Lochaber Luxury Tourism Firm Crowned UK Small Business of the Year

A Highland estate, which transformed from an arable farm into a luxury tourism destination, has been named the UK Small Business of the Year.

Family-run tourism business Woodlands Glencoe beat more than 3,100 entrants and 132 regional and national award winners to land the top accolade at the Federation of Small Businesses’ (FSB) annual ‘Celebrating Small Business Awards’.

The business – which includes an estate, café, activity centre, golf course, and 17 luxury lodges with hot tubs – scooped the top national award due to its growth rate and commitment to the local community.

In just over ten years, the business grew its revenue from £45,000 in 2009 to £900,000 in 2020 and employee numbers have grown from just two to 22.

“The Young family have done a truly amazing job and they are a credit to our region.”
  • Tanja Lister, FSB Highlands & Islands Area Lead

James Young, Woodlands Glencoe’s development director, said: “At our heart, we’re a family firm that’s spent more than a decade building and diversifying our business.

“Tourism in Scotland has faced huge challenges over the last year, but we know that our business, industry and country will bounce back. By innovating and investing, we can build back the strength of our sector and our local communities.”

In addition to winning the overall UK Small Business of the Year Award, Woodlands Glencoe also walked away with the UK Business and Product Innovation Award.

Andy Aird, FSB’s Scotland national chair, said: “Scotland has regularly punched above its weight when it comes to these awards – and this year is no different.

“It’s little wonder when you have businesses of the quality of Woodlands Glencoe coming forward.  They simply encapsulate what makes local and independent firms so special.

“After a dreadful year, we’re proud to be celebrating the hundreds of thousands of smaller firms in Scotland that sustain every second private sector job north of the border.

“As we inch toward full re-opening, we need everyone in Scotland continue to support these special operators – whether on our doorsteps or further afield.”

The FSB award final, hosted by broadcaster Clare Balding, took place virtually and featured an address from Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who applauded the grit of the UK’s small business community.

He said: “I have every confidence that it will be small businesses helping to fuel our national recovery and turning jabs, jabs, jabs into jobs, jobs, jobs.”

It’s the second year in a row that a Highlands based company has won the coveted award.

Tanja Lister, FSB Highlands & Islands area lead, said: “The Young family have done a truly amazing job and they are a credit to our region.

“But there’s more to this story, for while large in area, the Highlands & Islands is home to only a tiny fraction of the UK’s businesses.

“So how does one explain the two amazing successes in succession, Cruise Loch Ness being named the previous FSB UK Small Business of the Year and now Woodlands Glencoe?

“I suspect that these back-to-back wins reflect the amazing ability of Highlands & Islands business owners to think outside the box and innovate, combined with their understanding of their markets, determination, resilience and leadership abilities.”

Kate Forbes, local MSP, and Scotland’s cabinet secretary for finance and the economy, also offered her congratulations.

She said: “This is a brilliant achievement for a business in the West Highlands.

“Coming after an impossibly difficult year, I hope this news encourages the company and many others.”