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Re:Store owner and Kitstart brainchild named winners at the University of the Highlands and Islands Business Competition


By Sarah Rollo

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A PAIR of Moray entrepreneurs are celebrating success in a regional business showcase.

Alison Ruickbie, who established zero waste shop Re:Store in Lossiemouth in October, took the top prize at the University of the Highlands and Islands Business Competition after pitching to a panel of leading business professionals.

Alison Ruickbie, who established Re:Store in Lossiemouth in October, with the top prize at the annual University of the Highlands and Islands Business Competition. Picture: Angus Findlay.
Alison Ruickbie, who established Re:Store in Lossiemouth in October, with the top prize at the annual University of the Highlands and Islands Business Competition. Picture: Angus Findlay.

She said: "I am so overwhelmed to win this award. I didn’t think it was going to be me – there were so many amazing business ideas.

"I thought to myself, 'I've had a fantastic day', so when they read out my name, I was very shocked. I felt very emotional. This prize is going to make a huge difference to my business."

The competition – run by the Highlands and Islands Centre for Enterprise and Innovation CREATE – showcases the most innovative ideas across the UHI area, helping people on the road to business success.

There were 10 prizes up for grabs, with finalists travelling from as far off as the Isle of Lewis to pitch their projects. Judges were impressed with them all, but Alison's Lossiemouth venture took the top spot.

In establishing Re:Store, she set out to provide a shopping experience without waste, where people can buy plastic-free produce as well as reusable and sustainable products.

She said: "I wanted to change my lifestyle and reduce the amount of packaging I used, but found it was really hard to shop this way locally. We can't change the world alone but every small step we each make will bring us closer to a better world to leave to our children and grandchildren."

Alison is keen to grow her business by adding new products, including a milk dispenser so customers can re-use their bottles. The prize of £1000 and a combined accountancy and legal package worth £2000 from sponsors Johnston Carmichael and Harper Macleod LLP will help her to do that.

Fellow Moray finalist Gary Souter, from Elgin, was also celebrating after taking the Best Social Impact Business award for his initiative Kitstart, which looks to level the financial playing field for young footballers in Moray.

Football coach Gary, who is completing his HNC in Coaching and Developing Sport at Moray College UHI, knows how expensive it can be for children to participate in football, with costs ranging from fees to travel and kit.

Kitstart will provide essential, second-hand kit so all kids can access the sport.

Gary Souter receives his award from Clarrie Murdoch, of Impact Hub Inverness. Picture: Angus Findlay
Gary Souter receives his award from Clarrie Murdoch, of Impact Hub Inverness. Picture: Angus Findlay

Having seen similar, charitable projects elsewhere, Gary said a discreet pay-what-you-can service would allow all Moray children to take part and a pay-it-forward service would also allow people to help others.

He said: "So many children will miss out on organised football opportunities because of the escalated costs associated with participation.

"I remember how difficult it was for my parents and then for myself, keeping up with the financial demands of the game – constantly growing out of boots; having to buy pairs to suit all the different surfaces. Anything that can be done to help reduce these costs is a good thing and that’s what inspired me to pursue this project."

His award for Best Social Impact Business, sponsored by Essence of Harris, Impact Hub Inverness and The Apprentice Store, included a prize of £750.

Kelly McLaren, deputy head of curriculum at Moray College UHI, said: "We are extremely proud of Gary’s fantastic achievement and Kitstart idea.

"He has a strong passion for ensuring football is accessible to all, and he works continuously to improve opportunities for children across Moray.

"During his HNC in Coaching and Development, he will be delivering football sessions within the community which will help him gain the contacts and access to getting the Kitstart programme established.

"We will continue to support Gary in any way that we can going forward. Well done Gary from everyone at Moray College UHI."

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