Award-winning local produce hub inspires others

Sarah MacLean in the Buth shop. Pictured by the Outer Hebrides Tourism Industry Association.
Sarah MacLean in the Buth shop. Pictured by the Outer Hebrides Tourism Industry Association.
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A community local produce hub in the Western Isles is in line for a hat-trick of awards – and is inspiring other communities to follow in their footsteps.

Bùth Bharraigh Ltd based in Castlebay on the Isle of Barra has won the Scottish Rural Parliament Rural Innovators Award 2016 for best business.

The award recognises projects, people and organisations that improve life in rural communities across Scotland.

It has also won the Rural Business Awards 2016 prize for Britain’s Best Community Project.

Awards co-founder Anna Price said: “Bùth Bharraigh Ltd was, we felt, simply an excellent example of a community project enterprise benefiting a whole community and beyond, in a remote area of Scotland.”

Bùth Bharraigh has also been shortlisted for the Rural Community Ownership Award, which will be held in London on 28 November.

And they were also finalists in the Independent Food & Drink retailer of the year category of the Highlands and Islands Food and Drink Awards 2016 last month.

The community-owned shop, founded by a small group in producers in 2013, sells quality goods and produce from local suppliers in Barra and Vatersay, as well as offering employment, work placements and volunteering opportunities.

Sarah Maclean, managing director of Bùth Bharraigh Ltd, said: “We are delighted and honoured to have received these awards and it is testament to all our volunteers, producers and staff who have worked so hard to get us where we are today.

“We are still a relatively new company and we have extensive development plans that will continue our work and have a positive impact not only for local residents but also for visitors to the island.

Currently self-sustaining without any grant funding, in order to keep costs down many items within the shop are upcycled and the majority of work is carried out by volunteers – meaning a high percentage of the money spent in the Bùth goes to the producers.

Sarah added: “We are providing a lot of opportunities and a route to market for a lot of producers. We have over 80 local producers, ranging from teenagers to ladies in their 80s, as well as crafts, a laundrette and café area.”

Now residents in Uist aim to replicate their successful model.

Local councillor Donnie Steele, a partner in the venture, said: “We aim to open up a shop called Uist Gifts & Info selling souvenirs, gifts and clothing from the isles and providing tourist information to visitors.

“It will be similar to Bùth Bharraigh as we looked at their success before going ahead with our project.”

Many islanders have set up in business thanks to the support of Bùth Bharraigh.

Helen Mackinnon’s business Pickled Herring sells a range of products illustrated by local sea charts.

She explains: “Buth Bharraigh was my first outlet and has been very supportive with advice and ideas.

“I have been trading through the Buth for nearly 15 months and work there as a volunteer a couple of hours a week which I love.

“My first year of trading has been more successful than I could have dreamed it would be.

“The Buth is special because it allows us to begin supplying and to volunteer at a level which is right for the individual; whether we are retired, studying, or working. Like Pickledherring.net, more fledgling enterprises are starting to emerge through the Buth and it is good for island life as sales generated through the shop are returned straight back to the community.

“I love living in Barra but work is often seasonal and short-term.

“In the eight years since we moved here I have juggled part-time work with young children and a husband who frequently works off-island.

“So I am very proud of the fact that I am able to work for myself; it is very freeing and I honestly don’t think I would have been able to do it if the Buth hadn’t been there.”

Bùth Bharraigh was one of the participants on Scotland’s social enterprise development agency Firstport’s LaunchMe programme.