A social enterprise project which began during lockdown as a lifeline for island businesses has been awarded a start-up grant.
Isle20.com launched in April as a business directory for island communities with tourism hugely impacted by coronavirus.
In May, an online shopping platform was added, and the site has gone from strength to strength, with half a million page views, and over £25,000 being generated for the businesses selling on the platform in the first few months of trading.
Founder Rhoda Meek said: “Early on it became clear that more support was needed for small businesses venturing online. As time has gone on, sales on isle20 have shown that people across the country and the world are interested in island products.
“There’s a real opportunity here to showcase the skills and talents in our islands far and wide. I started thinking about how isle20 could sell products all year round – not just during the tourist season – and that gave me the idea for Isle Develop CIC.”
Isle Develop CIC has been set up as a community interest company, meaning that all profits will go back into supporting and developing small businesses on the islands.
The social enterprise will utilise profits from projects such as isle20.com and another pilot project, isleEats.com, to invest in brand new start-up ideas on the islands.
Rhoda, who is based on Tiree, explained: “We want Isle Develop CIC to function as an incubator for new ideas. Somewhere that gives space and time, as well as financial support, to experiment and grow an idea from a seed.
“We’re uniquely placed to understand the challenges faced by folks trying to get ideas off the grounds in the islands, and we’re really excited to see what we can help develop.”
Although in the early stages, the idea has proven popular in the community, and has recently been backed by Firstport’s Social Entrepreneurs Fund, provided by the Scottish Government.
With this funding, 500 businesses listed, and over one and a half thousand products for sale, Isle Develop CIC is looking forward to a busy Christmas shopping period, whilst developing plans to keep supporting local businesses through the period and towards a stronger 2021.
Rhoda added: “What makes me so excited about the future of Isle Develop CIC is the potential to make our island economies more resilient and more able to trade year round, regardless of the season. It’s been so exciting to watch businesses pull together and innovate through all of this! I can’t wait to see where we go from here.”
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