Analysis: entrepreneurship continues to flourish in Scots cities

The middle of a pandemic may seem to many like overly choppy waters in which to set sail with a new business.

By Emma Newlands
Wednesday, 18th November 2020, 7:00 am
Rachel and Andrew Montague, COO and CEO respectively of ClearWater Hygiene. Picture: contributed.
Rachel and Andrew Montague, COO and CEO respectively of ClearWater Hygiene. Picture: contributed.

But Scotland has seen nearly 24,000 companies created between January and August of this year, with all having to adapt to the new climate to some extent, but some setting out specifically to tackle coronavirus-related problems.

And – during Global Entrepreneurship Week – an expert on the sector in Scotland praised its ecosystem for having its performance during the pandemic.

HR-focused SHL, which says it helps companies transform productivity through deeper people insight, has analysed Companies House data – and found that 23,698 Scottish businesses were created in the first eight months of this year, down 6.05 per cent from the same period in 2019. The area to see the biggest jump was Greater London, which leapt by nearly a fifth.

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We will evolve to ensure we’re providing the support clients need, says Suzanne Lamont of Hanya Talent and Organisation Health. Picture: contributed.

A separate survey named Glasgow the 16th most entrepreneurial city in the UK, with Edinburgh taking 19th spot.

SHL found that Glasgow led the pack – with 6,874 businesses created this year.

The Scottish top ten is as follows:

Glasgow – 6,874 – up by 153 from 2019

Edinburgh – 3,319 firms – down by 312

Aberdeen – 1,154 – down 114

Dundee – 755 – down 14

Paisley – 455 – up 24

Hamilton – 449 – down 53

Ayr – 344 – down 19

Kilmarnock – 318 – up by 15

Dunfermline – 312 – down 39

Motherwell – 285 – up 38

Professor Eleanor Shaw, associate principal at the University of Strathclyde’s Hunter Centre for Entrepreneurship, said the growth seen by Glasgow is unsurprising, given its “excellent transport links; clustering of universities, researchers, talent, entrepreneurs and government and other agencies; a strong sense of place and people and, how this combines with culture – music, art, food and a growing number of independent enterprises all over the city – to create a sense of possibility and enterprise”.

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One Glaswegian firm to have debuted during the pandemic is Miint Cleaning. Calum Graham, a director of the firm, said the plans to launch a cleaning company had been in the offing for a while – as the team’s Airbnb management company BNB Host already employs cleaners, so it as a logical step.

“A lot of people might think this year is a crazy time to launch a new business, but for us there were a lot of factors that suggested now was as good a time as ever,” he said. “Firstly, the demand for cleaning has increased massively, especially in shared spaces, and people feel more safe in a clean home.

"Lockdown... resulted in people making changes to their properties, whether it is redecoration, decluttering or just keeping the place clean and tidy."

He also said the second motivator for starting the business was to try and generate as much work as possible for their cleaning team, with BNB Host obviously hit by a drop in Airbnb guests in Glasgow. BNB Host and Miint collectively employ around 20 people with four currently working on the new business.

Graham noted investment in personal protective equipment for all its staff, including masks, antiviral sprays, gloves and hand sanitiser.

Meanwhile, Edinburgh-based ClearWater Hygiene came about after its founders realised when lockdown was being announced in March “how reliant UK healthcare providers and businesses were on imported hand sanitiser, some of which was being sold at vastly inflated prices”.

Chief executive Andrew Montague said: “We saw an opportunity to create a business using an exclusively UK-based supply chain, which would ensure health providers and private businesses could access high-quality and fairly priced products that are now essential in the battle against the pandemic.”

The firm has since seen “phenomenal” financial growth, and is now producing more 50,000 units a month.

Montague added that its customers include Boots, BP, and Aldi; Edinburgh, Oxford and Cambridge universities; and the British Red Cross and the NHS. It now has 12 full-time staff and a further eight contracted workers.

It has also boosted its offering with the likes of a tracing service to help firms stop the spread of Covid-19.


Across the business sector, strategies and leadership have come under close scrutiny amid the pandemic, and Hanya Talent and Organisation Health has been launched to provide tailored professional services helping ensure companies’ longevity.

Suzanne Lamont, managing partner of the new business created in line with Hanya Partners, said Hanya was originally set up to help expand the offering of parent company Taranata Group.

Lamont explained: “It seemed pertinent to launch during the pandemic as, all of a sudden, many business-leaders who were previously only concerned with running a successful business and delivering results suddenly had a lot more on their plates.

"They have been thrust into the world of remote working and with many more considerations to deal with and expectations placed upon them, including business transformation, corporate social responsibility, diversity and inclusion within the workplace and crisis management. All of the while still producing positive results.”

The firm is hosting “intimate” conversations and webinars with clients. “We’ll continue to do this into the New Year, as we all hopefully begin to emerge from the worst of the pandemic, with a real focus on helping those who have suffered the worst setbacks during 2020, including women in business and young professionals aspiring to leadership roles,” Lamont added.

Miint is looking to widen its geographic reach, aiming to be in a position to hire ten to 20 employees in 2021, and as for ClearWater, Montague believes next year and beyond looks extremely positive. “For a company like ours... this is an exciting time.”

While there are some fears over negative stereotypes of business leaders, Shaw is bullish. “Despite the challenges and impact of Covid, it has brought Scotland’s entrepreneurial community closer together and I am hopeful that, as we go forward, the collaboration and support that has been evident across the ecosystem continues.”

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