Inspired Edinburgh | Evelyn McDonald
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ELLIOT: I'm Elliott Reeves, and my guest today is Evelyn McDonald. Evelyn is the CEO of Scottish Edge, a funding competition aimed at identifying and supporting Scotland's up-and-coming innovative, high-growth potential entrepreneurial talent. They’re supported by the Royal Bank of Scotland, the Hunter Foundation and the Scottish Government; winners to date have created more than 800 Scottish jobs and generated in excess of £45 million in turnover. Really incredible; Evelyn, it’s an honour to have you here. Welcome to the show.
ELLIOT: You're welcome. So I think it would be great if we could set the scene, and if you could tell us about your background, your growing up; maybe touch upon your education, and really who Evelyn Mcdonald is.
EVELYN: That's quite interesting, because a lot of people say, how did I get from what I studied to where I am now; and the truth is that like many of these things, it was in no way a straight path. But I think what is probably the key thing about is, that I discovered a passion quite early on and I've very much followed that passion. I actually started off studying communications at University because I was really interested in PR and advertising, and my first job was actually in internal communications; then my second job actually is what exposed me to Enterprise. Because my second job, I actually applied to be the Assistant Manager of a scheme called Enterprise Funds For Youth, that was helping young people aged 18 to 25 to set up and burst by giving them small grants and small loans. I went along to work with a manager, and one of the reasons they're taking me on board was because they really needed to promote the fund - so obviously I had the skills we needed for that - but very quickly I got really interested in the work, and it was with Glasgow Opportunities which was a key Enterprise agency at that time, and there were opportunities to train to be a business adviser. At the same time, I also felt that it was important to actually learn from a practical point of view; at the time my partner, who subsequently became my husband - he’s always worked in music, and is still currently a music journalist - we came up with the idea of actually running a small PR agency which specialised in promoting musicians and artists. We called it Rosebud Press and Publicity, but only because we were Citizen Kane fans; so alongside my job at Enterprise Funds For Youth. For a two-year period, we ran this little agency; which then exposed me to winning contracts, losing contracts, not getting paid; delighting clients, disappointing clients, keeping records, all of these kinds of things. At the same time as I was learning that practically, I was going through training courses and also learning that as part of the job. Now, Enterprise Funds For Youth was the pilot for an organisation called Prince’s Scottish Youth Business Trust, and I then came on board. Fortunately for me - and I've had a lot of luck in my career - my manager who was wonderful at Enterprise Funds For Youth and then became the manager at the Prince’s Scottish Youth Business Trust, suddenly decided to emigrate to Australia. Even though I don't think I had the right skills and experience at the time, I somehow managed to persuade the Director of Glasgow Opportunities at the time to give me the job; and suddenly at quite a young age I was the regional manager for PSYBT in Glasgow, and decided to really do everything I could to make my region the biggest and best in Scotland. There were 18 regions at that time; so we were the busiest region, handing out the most money, helping the most businesses. Obviously, my PR background meant that I was able to thoroughly promote that opportunity; that then led not long afterwards, to going into the Head Office of PSYBT, and taking a little bit of a step out of the business support role and going into operations. So I then joined PSYBT and became the operations manager; subsequently operations director for the trust, and then I managed the other 18 regional managers across Scotland. So I enjoyed that role, but I always missed the hands-on business support; so I did that role for 10 years, and then decided to have a family, and at that stage, I realised that being... Well, I felt that being a mum and doing the operations job - which involved a huge amount of travel and events and so on - I felt that that wasn't something I could make work, and I was honest with the trust about that. I said, “I think you're going to have to replace me; I'll step down, I'll step out of the trust”, Because there wasn't really anywhere for me to go after that; and they said, “Well, is there anything you think we could be doing within the trust that perhaps you could work on, having spent so long at the Trust and being so dedicated to the work that it does?” One thing we had been talking about a lot at the Trust was the fact that a number of the businesses that received support through PSYBT - and it's now the Prince’s Trust that delivers this role in Scotland - they still struggle to get finance; even six months, a year, sometimes two or three years down the line. So the same things that made it difficult for them to raise finance in the first place - their youth, their lack of experience; the lack of any kind of security that they could use against traditional lending - were still affecting them a few years down the line. So we had been talking as an organisation about secondary funding; basically, I got the opportunity to come back after my daughter was born and look at that as an area. So I came back two days a week, and for six months I studied that. I spoke to businesses, I spoke to volunteers in the trust; I spoke to staff, I went out and spoke to banks; and to cut a long story short, we concluded that there definitely was a gap. I then spent the next six months setting up what we then call the PSYBT Growth Fund, and in six months we raised four hundred and forty thousand and managed to raise it. So a year after I returned to work after my daughter was born, we launched the Growth Fund. I then ran that for twelve years and had the time of my life; it was an absolutely wonderful job. I got the opportunity to see businesses that had come through the trust that were really ambitious, wanted to move to the next level, couldn't get the funding that they needed through traditional sources. We were able to put in loans of up to 25,000 pounds - or even if they could get funding, but there were gaps we could put money in - and we put mentors in, we ran networking events; we worked really closely with the businesses, and over the course of the fund we helped over 200 businesses. And we had some major successes; so for example, one of the judges in EDGE two rounds ago is a guy called Stuart Macdonald of SERIC Systems - who now has a 8-9 million turnover IT business in Glasgow - and he was supported through the Growth Fund. The most well-known one that I worked with was BrewDog; so BrewDog came through the Growth Fund roundabout the time their turnover was £250,000 a year, and they had just started exporting. We also helped a business called Aircraft Medical who exited for over a hundred million dollars about two-three years ago; so I got the opportunity to work with amazing people at that time, but also because I was in business support, I got the opportunity to get to know a lot of people that work in business support in Scotland. One of the things- I heard Lynne Cadenhead talk recently - she's the chairman of Women’s Enterprise Scotland - she was saying she really hates that phrase, which is “it's not personal, it’s business”, because she says that's absolutely nonsense. That really ties into what I feel; I feel everything is personal, everything is a relationship. One of my mantras is, “relationships, relationships, relationships”; it's all about relationships, it's all about you. And Scottish Edge, it's about our relationships with our clients, with their judges, with their supporters, I really do believe that. I believe that if you develop the right relationships, you pay attention to the relationships you do develop; you try to deliver what people want you to, communicate effectively with them. That creates - and I don't mean that in a deliberate way - but it does create opportunities. So for me, I've been very lucky that at the outset of the Growth Fund we've been supported by Sir Tom Hunter; so over the years I have developed a relationship with Sir Tom, and also through the Growth Fund being supported by the Royal Bank of Scotland from Gordon Merrylees. He's just a wonderful guy; again, I had really got to know Gordon, so when it came for me to apply for the job at Scottish Edge, I had these pre-existing relationships with two of the senior people that were really trying to push Edge forward. I'd also got to know the Entrepreneurship Department in Scottish Government and the heads of various organisations across Scotland in my role, so that made a massive difference in presenting myself as a credible potential candidate to get to Scottish Edge. I’m really sorry, lapsed a bit there! It’s a potted summary, but-
ELLIOT: (LAUGHS) It’s a good, thorough overview, and really detailed. So going back to when you studied communications, what were your original aspirations and how juxtaposed [are they] to where you are now? Was this your plan?
EVELYN: No, not at all. I think my original aspirations were to work in a PR or advertising agency. One thing that I've realised is that what really really makes me happy is doing something that has an impact; I think back, and think that if I had ended up working in advertising or PR - I'm not sure, I guess that depends on who for - but I think that might have been a bit of an issue for me, because what really makes me happy is that the opportunity to do something that has a positive impact on someone's life. I've been very lucky that the jobs that I've done have afforded me the opportunity to do that; hugely within PSYBT, and then the Prince’s Trust when we took over PSYBT, and then very much so again at Edge. So you can look around you and see the benefits, actually, of the work that you do - which is great.
ELLIOT: Yeah, absolutely. I came across something I need to ask you about; it was on the Power of Youth website, and it said “Known by many as the Queen of Scotland due to her grace, prestige and fabulous collection of crowns.” Is there any truth in this?
EVELYN: There's no truth in that all. No, there are no crowns; I do however have a thing about vintage fashion and clothes. But I'm not sure where the Queen of Scotland ... I mean, that seems ... the last email I got from Power of Youth also described me as ‘Queen Evelyn’. I think perhaps it's that I have been on the scene for a long time - so I suppose there is a sort of elder Stateswomen aspect to it, in that I have been around for a long time - but I like to think that even though I have, that I am still as enthusiastic as I was right at the very beginning. So whilst I suppose I do have a little bit of that role I hope it doesn't come with any sort of jaded aspects or cynicism; because I think I’m still as hugely enthusiastic about working with businesses as I was right at the very beginning, when I first got into Glasgow opportunities and thought ‘Wow, this is amazing, there's an opportunity to create something here.’ So no crowns sadly
EVELYN: Well, yes; Scottish Edge as I mentioned earlier was actually originally an idea of Jim's Duffey’s, which was discussed with the government and with Scottish Enterprise; and then that idea was taken on very much by two women at Scottish Enterprise, Elaine Morrison and Eleanor Mitchell. The competition that they designed then is still actually very much what we run with today; we have added some bells and whistles to it, and we have changed ways of doing things. So one thing that I would say is that we took over at Scottish EDGE in round five and it has changed a bit; but what we're always trying to do is just iterate it, so we're trying to make it better every time. At the end of every round, we sit down and look at how can we improve it; how can we improve it very much from the user's point of view? So, for example, one thing that we spent a lot of focus on right from when we took over Edge was, what did someone get out of coming into Edge? So if we are actively encouraging over 200 people to spend a considerable amount of time filling out that application and making a video, what are they getting out of it? Stephen - my colleague, who’s our chief operations officer - he wanted to make sure that everyone felt we got something out of it; so we've put a lot of focus on getting everyone detailed feedback at each stage of the process, and to make sure that they get something out of it. But I think the big change when I came into EDGE from Scottish Enterprises, that it was a grant-only competition, and we decided to offer grants and loans; because essentially when I was brought on board - as well as having the mandate to take the competition forward - what the board said is that ‘You have to reach sustainability’, and that is still my ultimate goal for Scottish Edge. It’s what we need to take it to a position where it is a sustainable business competition in Scotland; and that's very much my goal and my vision to do that.
EVELYN: Okay, we were very lucky in terms of the funding that was made available; so when I came in I was in this lovely position where the government had pledged to support for a period of time, and have subsequently continued to do so. RBS hugely generously pledged 2.5 million from its Corporate Social Responsibility Budget, and Hunter Foundation pledged to support our operating costs. So where it’s not sustainable at present is that, although this year we're projecting to bring in around 500,000 in repayments for the loans, we're actually lending around a million. So we need to get to the stage where we're bringing back a million pounds repayments, to cover the loans going out. We're also in Round 11 changing the ratios slightly, to try and reduce our dependence on government grants. At the moment we do 50/50 for the main parts of the competition, Scottish EDGE and Higgs EDGE; we’re moving that to 60/40 with the next round, and it may be at a later stage those ratios change again. Because one thing that - and I think this is the right approach - is that the government feel that their job is to try and help things get started; and if they can it can put some funding in, some support and some board support or whatever through their Staff Advisory Board Support; then that can really help something get off the ground. But it's not their job to fund something in perpetuity, so you do have to bear that in mind. I think there are parts of the competition - like our Young EDGE part which is for young people aged 18 to 30, and Wildcard EDGE which is for early-stage pre-trading businesses - we’ll possibly always be able to attract some sort of grant funding for those; because there is, if you like, market failure in those sectors. But with the main competition, I do realise that we may not have a source of grant funding for that, forevermore. So I do want to create it that Edge will be able to become a sustainable loan fund; and my hope is that this government and subsequent governments will continue to provide some form of grant funding, to also make it attractive and appealing to the people that come into the competition.
ELLIOT: Yeah. It might be really helpful if you're able to give an overview, as to what the end-to-end process is? So from people applying to them, the judging, to potentially then receiving money; how does it all work?
EVELYN: Right, okay. No, you're right actually, because probably looking in, people think, ‘well how do you get from that to standing on the stage. That's a good question; well if we look at the last round, it's probably good to talk about a specific case; so we started off with 240 applications which we were delighted with, and was a slight increase on the last two rounds. We then divide those applications up amongst ten, what we call first-stage assessment days, and for each of those first-stage assessment days we recruit a panel of six judges, and those six judges reflect the sector that we look at on those first-stage assessment days. At the moment we have Tech days, Science days, Food and Drink, Creative, Oil and Gas, I think I've covered the model, and then we have some general days. The panels that we recruit, so if we have a Science day; clearly is someone with a science background, someone who is a science entrepreneur; if it's Creative then it will be someone who's working in the creative industry. So we try to make sure that the judging panel reflects the sectors that we're looking at, and have some expertise in that area. We also always try, interestingly, to get some of our former Edge winners onto the panels, which is great. So these panel members, these judges are then sent copies of, well in this case it was 24 applications they got each, They have two weeks to read over them, to prepare questions and then they get together as a group and watch each three-minute pitch video, and then talk through each application in detail and score against the six assessment criteria. We then collect those scores; but really importantly, and back to what I said earlier about adding value, we collect the detailed feedback from the six panel members and we capture that on our CRM system. We then do that over ten days, 24 applications a day. Stephen and I travel around; so we do days in Glasgow, Edinburgh, Inverness, Aberdeen, Dundee, Stirling, Fife; so there's a lot of mileage. Also what that means is that we are involving people across the entire Scottish business community in this judging process, and also, we are very keen to be seen as a national competition and not something that's just an Edinburgh based or Glasgow based. We are a wee bit guilty of that in Scotland, and we kinda wanted to get past that, so we feel we're spending a couple of days up in Aberdeen, a couple of days making the effort to get in the car or get on the train. I think it does improve the messaging that we genuinely see yourself as a national competition. So at the end of that process, we then have individual scores for all 240,000 businesses and individual feedback points for those, and we then break those down. So we have our semi-finalists; this time I think we took 58 to the semi-final stage, we took around 22 to our Young Edge final and 22 to the Wildcard Edge final; so around 100 of those original 240 then got to the next stage. That's the pitching stage; where they come in, pitch three minutes, get Q and A for seven minutes, and then are scored again and that whittles it down further. With the Wildcard Edge and Young Edge categories they then, the judges, made the decision on who receives the prizes, with the semi-final the judges are making the decision as to who goes to the final - that's kind of how it works, so it is a very detailed thorough process.
EVELYN: And as I say, at the first stage with the paper assessment, and at the second stage with the pitching, and each stage there's detailed feedback captured and shared with the people that are coming through the process.
EVELYN: Well I think the key thing when I talk to someone is there something innovative in what you do, that's the key thing. It’s innovation that we're looking for. But we're looking for innovation that is attractive to the customer, so it all sort of cascades through because obviously someone can come up with an innovative idea but if no one wants it. It has to be something that's innovative, and they can prove that there is some interest in that from potential customers. So we're looking at innovation, we're looking at the entrepreneurial spirit, we're looking at business growth potential, we're looking at customer focus. Then we look at how they want to use our funding and whether or not they are risk aware. Those are the six criteria that we score against with each stage of the competition, and that tends to generate the conversation around each business; but I would say if you were coming into Edge the key thing that I would talk to you about is; first of all what's innovative about what you do, and if you have had this idea how far have you taken it? Have you had discussions with anyone? How do you know it's something that people would be interested in, and have you had a look at the market you would go into? What is your potential in an addressable market? So those are the kinds of conversations that I would have when people ask me about Edge. So, for example, I was at a dinner last night and someone said “Oh could I enter Edge?”, and I had to say “no”, sounds like you've got a fabulous business, but it's not actually what we're looking for.
ELLIOT: I read an article that you actually wrote, about kind of pros and cons or things that you would look for and things that you shouldn't do I suppose. You mentioned passion, honesty, innovation, engagement with customers, worthwhile use of prize money, make an effort; and where people tend to fall down is kind of the ‘me-me-me’ type mentality that it's about them, as opposed to their team, and perhaps bloating or slightly unrealistic figures.
EVELYN: Yes, I'm really not fond at all of the “I'm going to do 20 million turnover in three years”. I think that's also my experience because I've worked with some absolutely phenomenal entrepreneurs. Even phenomenal entrepreneurs with phenomenal ideas, just the sheer reality of delivering those level of sales, I just think it's crazy that people think that that's actually possible. The only business I've ever come across that has just blown me away with its turnover figures was actually Genius Gluten-Free, Lucinda Bruce-Gardyne, a phenomenal; but that's probably the only business I’ve ever come across that really … it was all almost like you just looked at it and thought ‘is that even humanly possible’? But yes I'm not fond of that, I think much more of genuinely realising what it takes to make sales, and the team you need to build, the logistics, the cash I think yeah, realism I think.
EVELYN: And the teams are so so important, and so sometimes when we look at entrepreneurial spirit we don't just look at the individual, we look at the team they’ve amassed around them; but then that tells you so much about them. Because it's funny, I was doing this presentation on Monday to seventy-five 12-14-year-olds at the festival of Youth Enterprise run by Young Enterprise Scotland. I was doing a pitch about the characteristics of an entrepreneur and one of the things I say that actually, I see a lot in the entrepreneurs I work with, is niceness, which doesn’t always sound like it's a trait that you would like; but I think that people that are nice, and that people really like, they will get behind them, they will find ways to support them, they will lend them money, they will help them. So actually, I see in a lot of the people I know, that has been really successful, is because people really like them, and they want them to succeed. So it's actually a really useful thing is if you can be a very likeable individual.
EVELYN: I don’t know actually. I think, well I don't know, a lot of that I guess is also about having a purpose and a vision and being able to get people behind it. But yes I think the ability to build and manage, and lead teams are really important actually. Again, when I look across the successes that I've seen, both at the Growth Fund and at Edge, that's been absolutely fundamental, and getting people behind you. Not necessarily staff but advisors, supporters, people that really want you to succeed makes a big difference.
EVELYN: Yes, well there’s a lot of ones which have become quite well-known, and in terms of popping up again and again in different articles in the Scotsman, or the Herald, or just in LinkedIn. So for example, Appointed. Leah’s absolutely fantastic, and what's interesting is how she took her business from an initial, quite modest idea to start off with, to essentially a global product. I think that's absolutely wonderful, and again amazing at harnessing resources, support, funding, the team around her and around her vision, so I admire her a lot. But we see some that are perhaps more quiet, but are very exciting, so, for example, some of our product businesses like Turtle the Sleep Scarf; I don't know if you’ve come across that one?
EVELYN: Well, we have, well I really admire people that have a really strong vision and are very ambitious, and two that spring to mind are Jo Chidley of Beauty Kitchen. Jo currently sells her Beauty Kitchen products, which are organic, cruelty-free beauty products through every Holland and Barrett store in the world, and also through her own outlet, and online; and has a real vision to be a significant player in the beauty industry in the next five years, and also has a fantastic product line to back that up. Then Uuni, their founder Christian and his wife; they came up with the idea to have a portable pizza oven because at the time they wanted to make great pizza. Domestic ovens don't make wonderful pizzas, pizza ovens are ridiculously expensive and so they thought ‘what I'm going to develop my own pizza oven’. How you get from there to there, I'm not entirely sure. But he came up with a portable pizza oven and it's still the cheapest most portable pizza oven in the market at £200, but he has the vision to be one of the top 5 global cooking brands by 2020, and you know what I think he’ll get there. So that I really admire, when I see Scottish Edge businesses that are really focused on growing.
ELLIOT: I was going to actually come back to this point; I think it's really interesting because you said you liked when people have big goals, big ambitions. That seems to kind of go against the grain of the old-school Scottish mentality, or certainly, that's just a perceived thing that you don't have too big aspirations, keep a lower profile
EVELYN: What's for you will not go by you, yes, uh-huh. Absolutely, and I think you're right. I think that is a general mentality, that it’s just sort of almost kind of ‘know your place’. Don't think, what's going to happen to you is going to happen to you, and don't reach too far above yourself.
EVELYN: Unfortunately I don't think that philosophy sits well with our desire, our desire at Scottish Edge, my desire for us to create some, hopefully, create some businesses within Scottish | to help. I'll always have to remind myself about that because we have a bad habit of talking about our winners and so on. I do, I do genuinely believe that we’re just playing a small part in that, I think we play a significant part but it is a small part. we put in an amount of money which will hopefully, with the right individuals, and the right opportunities, will enable them to push their business forward; but ultimately it’s them that's doing it. Our hope is that we will put that small amount of money into some businesses that will make a really big difference, and they're only going to make a really big difference if, like Christian, they have a vision, they have a goal and they amass the team, the resources, the board members, the support, around them to reach that goal; and they believe that they can do that. But don't get me wrong, I mean, what we do find, is through Scottish Edge as well, is that we do put money into businesses that start off with real ideals, wanting to grow tremendously, and then, somewhere along the line, perhaps they don't quite get the breaks they want or their ideas change, their lives change and then they become more of a lifestyle business. So they're still running a business, they're still employing as a small team, but they don't quite have those aspirations anymore. I think like any typical fund we have a mix, we have some real high fliers, we have some that, I guess have the potential to go either way, and then we do have some that are struggling a bit, and that’s the way it's going to be and we accept that
EVELYN: In the last few years, I mean having been working in the sector, this is absolutely the most exciting time to have been involved, and I do think a lot of it to do with the people that are in the roles. So people like Sandy Kennedy who; his vision is for Scotland to be seen as the ‘most entrepreneurial society in the world’. Now, you know, really? A few years ago he might have said that to someone and they would have said: “really Sandy?”. But he said “yes, really, why not? Why can't we be that society? Why can't we amass resources around that goal?” And then I do think, of course, that we've been extremely lucky in the government support that we've got, and the Entrepreneurship Department within Scottish government. That not only created the Cando Initiative, and very much message consistently about the importance of business and entrepreneurship in Scotland; but also put their money where their mouth is, and they do prime a number of initiatives, so they do what I was saying. They will do with Edge as well, they support and then they gradually back off, and hope that initiative will reach sustainability and move forwards.
EVELYN: Well I do think that we have a disadvantage with our size, but I also think it's a tremendous advantage. So back to me talking about the people and the relationships. I would say that a lot of the people that are really driving forward, that focus on entrepreneurship, know each other, and support each other. We don't necessarily know each other very well. For example, obviously, what Jamie is doing it Codebase is tremendous. We've still not managed to find, I’ve not managed to find any time in his diary to spend with him, but I do refer people a lot to Codebase, I do you get a lot of information from the people we work with within Codebase about the amazing work that they're doing. But I think in general the sort of key players know each other and support each other, so I think that's something that we do well in a number of industries actually. It’s that sort of benefit of being a small country and everybody knowing each other, and getting behind a particular message of support. In terms of ... well, I suppose I do tend to think of, I look around and see a lot of very very very hardworking people, but I guess that's not unique to Scotland, but I do think when we've got ambition and a desire then we work really really hard to achieve that. I'm trying to think what else is unique to Scotland. I think we're very inclusive, and I think that is something that I'm particularly proud of as a Scot. Particularly I would say during the current election campaign. I do like the fact that in fact a lot of the things that are on the agenda in other parts of the country, we don't have on the agenda here, because actually, I think we're incredibly welcoming. In fact, I do believe that if the Scots had their choice they would have much, a much firmer hand on how we deal with immigration in this country. So I like to think that actually, we are much more welcoming.
EVELYN: Well I guess that would be, I mean, I have been involved in discussions around sort of UK policy on immigration, and I think that if the Scottish Government could get some responsibility for that, I think there would be some differences. I think that would be for pragmatic reasons, as well as back to the sort of emotional reasons and inclusivity reasons. We do suffer through exporting too many of our own people, we do need great people to come here, and we do want people to come and work, and live in Scotland, we do want to continue to attract world-class students to our world-class Universities. So I think that actually, it would be very positive for us as a nation if we could have greater control of that, and I do know from talking to the businesses that we support as well as a real genuine concern over access to talent after Brexit. And also of course through Scottish Edge, we have worked with a number of EU nationals who are living here, some of whom, I had one very panicked and getting in touch with me saying I'm really worried about what's going to happen; “I live here, I'm settled here, I'm committed to running a successful business here, but I'm worried”. So yeah that's something I think we could do better, if that's possible for us.
EVELYN: I always think we could do better. I think we could do better in Edge with more women winners, we do fairly well in terms of numbers coming into the competition, but somewhere along the line we seem to - so I think we get around 35-40% coming into the competition and then around 20-30% of the overall winners are women. I'm not quite sure why we are not attracting as many women as we should, so it's an area we are going to look at. Even down to, for example; we're about to create an online application process and I've got a couple of meetings coming up with people to look at the language that we use, to make sure that's inclusive.
EVELYN: In many different ways, inclusivity and diversity are issues that we're concerned with our | and we want to try and make sure we're reflecting a desire to be an inclusive and diverse competition. So we're starting to pay attention to some of these things, are looking at them in a bit more detail. But yes I do think, even down to judges actually; one of the things we're going to do, we always try and have at least 40% of our judges women, so with the next round we're going to make this a policy, so it has to be, there are no two ways about it. Instead of that's your aspiration, let's not make it an aspiration, let's write it down, publish it, and do it. So these are small changes, but I think significant. But yes, I’m a huge supporter of Women's Enterprise Scotland, and I personally work quite closely with them, so any initiatives that I can support of theirs, I try and do. I think that they're having a really positive impact in Scotland actually.
EVELYN: It feels weird to say no actually. I think I've been so lucky, but actually, where I think I've been luckiest is that I've had the good fortune to work with some really inspirational people. I think having a really good boss can make a massive difference. I think that can also make a massive difference to women as well in terms of the confidence it can give you. But I think yes, I think good leadership, and it's something I feel passionate about; it's a whole area we're looking at around Edge is leadership training for our winners, we’ve been talking about that for a while because I think good leadership is not just important in terms of what it does for a business moving forwards - it’s what it does for the people that have the benefit of receiving that, it can have a real impact on how they develop as individuals, and what they feel they're capable of, and what they can go on to do. So I worked with a particular leader at the Prince’s Scottish Youth Business Trust called Mark Strudwick; what's been interesting for me is that we were the management, almost everybody in his management team has subsequently gone on to become a chief executive or CEO themselves, so he created leaders and I think a leader that creates leaders is someone very special.
EVELYN: I do know the answer to that actually which is I would probably, I guess the one thing that that I might like to do, or maybe the thing that I would do next, is I would quite like to go into an innovative high growth startup that’s at an exciting point and see if I could practice what I preach many years later. Sometimes I look at businesses and think, I’d love to work there, because that product’s amazing, and that team’s amazing, and there's so much you could do there, and it's so exciting. So I guess that would be the thing actually. I suppose it would also be nice to be an investor director, I do come across those people a lot and I think they can have a fabulous impact on businesses, so that's quite a nice role as well, where you’re not in the middle of just one business but you're actually involved in a few, I think that would be a nice thing to do.
EVELYN: How do I define an entrepreneur? I think it's someone who has the courage, has identified an opportunity and has the courage to run with it, and to persevere with it, and to take with people with them on that journey. I guess, probably would be my answer.
EVELYN: Yeah, it is a tough question. I mean obviously, there are … there are entrepreneurs as well obviously, we kind of often forget to mention those people, but there are amazing people working all over the place doing very entrepreneurial things not in a business setting, but in charities and events. I met this woman last night at dinner who single-handedly runs the Glasgow Jazz Festival, so that's an amazing series of events, and she brings people together at the time to enable it to work for all year round, she is the person that puts that on. Incredibly interesting individuals, of course, I signed her up to be a judge at Scottish Edge.
EVELYN: We are not much nicer in the west. Well, I think we do see in terms of businesses actually we tend to be slightly busier in Edinburgh, but I almost think that's kind of what you would expect because we do have a lot of tech businesses. Edinburgh has that benefit of having almost self-styled itself as a tech hub, and it's almost like having done that, it's helped to create that. Do you know what I mean? That's been fantastic so we almost get about the same level of interest, but slightly more in Edinburgh. In terms of the differences; I suppose I think the east has a slightly more diverse population, in terms of the tourists and the students, and the PhD students we tend to get - that's slightly reflected in some of the applications that we get. But I split myself between both cities and I don't see, I think there's more made of it than there actually is. I don't see much difference to be honest. Slightly different socially, I think you have more fun on a night out in Glasgow.
ELLIOT: And certainly some of your views on entrepreneurship. I think some of these are quite pointed questions, so thank you for answering them as well as you have, and handling them. I'd like at this stage to maybe peel back the layers of the onion a little bit more, and kind of handle some of the bigger and more philosophical topics. We'll start with purpose; that's very much the mission and the ambition of the show is to encourage people to really think about what their purpose is, what do you feel is your own purpose?
EVELYN: Well I think I can probably answer that in two different ways actually, so if we look at work; I very much feel that I get vicarious joy from even in just a tiny way helping someone. So if what I can do, or I can do through my team, can help someone to make the right connection, to get the funding they need to move forward, to meet a potential team member, anything like that at all. I do actually think that I'm very lucky that I get to spend my time doing that, and so that gives me a feeling of living my life with purpose. Which I remember reading a quote from Arianna Huffington, and she was saying “if you can live your life with purpose you will be genuinely happy”, and I feel that I am one of the very lucky people in life, that I have that inherently built into what I've been able to do, and to make my living out of. Also though from a personal point of view, I'm the very proud mother of two children. I also think that one of my purposes in life is to hopefully create two happy healthy adults who contribute to society, that are a pleasure to be around, that are confident in a nice way, and articulate, well-mannered and I think that's very important as well actually. I think parenting is something we perhaps don't value as much as we should, so I do think that that's extremely important to me and, in fact, I still say to my children that that's my most important job, it's not CEO at Scottish Edge, it's being their mum and I feel very strongly about that because I think that’s key.
EVELYN: Two great children and two great adults. I suppose I would like my legacy to be that I have helped some people along the ways, as simple as that actually. Even if that's just in a minor way, that if I've helped some people along the way then that’s great because I think that the impact of that can be great. If you can help someone to create a business that creates jobs, that brings some funding into its local community, that perhaps that business also does a little bit of voluntary work or donates, there's just an endless cycle of potentially positive things I think that come out of business. I do in general feel very positive about business. I think if that can be my legacy then I would be very happy with that. Absolutely.
EVELYN: Again that's a tricky one because I am happy for businesses that get to the stage where it's able to afford some material benefits to the owner-directors, but often that's because you see how much of a struggle it is for them going forward. Ken on my team, and I were talking recently about a client that I know quite well who he'd worked with a few years ago, he was talking about the fact that he had used to pull two tins out of the cupboard and the incubator that he was in at lunchtime; and one like a tin of vegetable soup and the other was a tin of carrots which he would pour into the vegetable soup and heat up in the microwave and that was ... which really does not sound, but that was his lunch because it was less than a pound, and he was so determined to build his business, and he wasn't taking any funding out of his business he was putting everything back in. So when I see that that person now has been able to buy himself a car, or is putting a down payment on a flat, then I feel very pleased for them because I know about how tough it was to get to that stage. I think the success, I guess, is having that vision and being able to get there or to work towards that. And I think to be happy actually, and I don't think happiness necessarily comes from material things, it obviously makes life a little bit easier, but get rich on happy people is what I think, so it's more about being able to achieve your objectives in some way. And also I think if you can do that and have a positive impact on other people then that makes you very happy.
EVELYN: Well obviously like a lot of people I get inspired by well-known entrepreneurs; I admire Bill Gates because of his foundation actually more than anything else, what he does through that, I love. I was lucky enough to be at the President Obama dinner, I'm a big fan of his. I do like Ariana Huffington, I think she has a lot of really interesting things to say, I'm sure that’s someone you’ve tuned into quite a bit because of your focus on purpose. But actually I get inspired by the people round about me, so I get inspired by the businesses I'm lucky enough to work with. People like Leah Hutcheon, who I mentioned earlier, I find her very inspiring. Also, I have a friend who's a head teacher in a really difficult area, and what she's doing inspires me as well, so it's not always about business. I get inspired by people that are really passionate about what they do, and are prepared to go all out to achieve it. Well, with a bit of a work-life balance as Arianna Huffington always recommends. But in general, people that have a little bit of a purpose attached to what they do as well is important to me.
EVELYN: I think it is to do with the opportunity for business to have a positive impact on society. I think it’s, I mean I do get excited about interesting products and services and tech like the rest of us, but for me it is about that ability for people to create their own jobs, to create jobs for a team, to bring money back to Scotland; so it's what business does I'm excited about rather than the thing itself. So yeah I think I'm passionate about business as an opportunity for change, I'm very with Tom Hunter on that, he talks a lot about that, that if we can use business to help create our own wealth, then other people benefit; it's not just business for the entrepreneur's sake. I'm not excited about business because it then means someone can buy a sports car, I'm excited about business because ultimately I think it can be good for Scotland and it can be good for communities.
EVELYN: Right now I'm going to try to struggle to get this. So it was it was actually something that I just picked up at a talk and I can't remember who said it, but someone I know who uses this sort of saying over and over again is Geoff Leask, who runs Young Enterprise Scotland, who I worked with for a number of years, and I'm a big fan of Jeff and a big fan of what he does at Young Enterprise Scotland; he’s an absolutely fantastic person. It is that people don't care about what you know, once they know that you care. I think that it’s back to that thing I was saying earlier about relationships, I think that one of the things that we try to do at Scottish Edge, one of the things that I suppose I tried to do in general in my working life is get over the fact that we care - so it's not just any other competition. I do believe that. We recognize that you have taken the time to come into the competition, we recognize that you have put yourself on the line, so we want to show you that we acknowledge that, and we care about you, so we give you advice, we pass you on to people. Of those 240 applications in the last round, Stephen who I work with is, is wonderful at talking to people, and talking through their ideas, and listening to them and I said to him last week; “Stephen, how many of those 240 have you spoken to this round? Eighty”. So I've probably spoken to about twenty, so that's about a hundred we've actually spent time on the phone with through the process, talking to them, just chatting to them about their ideas, just trying to help. So I think it's important to show you care, that's more important than showing what you know.
EVELYN: I would probably say work hard, and I would probably remember, that life is all about people, and if you do that, and you follow your passion then you might be lucky enough to to get into the situation where you're happy with what you're doing. I'm kind of saying that because that's actually what I say to my children because one of the things; because my children are studying a lot just now, so they're focused very much on qualifications. I don't have masses of qualifications, I have a degree and I have a diploma in marketing. So they’ll say “well mum, how come if you didn't get a first class, you didn’t get five As in your Highers, you didn’t get a first-class degree at St. Andrews, how did you manage to get a good job?”, my children will say that to me; “how did you manage to get a good job?”. I said, I have always, I have always worked really hard in what I do, I’ve always tried to give 100%, I've always tried to deliver, that was one of the things the really great boss that I worked with, Mark Strudwick, said “deliver”, and I think that's really important. You don't talk about things, you get on and do it, so I think working hard is important but also it's important to develop relationships along the way, and to try and deliver on those relationships. I think that's probably what I would say; but also, back to what we were talking about earlier when we were talking about you, is that if you follow your passion as well, I think that’s fantastic. If you can take the risk of doing that, because some people feel that it's a genuine risk, if you can take the risk of doing that, then you can be lucky enough. I think a combination of all of those things can help create, hopefully, the life that you wanted to live.
EVELYN: I would want people to have access to clean water and food, that’s what I would change. I still think, when you hear about food waste, one of the businesses that were pitching yesterday was talking about the level of food waste is a disgrace, that we live with, that we tolerate, that we think is acceptable. So that's something that I would change and also I think it's awful that in countries like India, you still can't access clean drinking water despite the huge advances in business in India, and technology, and so on. So I suppose I would change that. But also I would love us to live in a world with no war, but I don't know if that, that just always seems like a dream, like a dream I've had since a child and still no closer to that, if anything it's got worse, that’s just disappointing.
EVELYN: Yeah, I mean interestingly Power of Youth, and We are the Future through an initiative called Future X are working with the Water Innovation Service and Hydro Nation in Scotland, looking at the whole issue of clean water in India, so that's an exciting project. It's basically trying to take the sort of cleverness and that we've developed here and the sort of a Scottish minds and their skills and experience, and taking them over and matching them with our counterparts in India, and looking at the challenge that the Indians have from a Scottish perspective, and trying to bring their thoughts on how the Indians solve that challenge. So a really interesting project going on at the moment, and I think that’s fantastically exciting, using Scottish innovation to solve a problem in another country. Brilliant.
ELLIOT: You're absolutely welcome; genuinely, it’s been brilliant to hear a lot of your views on things, and certainly from a woman in a senior executive position as well. You have some really interesting perspectives on things. So thank you so much, and thank you so much for your transparency, your candour, your honesty, it’s been great.
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