Each week, we ask small businesses key questions.
Here we speak to Kirsty Pryer, managing director at internet services firm Calico UK in Cromarty.
How and why did you start in business?
I’ve lived in Cromarty since the age of two and have always been a bit of a homebird, staying at home while studying at Inverness College and working part time at the Royal Hotel.
I loved working with the public and selling things, and as my course ended, in 1998, I looked for local employment.
I heard that Maggie and Paul Symonds, who owned Calico UK, were looking for someone and, while knowing little about the internet and nothing about Calico, I loved technology and there was an opportunity to learn on the job. It was perfect.
How did you get to where you are today?
In 2004, Maggie and Paul decided to retire and offered to sell the business to the staff. They made the process as easy as possible for us by helping us secure bank loans, business support and training.
Fourteen years on, fellow directors Campbell McCracken, Karen Mackay and I, plus Evelyn Wright, are still going strong as a team, providing domain name registrations, website and email hosting services.
Who helped you?
My mum’s been there through the good and the bad, and a lot of what I do is to make her proud. My sister, Kerry, and partner, Johnny, are also there for me for a chat or to help me unwind.
I’ve always tried to go the extra mile for our customers and, perhaps as a result, Calico is blessed with a core who have been with us from the beginning. They’ve more than repaid us with their loyalty and referrals.
I also love going to business networking events in the local area, such as those run by the Federation of Small Businesses and Highland Craic. Doing business is all about people and relationships.
What has been your biggest mistake?
Not taking the leap soon enough for some opportunities and missing out, and persevering when I should have given up on others.
What is your greatest achievement?
Getting on the property ladder at 25. Small affordable homes are in short supply in Cromarty and I was lucky that my landlord offered to sell me the house I was renting.
If you were in power in government, what would you change?
I’d force huge businesses like Google and Amazon to pay taxes that reflect their real trading positions.
Why should they pay almost nothing, while small businesses face real pressures?
I’d also like to see animal cruelty organisations have more power to bring charges against people who neglect and mistreat their animals. It’s wrong that these people get off so lightly.
What do you still hope to achieve?
I began volunteering as a Stem (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) ambassador about 18 months ago so that I could share my interest in technology with children in schools.
The idea is to encourage them to take computing subjects in the hope they will go into information technology careers or similar later.
It’s great fun and very rewarding work, and I feel that it’s really bearing fruit locally. I’d love to do more in future.
What do you do to relax?
In my spare time I attend lots of fitness classes. Over the past three years I’ve trained as an instructor.
What are you currently reading, listening to or glued to on the TV?
I’m reading Brother Odd, the third book in Dean Koontz’s Odd Thomas series. I love books with a horror, thriller or crime theme, and am a long-term subscriber to the Viz comic.
I also enjoy watching horror films with my friend, Katharine, and attending festivals and ceilidhs with the Cromarty Lighthouse Family.
What do you waste your money on?
Holidays – but they’re never a waste. My mum and I try to go somewhere warm, with plenty of walking routes nearby, twice a year.
How would your friends describe you?
Loyal and supportive, I hope, and good fun.
What would your enemies say about you?
I try to get on with everyone.
What do you drive and dream of driving?
I drive a wonderful Suzuki Jimny. It’s a proper little workhorse, coping beautifully with mud and puddles.