply visit http://www.nhrf.co.uk/Publications/istart-challenge to download the application form, fill it out and send it back, either by email to nhci-startchallenge@uhi.ac.uk or by post to:

iStart Challenge
c/o Jane MacIntosh
North Highland College
Ormlie Road
Thurso
KW14 7EE