Ahead of The Scotsman's Inspiring Growth conference we hear about Scotland's SMEs and their potential for growth
How many small and medium-sized enterprises are there in Scotland? You might be surprised by the answer- there are no fewer than 350,000SMEs, providing an estimated 1.2 million jobs. So how do we identify which of these businesses have real potential for growth? It's tough to pick winners- and there will always be losers. SMEs face major challenges in getting off the ground and then growing, or scaling up as it is often called. Not all of them make it.
One of the major challenges is funding. Where is the money going to come from to take a business onto the next level? What are the alternatives available? Is it time to look much more seriously at alternative finance, especially crowdfunding? Many of Scotland's fastest-growing businesses have used crowdfunding to grow, including Brewdog, the self-styled punk brewer. But how many businesses understand the options open to them? Even within the umbrella we call crowdfunding, there are opportunities to finance your business growth through both debt and equity.
The Scotsman Conferences will turn the spotlight on funding - and the broader challenges facing SMEs seeking to grow- at a major conference in Edinburgh on March 22nd. It is called Inspiring Growth: Alternatives to Take Your Business to the Next Level. Stuart Lunn, of headline sponsor Lending Crowd, will discuss alternative funding, with a specific focus on the debt crowdfunding offered by Lending Crowd to promising businesses- provided they have more than two years of trading and are turning over £100,000. The event will also look at the opportunities for SMEs, as well as the challenges, with growing businesses telling their inspiring stories.
Two women who are making an impact in very different sector will be among the speakers. Petra Wetzel of WEST Brewery will tell her story of beating the odds to develop a successful business in a highly challenging area, while Leah Hutcheon of Appointedd describes how her tech business is making waves across the world. The homepage of its website boasts that it offers "online booking for any business, on any device, in
any timezone". Global opportunities will also be discussed by two other small, but growing businesses. Angela Morrison started off her corporate relocation business amiExecutive in Glasgow but things took an unexpected turn and she is currently developing a strong business in Kuwait. Emil Stickland of Thrive Digital will also have global lessons for delegates about how to make the best of global e-commerce, largely based on his experiences with the world's best-selling ever toy, The Rubik's Cube.
More practical advice will be given by event sponsor Harper Macleod, with funding expert Paula Skinner discussing a range of challenges in Moving to the next level: what you need to scale up and grow. Paula will be joined by Keith Brown, the Scottish Government's Cabinet Secretary for Economy, Jobs and Fair Work, who will outline the Government's £500 million investment in Scotland's SMEs, which account for 99.3 per cent of all private sector enterprises- as well as 54.6 per cent of private sector employment and 40.5 per cent of private sector turnover.
So where are the growth sectors in the SME community in Scotland? In 2015-16, they included manufacturing, retail, transport and storage, real estate and information & communication. The final category includes businesses like Appointedd, as well as Beezer Apps, whose founder Brian Smillie will tell the conference about The Five Pillars of making your own luck. Derek Shaw of the Scottish Investment Bank will talks about the bank's support for SMEs and its recent foray into alternative finance. So there's a lot of advice packed into a half-day event. If you are an SME looking to grow, come along and listen. The event is at The Royal College of Surgeons on Nicolson Street, Edinburgh on Wednesday, March