Growth grant helps Oban business navigate new waters

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A private boat charter and tour company that was set up in Oban six years ago by two brothers, has been awarded a Business Gateway Plus Growth grant that they are using to expand their business.

Twins Cameron and Struan Smith, 28, spotted a gap in the market for private and commercial boat charters on returning to Oban after studying in Edinburgh and spending time abroad.

The duo consequently set up Coastal Connection and now with a growing customer base and support from Argyll and Bute Council’s Business Gateway, Cameron and Struan are hoping to maintain steady growth in the tourism sector while developing the commercial side of their business.

Struan said: “The response since we began in 2008 has been great. Word of mouth has had a fantastic impact on our business with many people coming to us based on their friend’s recommendations. We have a solid reputation in Oban now and we are really pleased we were able to come home and establish a growing business.

We have invested in a new boat aimed at the commercial market as it is less seasonal and means we can accept work all year round. We are confident and positive that increasing the amount of commercial work we do will have a huge impact on our growth.

Coastal Connection applied for the Business Gateway Plus growth grant in order to gain an ISO 9000 quality standard accreditation. By securing this, the company would be in a strong position to tender for larger contracts in growing industries.

Struan added: “We are aiming to get the quality standard this summer and it would be a major boost for us if we achieved it. Being awarded the grant means that we can go for it early than we had hoped which in turn should lead to quicker than expected growth. We have worked with Business Gateway for a while and in particular we have enjoyed having a business mentor who can give us an outside view on how we are doing.”

Barbara Halliday, Business Adviser, Business Gateway said: “Cameron and Struan have big plans for Coastal Connection and have a growth strategy in place that will benefit from receiving our growth grant. We have supported the business through our one-to-one advisory service in a number of topics and we’ve helped them take advantage of various networking opportunities.”

Find out how Business Gateway Argyll and Bute can help your business by visiting their local pages or calling 01546 808 363.

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