Mentors support growth of rising stars
Pat Machray OBE, chair of ONE food, drink and agriculture

Pat Machray OBE, chair of ONE food, drink and agriculture

Since the launch of the first Opportunity North East (ONE) food and drink Business Growth Programme (BGP) in 2017, supported by Aberdeenshire Council and Aberdeen City Council, more than 30 businesses have participated in this bespoke programme which helps them to realise their growth ambitions.

Participants have gone on to secure new customers, increase turnover and number of employees, and invest in new product development, premises and equipment. ONE is committed to on-going support for these businesses on their growth journey and our recently established mentor network is an important part of that.

Working with high-growth potential businesses of all sizes is a strategic priority for ONE’s food, drink and agriculture team as we prioritise action and investment to grow the sector in the region to match the Scotland Food and Drink Ambition 2030 target of 5% growth per annum.

Mentoring support helps maintain momentum and provides specific strategic industry insight to BGP alumni. From an initial pilot in January last year, we now have a total of 10 mentor relationships established with ambitious companies from primary meat and fish producers to sauce companies. For many of these businesses on a growth trajectory, practical issues including secondary processing and upscaling production are new challenges. Our mentors can provide input, feedback and connections to specific topics ranging from exporting, retail sales, chilled production, distribution and financial management.

As the UK’s only private sector led and funded regional economic development body, ONE is fortunate to have more than 90 senior business people, higher education and public sector leaders involved in our main and strategic sector boards.

The majority of our current mentors are active members of the ONE Food, Drink & Agriculture board and as we prepare to launch the third BGP later this year and support even more of our region’s growing businesses, we are seeking new potential mentors with relevant food and drink industry experience to share their knowledge, contacts and shape priorities. Whether your background is in food service, production or retail, the mentor-mentee relationship provides an opportunity for both parties to learn something new and gain a unique insight into another business.

Running your own business can often be a lonely experience, so having someone independent to act as a sounding board, providing reassurance, validation and challenge can make all the difference to generate focus on priorities as the business develops.

ONE’s role is as a facilitator with knowledge of both the company and mentor. While the application process is designed to be flexible to accommodate the needs of both parties, all involved need to be clear about their expectations, experience and availability to ensure the match is successful. Over the course of an up to 12-month period, objectives should be set which are designed to guide the medium to long-term direction and priorities of the business.

The growth and ambition of our home-grown food and drink companies is vitally important to the future prosperity of the region. As we aim to build on our established strengths across primary production, processing and manufacturing, mentoring provides a unique opportunity to play your part.

If you are interested in becoming a mentor, please contact Jane MacLeod, business growth manager at ONE,