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New Inverness link helps young entrepreneurs

By Andrew Dixon

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Web developer Jordan Whyte.
Web developer Jordan Whyte.

Young people from Inverness-based IT specialist The Apprentice Store have connected with young social entrepreneurs in London to help them acquire digital skills.

The Apprentice Store is participating in an accelerator programme specifically for social enterprises organised by the EY Foundation, which seeks to help young people facing barriers to entering work.

Also participating in the programme is Social Ark, a charity based in Tower Hamlets which supports young people to develop social businesses of their own.

However, had it not been for the lockdown, the two organisations may never have linked up.

David Massey, managing director of The Apprentice Store, explained it had previously only connected with other Scottish firms face-to-face once a month but the pandemic triggered an opportunity for the programme to continue virtually. Organisations in other parts of the country had the chance to connect and he met Social Ark founder Lisa Stepanovic.

They devised a way to work together, with web developer Jordan Whyte (18) from Nairn playing a key role.

He worked with Mr Massey to deliver weekly group sessions with the entrepreneurs in east London and Mr Whyte also provided one-to-one sessions covering information needed to build websites and cyber security.

“This was something completely different for me,” Mr Whyte said. “I am an apprentice myself and still learning, so to be the coach and teach people web development skills from scratch was quite daunting at first but by the end of the four weeks, I felt proud of myself and what we’d achieved.”

The Apprentice Store supported a diverse group of young entrepreneurs, each with completely different social enterprises.

These included Time to Shine: a commercial and residential cleaning business; YUCAN: an organisation that advocates for young carers under the age of 16; Your Life More Life: an organisation that seeks to support young people to overcome the effects of violence and poverty; Huriah Hemp: an ethical clothing brand that creates T-shirts and True Cadence: an organisation that uses the power of music and video to engage young people.

Ms Stepanovic said: “The Social Ark and The Apprentice Store partnership would never have come to light without the coronavirus pandemic. If you’d have told me a few months ago that our young entrepreneurs would be working with young people from the Highlands, I simply wouldn’t have believed it.

“I’m confident that what we achieved together over just a few weeks could serve as a blueprint for future collaboration.”

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