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DR KEITH NICHOLSON: Finding that niche business idea is key – but where do you go from there?

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The View from the Board by Dr Keith Nicholson

Dr Keith Nicolson, founder of Cyber Security Scotland.
Dr Keith Nicolson, founder of Cyber Security Scotland.

Entrepreneurship is a key part of the new National Strategy for Economic Transformation, an ambitious 10-year programme which focuses on building economic growth.

It is very encouraging to see the recognition that entrepreneurship needs to be supported at all levels if new businesses are to start up and grow.

In this spirit, through the Caithness Chamber of Commerce’s awards, we celebrate the entrepreneurship of young businesses and businesspeople and I hope many will look to promote their achievements by applying for the awards.

But as a serial entrepreneur, a little past conventional school and college age, I’m keen that those not in the first flourish of youth also consider entering the business world.

Often a more experienced person has the vision, experience and insights to start a new enterprise. A friend who is recently retired has just set out on this path. They have the know-how that enabled them to identify a niche opportunity, and are already finding success.

In the Highlands, we see exciting opportunities in the fields of energy and space. And many here will have skills which are transferrable to these areas, for example from nuclear work at Dounreay.

But not all businesses need to have a technology focus – we’ve seen successful businesses set up in the food and drink and tourism sectors.

The key is to find the niche opportunity. People with great ideas may not know how to get their business off the ground. And that’s where the business support networks can help with business planning and identifying funding sources.

I’d encourage people to look at the business support programmes available such as the Scottish Edge Programme (scottishedge.com), the North Highlands Regeneration Fund (nhrf.co.uk) and Highlands and Islands Enterprise (hie.co.uk/support), of which I’ve just become a non-executive board member.

I know it can be hard to know where to begin, how to tackle the wealth of information available. The local Caithness Chamber of Commerce (caithnesschamber.com) is here to help.

  • Dr Keith Nicholson lives in Caithness and was awarded UK Security Specialist of the Year in 2020-21. He is a member of the Scottish Government’s National Cyber Resilience Advisory Board and is the founder of Cyber Security Scotland.

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