En­ter­pris­ing Barra shop takes hat-trick of hon­ours

The Oban Times - - News - LOUISE GLEN lglen@oban­times.co.uk

A COM­MU­NITY lo­cal pro­duce hub in the West­ern Isles is in line for a hat-trick of awards – and is in­spir­ing other com­mu­ni­ties to fol­low in its foot­steps.

Bùth Bhar­raigh Ltd, based in Castlebay on the Isle of Barra, has won the Scot­tish Ru­ral Par­lia­ment Ru­ral In­no­va­tors Award 2016 for best busi­ness.

The award recog­nises projects, peo­ple and or­gan­i­sa­tions that im­prove life in ru­ral com­mu­ni­ties across Scot­land. It has also won the Ru­ral Busi­ness Awards 2016 prize for Bri­tain’s best com­mu­nity pro­ject.

Awards co-founder Anna Price said: ‘Bùth Bhar­raigh Ltd was, we felt, sim­ply an ex­cel­lent ex­am­ple of a com­mu­nity pro­ject en­ter­prise ben­e­fit­ing a whole com­mu­nity and be­yond in a re­mote area of Scot­land.’

Bùth Bhar­raigh has also been short­listed for the Ru­ral Com­mu­nity Own­er­ship Award, which will be held in Lon­don on Novem­ber 28. And it was also a fi­nal­ist in the In­de­pen­dent Food and Drink re­tailer of the year cat­e­gory of the High­lands and Is­lands Food and Drink Awards last month.

The com­mu­nity- owned shop, founded by a small group of pro­duc­ers in 2013, sells qual­ity goods and pro­duce from lo­cal sup­pli­ers in Barra and Vater­say, as well as of­fer­ing em­ploy­ment, work place­ments and vol­un­teer­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties.

Sarah Maclean, manag­ing di­rec­tor of Bùth Bhar­raigh, said: ‘ We are de­lighted and hon­oured to have re­ceived these awards and it is tes­ta­ment to all our vol­un­teers, pro­duc­ers and staff who have worked so hard to get us where we are to­day. We are still a rel­a­tively new com­pany and we have ex­ten­sive devel­op­ment plans that will con­tinue our work and have a pos­i­tive im­pact not only for lo­cal res­i­dents but also for visi­tors to the is­land.

‘Self-sus­tain­ing with­out any grant fund­ing in or­der to keep costs down, many items within the shop are up­cy­cled and the ma­jor­ity of work is car­ried out by vol­un­teers, mean­ing a high per­cent­age of the money spent in the Bùth goes to the pro­duc­ers.’

Ms Maclean added: ‘We are pro­vid­ing a lot of op­por­tu­ni­ties and a route to mar­ket for a lot of pro­duc­ers. We have more than 80 lo­cal pro­duc­ers, rang­ing from teenagers to ladies in their 80s, as well as crafts, a laun­drette and café area.’

Now res­i­dents in Uist aim to repli­cate the suc­cess­ful model. Lo­cal coun­cil­lor Don­nie Steele, a part­ner in the ven­ture, said: ‘We aim to open up a shop called Uist Gifts and Info sell­ing sou­venirs, gifts and cloth­ing from the isles and pro­vid­ing tourist in­for­ma­tion to visi­tors. It will be sim­i­lar to Bùth Bhar­raigh as we looked at its suc­cess be­fore go­ing ahead with our pro­ject.’

Many islanders have set up in busi­ness thanks to the sup­port of Bùth Bhar­raigh.

He­len Mack­in­non’s busi­ness Pick­led Her­ring sells a range of prod­ucts il­lus­trated by lo­cal sea charts. She ex­plains: ‘Buth Bhar­raigh was my first out­let and has been very sup­port­ive with ad­vice and ideas. I have been trad­ing through the Buth for nearly 15 months and work there as a vol­un­teer a cou­ple of hours a week, which I love. My first year of trad­ing has been more suc­cess­ful than I could have dreamed it would be.

‘The Buth is spe­cial be­cause it al­lows us to be­gin sup­ply­ing and to vol­un­teer at a level which is right for the in­di­vid­ual – whether we are re­tired, study­ing, or work­ing. Like Pick­led­her­ring. net, more fledg­ling en­ter­prises are start­ing to emerge through the Buth and it is good for is­land life as sales gen­er­ated through the shop are re­turned straight back to the com­mu­nity.

‘I love liv­ing in Barra but work is of­ten seasonal and short­term. In the eight years since we moved here, I have jug­gled part­time work with young chil­dren and a hus­band who fre­quently works off-is­land. So I am very proud of the fact that I am able to work for my­self. It is very free­ing and I hon­estly don’t think I would have been able to do it if the Buth hadn’t been there.’

Bùth Bhar­raigh was one of the par­tic­i­pants on Scot­land’s so­cial en­ter­prise devel­op­ment agency First­port’s LaunchMe pro­gramme.

Sarah MacLean in the Buth shop which has helped other en­ter­prises to es­tab­lish and grow.

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