As a youngster Steve Innes always had ambitions of owning his own music shop.
His first job was working in Aberdeen’s Bruce Millers as manager of the organ department.
But it was a chance phone call that led him towards a successful career in the motor trade. Something he himself admits he never expected.
Now 40 years later his business I & K Motors is thriving and the 63-year-old has become a charity stalwart in the community.
The dad-of-two has helped to raise more than £1 million for charities across the north-east.
From selling organs to cars
Steve moved to Inverurie with his parents from his birthplace of Wick at the age of 12-years-old.
Having completed his school years at Inverurie Academy he ended up working as the manager of the organ department in Bruce Millers music shop.
But his career path took a different turn after attending a work event.
Steve, who is married to Alison, said: “In 1980 Henlys in Great Western Road were launching a new car the Talbot Solara and the general manager asked if we could provide someone to demonstrate organs in the showroom at their cheese and wine launch.
“I took six organs in a Luton van and low and behold I sold more organs that night than they sold cars.
“Consequently the general manager called me the next day and asked if I could go and see him and offered me a job.”
That was the beginning of Steve’s motor trade career and after a year at Henly’s he took over the role of sales manager at a local Opel franchise where he stayed for two years.
Beginning of I & K Motors
But it was in 1983 Steve and his former brother-in-law Jim King opened I & K Motors in Old Rayne.
Steve said: “We bought a tiny wee shed out in Old Rayne that could accommodate 10 cars.
“We didn’t have two bob to rub together.
“Jim did the mechanical stuff and I did the buying and selling.
“I thought it was a means to an end to ultimately do my music thing. 40 years on I’m still doing it.”
Business continued to grow and in 1987 the pair expanded to purpose built premises in Inverurie’s Burghmuir Way with workshops and space for up to 125 cars.
In 1993, Steve bought Jim out of the business after they decided to go separate ways but maintained the name as it was “well established”.
Then, 13 years later, he bought a site and built premises in Highclere, a three acre site, which gave him space for 300 cars and a sales area.
I & K Motors growing
Steve, an associate director with Huntly Football Club, said: “I retained Burghmuir, which was workshops, but I bought a site and built premises in Highclere which gave me accommodation for 300 cars.
“We expanded from there and our best weekend was one May Day and when we sold 48 cars.”
Business continued to flourish with the I & K Motors headcount growing all the time.
But then Covid hit and Steve was approached by a friend about buying his land at Highclere in 2021.
He said: “During Covid a chap who was a good friend and neighbour of mine at Highclere expressed an interest in buying the site from me.
“By this time motoring had changed radically with online sales and we didn’t need to sit with 300 cars in stock anymore.
“With the uncertainty of Covid and me rapidly approaching a 60th birthday I thought there was an option to downsize completely and go back to the site at Burghmuir.
“By this time I’d developed half of the site and built premises for Screwfix.
“It was a smaller site than I had left but much more manageable.”
Family orientated business
Steve is keen to stress that I & K Motors is run a family business and is joined by his daughter Danielle Innes who works as a sales and administration assistant.
He said: “It’s run as a family business. Decisions are taken in house in Inverurie. Not by a head office miles away.
“My daughter Danielle has worked for me for nine years and my brother Bill Innes previously worked with me for 25 years.
“Over the years at one point staff included three fathers and son, father and daughter, husband and wife and two brothers.”
Steve still has two long-serving employees, Brian Poppe and Stuart Wiseman, who have both worked for him for more than 30 years.
Last year Steve appointed Andy Smith as director in a bid to help with the running of the business.
£1m charity boost
Steve has been heavily involved in charity fundraising and spent some time as a trustee of AFC community trust.
He said: “Forty years ago I joined Round Table in Inverurie that’s where I got the bug.
“I haven’t kept a running total but in the past 40 years I’ve probably raised or helped to raise more than £1 million for numerous charities and good causes.
“£30,000 was our target to reach in our 30th year and we actually raised £60,000 for Clan.
“£40,000 was my target for CHAS in my 4oth year and we raised £133,000.
“CHAS was very dear to my heart as a very good friend lost a baby aged just two and he got great respite from CHAS.
“I always promised him pre-Covid I’d do something major for CHAS.”
“I only organise these fundraising initiatives but it’s people’s generosity that makes it successful. I’m completely overwhelmed with this years total.
“Somebody asked me why I do it and the answer is candid – because I can.”
Further fundraising planned
Looking forward to 2024 Steve already has a number of events lined up including a Burns Supper next month and music event B in the Mart which will see eight local bands perform at Thainstone Exchange in March.
He said: “I’m exhausted after this year but I have plans afoot for 2024 on a smaller scale.
“I tend to raise funds for UCAN and Breast Cancer Now.
“I’m not ready to hang up my boots quite yet. I’ll be taking things a little easier with Andy at the helm but I’ll always keep active in the community. Whether that be business or charity work like what I’ve done the past 40 years.”