I am still buzzing from last Friday’s #MakingItHappen event hosted by Elevator UK at the AECC in Aberdeen last Friday.
I am not native to Scotland but I am in love with this country – it’s hard to pick what makes me admire and love it so much, be that the beautiful outdoors, the treasure trove of highest quality food and drink, fascinating cultural history or an extremely enviable list of brilliant minds that have had irreversible impact on the world we live in. However, sometimes I can’t help but wonder if the Scots take it for granted that it’s Ayrshire-born Sir Alexander Fleming invented Penicillin and Brechin-born Sir Robert Alexander Watson invented the RADAR and dozens of other brilliant men and women from Scotland gave us so many innovations, including the television, malaria treatment, telephone, tarmac, bicycle, modern tyre, as well as the flushing toilet, colour photography, Harry Potter, microwave and so much more! And who knows, maybe some of the attendees of the #MakingItHappen event last Friday will go down in history for finding the cure for Alzheimer’s or something you or I cannot even begin to fathom today.
Along with budding entrepreneurs, business consultants and start up owners, a few hundred school pupils, college and university students were in attendance and that was probably the second most exciting thing to witness after the guest speakers themselves. It was great to see that the schools, colleges and universities recognised the importance of this event to the young, imaginative, impressionable, ready to conquer the world 15- to 20-year olds. Many of them came with no expectations, let alone ideas for launching a product or starting a business, but judging by the chatter and feedback at the end of the event, I would venture a guess that at least one in ten left the even thinking ‘yes, I can and I will’.
So what was so exciting about #MakingItHappen? The range of young, brave, strong yet humble individuals who were not there to pass on their wisdom, but rather make an argument that no matter what walk of life you come from, no matter how negative the nay-sayers may be and no matter how scary tomorrow might look, it’s never too early or too late to have faith in yourself. Blood and sweat, disappointment, ups and downs, rejection, true friends, unexpected supporters– all of that is part of a recipe for turning your idea into a business; but never a cookie cutter.
The guest speakers represented such different businesses - from Bagels and Stuff in Aberdeen, to Glasgow (and London) based Christian Macleod, Edinburgh based Flavourly and Trtl Pillow, Pick Protection and MadeBrave in Glasgow. Their common denominator is their passionate and determined owners, eager to see their businesses make a difference, evolve, fill the gap in the market, succeed and keep growing.
It was inspiring to hear how these young entrepreneurs encourage others to seize the day, look for mentors and not be afraid to ask for help – there was a genuine sense of collaboration which was not just lip service or a trend. I believe that as long as young men and women have the enthusiasm to get up in the morning and work on #MakingItHappen, Scotland’s entrepreneurial track record will keep going as strong as ever.
Don’t get me wrong, I admit that the oil price drags our spirits down, my own including from time to time, but that’s why #MakingItHappen was especially important for Aberdeen – to remind us that there is a vast number of highly determined, creative and brave individuals ready to invent and reinvent themselves and inspire everyone around them. And thankfully, there are organisations like the Princes’ Trust, Scottish Enterprise, Elevator UK and many others ready to offer support in the form of grants, mentorship, strategic advice, collaboration and much more.