A growing number of under 30s have been turning to Fraserburgh Enterprise Hub (FEH) for support in launching their own businesses.
Manager Pamela Neri said it was likely the knock-on effect of a slowdown in the North Sea oil and gas industry, and the necessity of self-employment due to redundancies and few job vacancies.
Supporting local regeneration efforts, the project was launched by Aberdeen-based social enterprise Elevator in 2018.
The North Aberdeenshire Leader programme – a funding initiative designed to support rural economic growth – awarded £149,549 of EU and Scottish Government cash to transform a council chamber and former police station into FEH’s home on Saltoun Square.
Aberdeenshire Council initially chipped in £101,000 as part of its wider investment in the regeneration of Fraserburgh.
Further Leader programme funding, worth £16,000, and follow-on financial support from the local authority eventually turned what had become a two-year initiative into a three-and-a-half-year project.
The centre offers business advice, referrals, free desk space and computers. According to Elevator, it is an invaluable “one-stop-shop” for access to bespoke and mainstream business support for new and growing businesses in the town and surrounding area.
FEH’s small team offers one-to-one support covering a wide range of inquires, using its knowledge and expertise to help people access help from other organisations across the north-east.
In addition to a prominent base in the Faithlie Centre, FEH works with third parties including North East Scotland College to host small and large-scale events.
Ms Neri said the project had helped nearly 40 new business start-ups to date, despite some disruption to normal service during the Covid-19 lockdowns of 2020 and early 2021.
Nearly 200 people or businesses have used its services in total. The start-ups receiving help from the centre’s team cover retail, service, trade, professional and creative enterprises.
‘50% of the inquiries we get have come from under 30s’
Ms Neri said: “The majority of our businesses are focused on providing good services or products.
“What I’m seeing here are businesses focusing on identifying needs and opportunities, and looking to fill these with a quality service or product experience.”
She added: “Since last April, one-third of new starts have involved people aged under 30. Since September, 50% of the inquiries we get have come from under 30s.”
The facility is helping to overcome barriers to entrepreneurship in a town that has historically been dependent on the fishing industry.
“It really has been a phenomenal success,” Ms Neri said, adding: “It’s been good for the town and good for the local economy.”
She said it was also supporting growing demand for local goods and services, with Fraserburgh reflecting a UK-wide trend that has emerged during the Covid-19 pandemic.
The facility has, according to Ms Neri, become an “incredible catalyst” for unlocking entrepreneurial drive within the community.
For some people it is helping to create the safety net of a second income during uncertain economic times, she said.
And for most it is providing an opportunity for them to “connect with people who can help them in practical ways and talk to them about what their plans are,” Ms Neri said, adding: “There may be multiple agencies that can help them.”
She said the success of the facility to date suggested it could be used as a prototype for similar projects elsewhere.
“We’re particularly interested in continuing to help young people, and establish even more business opportunities to promote economic growth and job creation.”
‘High level of entrepreneurial ambition’
FEH has been forced to close temporarily for spells during the pandemic, but its staff have remained busy meeting clients virtually using video calling systems Zoom, Skype and Facetime as an alternative.
Elevator, which works throughout Scotland to help facilitate the start-up, acceleration and growth of businesses, launched FEH after identifying “a high level of entrepreneurial ambition and innovation potential within the Fraserburgh community”.