Before his sudden death in January 2009 Scots entrepreneur, Mr John Connor, was actively engaged in supporting young people from disadvantaged backgrounds achieve their entrepreneurial ambitions.
The contributions of John Connor, former owner of Stirling Fibre Ltd, one of the largest independent waste paper processors in the UK, were honoured last night, in a tribute to seven young entrepreneurs from Edinburgh who received recognition for their outstanding achievements in business in the face of personal and social adversity.
The John Connor Awards were established in association with The Prince’s Scottish Youth Business Trust (PSYBT) and the Capital City Partnership (CCP) in 2006 to support to new business start-ups in the Edinburgh area. Between 2006 and 2008, PSYBT received £80,000 from Mr Connor which helped fund 41 young people set up in business.
Speaking at the awards ceremony last night, John Connor’s daughter, Mrs Debbie Stewart, said her father’s donations were inspired by his memories of growing up in Edinburgh’s Saughton district. “My father and his family were not well off and life was a struggle for my grandparents to bring up a large family. My father’s big break in life came when he was encouraged to join the merchant navy. While on leave from the navy he accepted a job at the local paper mill in Juniper Green, which he eventually took over running of. He then set up his own paper recycling business which is now one the largest in the UK. He has always remembered where he came from and created the Trust to help young people overcome their disadvantages and to set up their own businesses.”
John’s family have now been able to continue their father’s dream by establishing the John Connor Trust, pledging £20,000 a year over the next three years.
The seven young entrepreneurs who received John Connor Awards last night were initially supported by PSYBT, which helps young people set up and continue in business.
The overall award for Growth Potential and a £1,000 cash prize was awarded to Tammy (22) and John (21) Rush, owners of T&J Newsagent in Leith. The brother and sister duo, who live in Restalrig, opened their newsagent on Seafield Road Leith in September last year. They have a loyal customer base and are always looking for new ways of growing their business. John provides a daily morning, lunch and snacks delivery service to the pipe works opposite the shop, and they are currently in the throes of acquiring the premises next door so they can open a café.
Andrew Gorbould (25), from Longstone Grove was named as the winner of the Personal Achievement award and a £750 cash prize. Andrew has a background in music technology and production, and is a popular DJ in the UK club scene well known for his hard core, techno, and dance music. Originally from Newcastle, Andrew moved to Edinburgh five years ago, supplementing his gig income with a variety of low paid jobs while trying to overcome periods of agoraphobia. In February this year, he launched his own music company called Timecode Studio. As well as writing and performing his own music, Andrew draws on his experience and wide network of contacts in the music business to produce music for clients, edit, tutor and arrange record signings. He also hires out his music studio at home in Longside to other artists and musicians looking to strike out in the club scene. He is currently teaching himself video editing and graphic design which can be animated and applied in the music sector.
Joint winner of the Personal Achievement award was Sarah Caltierie (31), founder of Crazi Canes. When Sarah was 23 she lost her sight due to diabetes. At the time she was pursuing a career in the performing arts and thought she would never be able to fulfil her ambitions of being on the stage. Suddenly finding herself blind meant there were dramatic changes in her life that Sarah had to get used too, and one of those was walking with a white cane. It was around this time that she started on the idea of customised hand painted canes for visually impaired and blind people. Sarah has already produced the prototypes and is already receiving orders by referral and from her website. No cane is exactly the same says Sarah, which empowers the owner to express themselves and avoid the stigma of having a ‘white stick’. Sarah’s business is in the early stages, but she enjoys every minute of it, along with the resurrection of her acting career which has seen her appear in professional lead roles in theatres in Scotland, London and Leeds.
Winners of the Positive Impact award and a £750 cash prize were the co-founders of JRF Rogue Milliner, James Faulkner and Germaine Vonhof. Fine arts graduate James Robert Faulkner (27) from New Town, combines his interest in taxidermy, using responsibly sourced materials such as feathers, road kill, vintage clothing and recycled materials to design bespoke Haute Couture hats. It was while working for an Edinburgh Milliner that he became interested in using ethically sourced fur in fashion for millinery purposes. The quirky designer does all the plucking and skinning of animals himself, transforming wings, fur and feathers into stylish headwear that have been featured on catwalks, weddings, fashion shows, balls and other special occasions. James is dyslexic but has turned it to his advantage, as a means of inspiring his interpretation of art and influencing his couture creations.
Joint winner of the Positive Impact award was Rachel Elliott, founder of Rachel Elliott Glassworks in Craigmillar. Rachel (28), from Musselburgh, opened her purpose glass studio in January 2009 and specialises in kiln formed glass jewellery, bowls and giftware using screen printing applications. Rachel’s interest in glass started in her teens and led to her graduating with a degree in Applied Arts: Architectural Glass from Edinburgh College of Arts in 2007. As well as producing kiln-formed glassworks and sculptures, for which she has won several awards, Rachel also hosts workshops and classes at her studio and other locations. She also undertakes commissions and regularly exhibits. For the second year running she is one of a few Scottish artists who have been selected to exhibit at the prestigious British Glass Biennalle 2010 exhibition which takes place in Stourbridge in September, where she will be showing a miniature glass Edinburgh allotment. Rachel was diagnosed with severe dyslexia when she was 24 years old but she has developed mechanisms for coping with this and is growing a successful career for herself.
Speaking at the awards, Mark Strudwick, Chief Executive of PSYBT said, “John Connor was a kind and generous man who will remain an inspiration to all those who had the good fortune to know him and most especially to our young entrepreneurs today who, like him, have had to overcome various personal challenges to be successful in business.”
Issued on behalf of PSYBT by Jen Nash, Panache Communications tel. 07971 466 220 Email firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information please contact Margaret Gibson or Emma Fitzpatrick on Tel no. 0141 248 4999 or visit the PSYBT website at www.psybt.org.uk.