Stu­art’s ef­forts help peo­ple with their own moun­tains to climb

Each week, we ask small busi­nesses key ques­tions. Here we speak to Stu­art Dick­son, owner of hol­i­day ac­com­mo­da­tion firm High­land Hide­outs in Aviemore

The Press and Journal (Moray) - - BUSINESS -

How and why did you start in busi­ness?

I de­vel­oped a love of the great out­doors, es­pe­cially moun­tain­ous re­gions, very early on.

This pas­sion took me trav­el­ling and my mind was well and truly broad­ened. I saw how tough life can be for many or­di­nary peo­ple in de­vel­op­ing coun­tries and wanted to do some­thing busi­ness-based to help.

The clear an­swer was to fo­cus on sell­ing “fair trade” prod­ucts made by the sort of peo­ple I was try­ing to help.

So I have de­vel­oped a se­ries of Hi­malayan Sum­mer ex­hi­bi­tions in Scot­land to show­case and sell Nepalese prod­ucts.

This be­came par­tic­u­larly im­por­tant af­ter their dev­as­tat­ing earth­quake in 2015.

I have also brought sher­pas over here to sell their wares, and this has led to them forg­ing friend­ships with Scots who then go to Nepal on hol­i­day, fur­ther boost­ing the econ­omy.

My pas­sion for the High­lands led me to base my Hi­malayan busi­ness in Gran­town.

This in turn led to me buy­ing and de­vel­op­ing prop­er­ties in the Spey Val­ley and to es­tab­lish­ing a new self-cater­ing agency, High­land Hide­outs, last Septem­ber.

How did you get to where you are to­day?

Lots of hard work and perseverance, and the abil­ity to think out­side the box and be flex­i­ble, while al­ways stay­ing true to my be­liefs and prin­ci­ples. I am very pas­sion­ate about get­ting every­thing right.

The de­vel­op­ment has in­cluded sym­pa­thet­i­cally ren­o­vat­ing every­thing from an old school house in Duthil to the Old Mill in Boat of Garten, a lodge on the Dul­nain in Car­rbridge, and a re­mote croft.

Our aim is to link the great in­doors to the great out­doors in Cairn­gorm Na­tional Park.

Who helped you?

Ev­ery­one needs a great start in life and I was very for­tu­nate to be helped by the Prince’s Youth Busi­ness Trust, Glas­gow Uni­ver­sity, my par­ents and friends.

In more re­cent years I have ben­e­fited from my mem­ber­ship of the Fed­er­a­tion of Small Busi­nesses.

What has been your big­gest mis­take?

Not ac­cept­ing the first of­fer made on an ear­lier busi­ness. Over­valu­ing one’s own worth, pos­ses­sions or busi­ness is al­ways a danger.

Things are only worth what the mar­ket will pay.

What is your great­est achieve­ment?

I have had lots of ex­pe­ri­ences that make me happy. There’s my fair trade busi­ness in Nepal, and the sat­is­fac­tion I got from help­ing there af­ter the earth­quake.

I’m also in­volved in dis­abled and Par­a­lympic ski­ing.

I love restor­ing derelict but stun­ning and charm­ing old croft and mill build­ings in a sus­tain­able and sym­pa­thetic man­ner, and then see­ing the de­light on the faces of guests when they ar­rive to rent them. It’s a great busi­ness that re­ally helps the frag­ile lo­cal econ­omy.

If you were in gov­ern­ment, what would you change?

I would rein­tro­duce main­te­nance grants for stu­dents, and pro­vide far greater and more ac­ces­si­ble fi­nan­cial sup­port for young en­trepreneurs.

What do you still hope to achieve?

A fam­ily. I’m also look­ing at new meth­ods of man­ag­ing and us­ing the land and wider en­vi­ron­ment to pro­vide more sus­tain­able lo­cal em­ploy­ment.

What do you do to re­lax?

I love cross-coun­try and alpine ski­ing, hik­ing, trekking and cy­cling, and in­doors I’m an avid reader. The for­mer are bet­ter in the com­pany of fam­ily and friends.

What are you read­ing, lis­ten­ing to or glued to on TV?

I’m watch­ing Mod­ern Fam­ily, and read­ing all about Doug Scott and Dou­gal Has­ton’s climb­ing ex­ploits.

“I love restor­ing derelict but stun­ning and charm­ing old crofts and mills”

What do you waste your money on?

Oth­ers say too much kit. But you can never have too much kit.

How would your friends de­scribe you?

I’m late.

What would your en­e­mies say about you?

I’m res­o­lute.

What do you drive and dream of driv­ing?

I’m driv­ing a 2004 Vaux­hall white van af­ter a mi­nor ac­ci­dent. I dream of any ve­hi­cle with more than two seats that’s not white.

Pho­to­graph by Sandy McCook

MAN OF THE HILLS: Stu­art Dick­son of High­land Hide­outs at one of his ren­o­vated hol­i­day lets in Boat of Garten.

Stu­art Dick­son with Chundim Sherpa at a char­ity project in Nepal

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