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Elevator focused on giving region’s start-ups best chance of success

Elevator chief executive Gary McEwan.
Elevator chief executive Gary McEwan.

Elevator is Scotland’s leading private-sector organisation dedicated to supporting the entrepreneurs, inventors, disruptors, game-changers and business leaders of today and tomorrow.

It delivers Business Gateway support and entrepreneurial expertise from offices and centres for entrepreneurship at locations including Aberdeen, Peterhead and Fraserburgh.

Gary McEwan, the Granite City-based organisation’s chief executive, said recent years had been tough for businesses.

But if Scotland’s economy is to flourish, the country must foster a dynamic start-up culture, he said, adding: “It’s extremely encouraging to see that, despite the tough operating conditions, the appetite in Scotland for starting a business has not been hindered, and the entrepreneurial drive continues to prosper. We need to continue to advocate for start-ups and support them on their journey.

“Entrepreneurs are born in every part of our society, and our goal must be to find, nurture and support these individuals to maximise their potential.

“At Elevator, our entrepreneurial ethos is central to our success, and we pride ourselves in supporting people from that inspirational moment an idea sparks to the task of growing and scaling their business.”

Rallying cry

In March the Scottish Government published its national strategy for economic transformation in which Kate Forbes, the cabinet secretary for finance and the economy, recognised Scotland’s “extraordinary” economic potential.

Mr McEwan said: “But she also warned the next decade would be key, and a time when we must lead on our opportunities or risk lagging behind other successful economies.

“The rallying cry has been heard and Elevator is in the perfect position to deliver.

Elevator CEO Gary McEwan, speaking at a P&J Morning Briefing event.

“One of the stand-out markers in the government’s 10-year plan relates very closely to Elevator’s own vision to make Scotland an inclusive, sustainable, and inspiring place to do business. To do this, one of the key policy programmes is to create a culture that supports entrepreneurship.

“From technology to tourism, food and drink to financial services, we work to help Scottish businesses of all sizes to start, innovate and grow – all through our unique entrepreneurial approach.

“But our model of economic development is equally pioneering. We have a social enterprise ethos, with an entrepreneurial mindset and culture – coupled with a willingness to collaborate with other providers.”

Entrepreneurs are born in every part of our society, and our goal must be to find, nurture and support these individuals to maximise their potential.”

Gary McEwan, chief executive, Elevator.

Independent research has found Elevator created 940 net additional jobs and £14 million net additional wages across Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire between 2018 and 2021.

Mr McEwan said: “As a social enterprise, our model has allowed us to re-invest £1.06m over the last six years, generating an incredible £34.6m of net additional GVA (gross value added) in the region. Key to this success is the entrepreneurial culture instilled in everything we do.

“We are Scotland’s largest provider of Business Gateway services, operating across Aberdeen city and shire, Lanarkshire and Tayside – supporting 2,850 new businesses each year. We are also Scotland’s largest provider of business accelerators offering bespoke support through a variety of programmes, initiatives and partnerships.

Commercial director Andy Campbell is responsible for the overall strategic direction and management of accelerator programmes at Elevator.

“Elevator takes great pride in celebrating entrepreneurial talent from across Scotland. This year marked the return of our Elevator Awards, celebrating business success, entrepreneurial excellence and community-driven initiatives, following an enforced two-year absence due to Covid-19.

“Each organisation involved showed great resilience, determination and drive over the last two challenging years – which merits significant recognition. The diversity and high-quality of entrants this year showcased the dynamic start-up culture that is at the very core of the vibrant national economy which Scotland aims to be.”

l-r Entrepreneur and business mentor Brian Williamson, lifetime achievement award winner Rob Edwards and host host Mark Durden-Smith at this year’s Elevator Awards.

He added: “Supporting Elevator’s commitment to giving back to the communities, the Elevator Awards proved the perfect platform to formally launch the Elevator Foundation.

“Establishing a greater commitment to our young people and their futures, the Elevator Foundation is a fully-registered charity dedicated to providing grant funding, mentoring and business support for the advancement of Scotland’s young entrepreneurs aged 18-30.”

Creating an entrepreneurial ecosystem

Elevator started this year in a strong position after being awarded £2.8m through the UK Community Renewal Fund to launch its entrepreneurial ecosystem (E3) model.

With this UK Government funding, seven hubs have been established throughout Scotland to provide a network of enterprise support services to drive skills development, increase business start-up rates and deliver job-creation opportunities.

These allow communities needing pre-start or early-stage business help to connect with experts within a national ecosystem.

Results over the past six months have been impressive. In the north-east alone – at Huntly and Aboyne – E3 has reached 207 individuals, 125 businesses and 22 organisations.

Other achievements include seven firms taking a new product to market, while 28 businesses have launched a new innovation internally.

Elevator strengthening communities director Rachel Ross said: “E3 is a completely unique, proactive business support methodology that takes a local-for-local approach, while providing a nationally-networked backbone of extensive business knowledge.

“E3 reaches out and delivers the tools for communities to take ownership of their growth and prosperity journey. It is business support that happens by them, not to them – and as such greater gains and long-lasting results are achieved.”

Elevator’s ultimate aim is to put people climb the steps to business success.

Elevator believes in supporting entrepreneurs at every step of their journey, including nurturing the leaders of the future.

Over the past year, it has continued to grow its partnership with Young Enterprise Scotland and worked with more than 1,000 pupils across 15 schools in Aberdeenshire – guiding 12 support staff in the process.

Boozy Events duo follow up lockdown success with Elevator award

Business Gateway Aberdeen City and Shire has started to see a shift in numbers back to pre-Covid-19 levels, with more than 2,600 businesses supported in the year to March.

Kirstie McLaughlin, operations manager for Business Gateway in the area, said she and her team had also delivered 245 events, including webinars, workshops and networking sessions.