THE ROTARY Club of Oldmeldrum welcomed Keith Hewitt, Regional Manager for the Prince’s Scottish Youth Business Trust, as guest speaker at the club’s most recent meeting.
The trust, which was launched in 1989 by Prince Charles, provides finance and professional support to young people in Scotland to help them set up and run their own businesses.
Keith, who covers an area from Laurencekirk in the south to Forres in the west, explained that a major part of his role was to help young entrepreneurs bring their business ideas to fruition. “We offer market test grants of £250 to help young people find out if their business is likely to succeed”, he said. “After that, we work with them to create business plans.”
To access further finance, applicants have to appear in front of a ‘Dragon’s Den’ style panel of local business people. Keith noted that while most applicants found this ‘nerve-wracking’, the young people who got to that stage were generally very well-prepared, with most emerging from the panel successfully.
Quite aside from the practice the panel interview gave in delivering a business ‘pitch’ to strangers, Keith remarked on the extraordinary sense of responsibility shown by nearly all of the young people the Trust had helped. “In 95% of cases, we get the money we lend back again”, he said. However, for nearly all of the applicants, the access to a network of business support, advice and training was “as much if not more important than the financial support on offer.”
The best part of his role, Keith said, was seeing the many success stories that emerged. “It’s really uplifting to see someone who thought no-one believed in them going on to make it”, he said. “Seeing young people achieve their ambitions, along with the boost they get when they realise ‘I’m actually doing this!’, is probably the most gratifying part of my job.”