Businesses raise the bar

Three very different north-east businesses are competing for top spot in an annual awards ceremony taking place in Aberdeen later this month.

Mackie’s of Scotland, Premier Coaches Kintore and Aberdeen Sports Village (ASV) are all finalists in the Business Success Over Three Years category of the 16th Elevator Awards, which aim to commend business excellence, entrepreneurial behaviour and outstanding community contributions made by top businesses in Aberdeen city and shire.

The first business vying for the gong is Mackie’s of Scotland, an independent family owned and run business based on a farm in Aberdeenshire, which specialises in ice cream.

Mackie’s has become the biggest selling ice cream producer in Scotland and best-selling independent ice cream brand in the UK. It uses fresh milk from its herd of cows to produce real dairy ice cream on the farm – in a business powered by its own renewable energy.  

The company, which exports its produce as far afield as South Korea and Taiwan, has recently expanded its offering to include chocolate bars – also made on the Aberdeenshire farm – following on from potato crisps, which are made in Fife.  Mackie’s business is truly vertically integrated, as it also makes its own ingredients like honeycomb and its own plastic packaging.
Stuart Common, Mackie’s commercial director, said: “Mackie’s has developed a lot over the years yet all our ice cream is still made by a small team of 68 local people. Our people are at the heart of the business, many have worked here for 20-30 years and we have celebrations with staff for achieving business plan goals.
“Our success is in part down to the uniqueness of our products and in part to our size. We are a real family business in comparison to our much larger national and multinational competitors, from industrial sites, with millions to spend on advertising and who may not even use fresh milk and cream.  We like to think we make ice cream ‘the way it should be’.
“Our chocolate is also unique as we make it here on the farm in Scotland, using cocoa liquor and cocoa butter, refining and conching, to make our own recipe. We are the only company making chocolate on this scale in Scotland.”

Mackie’s will be up against Kintore-based transport business Premier Coaches, which is run by Alan Findlater.

Premier Coaches

When Alan decided to revive a business which was failing, he was faced with a series of setbacks. However, his passion for success and entrepreneurial spirit gave him the drive to start up the business from scratch and in July 2010, he was granted six operator licenses to kick-start Premier Coaches.

Alan could see the potential to grow a very successful business with what remained of the previous company and established Premier Coaches, which offers a professional and reliable coach service, catering for a variety of customers across Aberdeenshire and city.

As one of the youngest companies in the industry, managing director, Alan, and his team of 32 employees have constantly sought to improve the business.

In 2012, the business began to diversify, utilising the mechanical staff it already employed, by opening an MOT centre for multiple classes of vehicles. Premier Garage Services was established by Premier Coaches to offer a range of services to customers, including lower labour rates while still focussing on maintaining high customer service levels.

Alan said: “We aimed from day one to be not just another coach company, but to raise the bar. This starts from the first contact the customer makes with the company to the driver dropping them off, and applies equally to the garage service.”

The third finalist in the category is Aberdeen Sports Village. Established in 2009, ASV is one of Scotland’s leading sports and fitness centres boasting world-class Olympic-standard facilities and welcoming professional and amateur athletes. A joint venture by the University of Aberdeen, Aberdeen City Council and SportScotland, it has more than 10,000 members and around 85,000 visitors each month.

Aberdeen Sports Village

ASV was designed around three initial development stages, phase one being the £28million sports centre, and phase two the £22million Aquatics Centre. Phase three will be progressed this year and will include the north-east’s first 3G rugby pitch, two synthetic pitches, changing accommodation, and a world-class strength and conditioning suite aimed at attracting national football and rugby teams.

While the likes of Olympic medalist Hannah Miley, Aberdeen Football Club, Scottish Rugby and the national netball team all use the space to train, ASV works with local community groups, schools and clubs to develop the health and well-being of youngsters, as well as those with disabilities, the vulnerable and the elderly through its Evergreen initiative.

Newly appointed chief executive, Duncan Sinclair, said that ASV was very much looking forward to attracting high-profile national and international sporting events this year.

“This is a very exciting time for us, with teams such as the Scottish Touch Rugby Team and the Scottish Women’s Football U17s training at ASV ahead of the UEFA European Championships.

“We also have a number of high-profile swimming events and athletics championships, with the potential to attract events such as the European Junior Swimming and Diving Championships in 2020, British Masters swimming competitions and the International Waterpolo Championships.”

The black tie awards ceremony will be held at the Mercure Aberdeen Ardoe House Hotel on Thursday, June 30.

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