Lochaber Ideas Week once again provided a packed week of inspirational events in and around Fort William in November. 

From Monday 18th to Friday 22nd November 2019, the town was buzzing with daily events that brought the whole business and wider community together, with over 800 people booked onto events throughout the week.

The week was a whirlwind of interesting and insightful events for the business community and the team at Lochaber Chamber were delighted with the attendance numbers and positive reactions from attendees – many of them active members of Lochaber Chamber of Commerce, but many also from the wider community. That’s what Lochaber Ideas Week is all about – bringing the whole community together to celebrate ideas and inspiration, whether they’re in business, retired, at school or college – we offer a warm welcome to everyone who wants to take part.

We introduced two new events for 2019 – our first-ever ‘Net Zero Business workshop’ saw businesses learn from experts and other businesses about practical steps to work towards Scotland’s challenging net-zero deadline. Expertly facilitated by Diane Duncan, Low Carbon Lead for Highlands & Islands Enterprise, this valuable workshop started the ball rolling with advice and next steps for businesses.

We also held our first ‘Women in Business’ lunch with special guest speaker Sarah Heward of the Real Food Café in Tyndrum. Almost 70 women came along to enjoy a networking lunch and hear Sarah’s unflinchingly honest account of the real journey she’s taken to become one of Scotland’s most inspiring businesswomen. Her honesty and resilience were truly inspirational.

The flagship event of the week is our annual Charles Kennedy Lecture, when a distinguished guest is invited to deliver a speech on a subject of their choosing – there are no limits on topic and we’ve been amazed by the breadth and depth of subjects covered by our invited guests over the years. The lecture was set up in memory of our long-standing MP, former Liberal Democrat leader and one of Lochaber’s favourite sons, Charles Kennedy.

Over the past few years we’ve been lucky enough to hear from Lord Jim Wallace, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, Lord John Thurso and Alastair Campbell. This year Lord David Steel of Aikwood carried on the tradition by delivering a thought-provoking lecture on the need for a written constitution in the UK. His speech was followed by a lively and high-level Q & A session where Lord Steel took questions from a very well-informed and thoughtful Lochaber audience.

Around Lochaber in 80 Tables, the ever-popular speed-networking event was fast, friendly and frantic – in a good way! With lots of new faces along this year, it was great to see so many new connections being made. One new member of Lochaber Chamber of Commerce was very impressed with the format and atmosphere, saying that this was the best and friendliest networking event he’d ever been to!

We ran three professional development seminars during the week to bring specialist business training with an inspirational slant – We’re all Creative on Monday morning got everyone buzzing with ways to ‘think different’ in how they approach business, no matter what their industry or role. Small steps to BIG success with Olympian and former diplomat Cath Bishop gave the attendees expert insight and provided practical steps into improving team performance through unlocking the power of small improvements to the ways we work. Go for your goals: High performance seminar inspired delegates to make the most of their potential and also get the best out of their teams. We were pleased to be able to bring these high-level seminars that are normally only available in major cities to the West Highlands for the week.

Thursday’s Tourism Summit saw a great turnout from businesses who came to share a day of inspiration in stunning surroundings at the Kingshouse Hotel, Glencoe. Over 100 delegates learned about the value of bike-friendly tourism and the DOs and DON’Ts of social media for business from professional mountain-biker and brand ambassador Hannah Barnes, and photographer Brodie Hood. After a delicious lunch, the Chamber laid out their new destination strategy for Lochaber, Carron Tobin from West Coast Waters introduced collaborative promotional opportunities during 2020: Year of Coast and Waters, and Cat Leaver, Director of Brand Scotland drilled down into the key drivers for Scotland’s long-term success in a competitive international market. Stephen Leckie, Chief Executive of the Crieff Hydro Family of Hotels rounded off the day with a flavour of what it takes to stay at the top of the hospitality game and shared the new vision of the Scottish Tourism Alliance. It was a day of real insight and inspiration for everyone who joined us in Glencoe.

We rounded off the week in style with a sumptuous Gala Dinner that brought our member businesses together for a sociable meal, followed by an inspirational speaker and the jaw-dropping and very funny magic skills of Edinburgh-based magician Kevin Quantum.

We’d like to offer our huge thanks to our generous sponsors and supporters: Highlands and Islands Enterprise, Ferguson Transport & Shipping, HWEnergy, Liberty Group, BSW Timber, Scale AQ, MOWI, Lochaber Times, Nevis Range, BAM Nuttall, West Highland College UHI and Kearney Donald Architects, Glencoe Activities, Kingshouse Hotel and the Moorings Hotel.

We’ve already started planning for the next Lochaber Ideas Week and look forward to bringing even more exciting and inspiring events to Lochaber in November 2020.