Scottish Small Business Ideas

Scotland.

Undoubtedly the best country in the world.

We may not shout it from the rafters like our American cousins across the pond, but that doesn’t mean we aren’t aware of it. Whereas the big ‘bully boy’ countries of the world argue over who has the bigger military, more land, or economic prowess – we choose to concern ourselves with things that truly matter. Making the most of our special little country.

We are blessed with a unique combination of stunning scenery, incredible natural resources, wonderful educational institutions, rich cultural history, and most importantly of all – the best craic.

Because of these gifts, Scotland has become one of the best countries in the world for entrepreneurs looking to start their own business. There are opportunities here that aren’t offered anywhere else on the planet.

So, if you have the drive, but lack the direction on how to make the most of these opportunities – have a quick read over our list of small business ideas.

  1. Gaelic tutor

Not to be confused with Gaeilge (Irish).

It is a shame that we are losing our native tongue, it truly is. Whether you are looking to make a quick buck, or are more concerned with preserving our cultural heritage – this could be for you. There are so few left with a strong grasp of the language that competition shouldn’t be as fierce as for other educational tutors.

  1. Walking Guide (Nature)

Why not get paid to do something you love?

If you enjoy getting outdoors and into nature, but also have a good grasp of Scottish wildlife then you could be paid to share your passion and knowledge with others.

Not recommended for those who don’t like getting caught in the rain…

  1. Walking Guide (Culture and History)

If you’re more of a city-slicker than nature-anorak, you could instead give guided tours of our cultural centres.

One of the benefits of our ‘smaller’ size is that even our largest cities are easily traversed on foot. There is very little start-up cost associated with this business type, all that is needed is a good pair of walking shoes and a decent knowledge of our history.

  1. Folk and Trad musician

Our folk and traditional music scene is absolutely roaring still. At least, it was before Coronavirus struck.

Ceilidh bands are always in high demand. Whether you want to book yourself out for performing at ceilidhs, festivals, or even commercial gigs – if you can play, there is an opportunity there for you.

  1. Stand-up comedian

So many comedians have been given their big breakthrough performing at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. Who knows who could be next up?

If you are comfortable in front of a crowd with a microphone, this could be for you.

  1. Street Performer

Scots are known for their generosity and overall friendliness, which makes the prospect of performing on the street a little bit less of a daunting prospect.

A walk down the Royal Mile during August or Buchanan Street in Glasgow will tell you everything you need to know about our countries love for the weird and wonderful.

The possibilities are endless.

  1. Busker (Traditional)

Continuing on from the last point slightly here – if you know how to play a traditional Scottish instrument you could stand to make some serious money.

There is no quicker way to pull on Scottish heartstrings (or loosen our purse-strings) than hearing our national instruments bellowing out a recognisable tune. Tourists really do love to see pipers, snare-drummers, and accordionists playing music in their kilts.

Tip: Focus on events like national sports matches, or high tourist dense areas to maximise footfall and exposure.

  1. Whiskey Guru

We Scots love our whiskey, and everyone else loves our whiskey.

There are numerous online or in-person qualifications available to learn about the distilling process. Once you have finally reached guru status, you can begin to sell online classes or tasting sessions.

As a nation with a seriously strong relationship with alcohol, you won’t ever be short of customers…

  1. Renewables

97% of Scottish Electricity came from renewable sources in 2020, according to the BBC.

Scotland is so far in front of everyone else when it comes to renewable energy production that it has become a bit of a Mecca for eco-conscious engineers. Whether you have an idea for a start-up, or want to build on something existing – this is the place to do it!

  1. Estate Management

Ever seen the movie ‘Salmon Fishing in the Yemen’ and thought –

‘Yep, that is a bit of me’ – You, (maybe)

I’m not talking about the scenes set in Yemen, OR Ewan McGregor…

I’m talking about all of the stunning shots of Scotland set on a massive estate, of course.

Estates require a huge amount of care that wealthy owners often don’t want to do themselves. Depending on your personality type, you could operate within the confines of an office and handle all the admin side of things – or if you’re more of a rough and tumble type, you could be located on the estate itself.

  1. Stalker

… of animals, obviously.

Locally sourced Scottish meat is some of the most low-carbon emitting, sustainable, eco-friendly, and ethical in the world. You could honestly insert any eco-orientated buzzword into that list and it would still hold true.

The foundation of stalking is grounded in protecting our sensitive ecosystems from damage. Sometimes wild populations need a little control to prevent over-grazing or ease pressure from predation.

This could be a two-pronged business approach – many people would be willing to pay to join on the hunt, and the meat could then be sold on to butchers.

  1. Logistics

‘More money was made selling shovels during the gold rush than was made from selling gold…’

Scotland punches well above their weight when it comes to exporting our fair share of goods. There are some produce-types where Scotland have almost a cult following.

We are particularly strong at exporting: Fish, Confectionary, Oil and Gas, Renewable Energy, Whiskey, Textiles, Timber, and even water.

Instead of trying to break into these markets where customer loyalty is everything, why not try selling some shovels?

There is plenty of business to be done transporting these goods to the customer – if you have a good handle of supply chain dynamics this could be a real money-spinner.

  1. Seafood (Aquaculture)

There are not enough superlatives in my vocabulary to describe Scottish aquaculture.

It does not matter what way you look at it – it is absolutely one of the best industries to get involved in, today.

Bringing jobs to rural areas, incredible production efficiency, a strong substitute or supplement to fisheries, incredible growth – it has it all. What’s more is that generally Scottish seafood products are considered some of the finest in the world, and command great prices.

Barriers to entry are steep – but if you are looking for an industry with growth potential? The sky is the limit.

Tip: The Scottish aquaculture industry is heavily regulated, so be prepared for plenty of inspections to ensure adherence to the code of good practice!

  1. Seafood (Fisheries)

Seaspiracy is currently dominating news headlines for a variety of reasons. If you have watched it, you may now believe that all fisheries are inherently evil.

This could not be any further from the truth.

If you look past the cherry-picked statistics, lack of proof, pseudoscientific conclusions, and (at times) petulant and condescending interviews – you will find that fisheries can be, and already are sustainable.

Not all of them – but a lot.

It just so happens that a lot of these fisheries are based in Scotland. If you are prepared to front the cash, you too could get a slice of the fish pie.

Tip: Scottish fisherman are facing huge uncertainty in the face of Brexit – maybe hold off on buying that fishing vessel for just now…

  1. Seafood (Vendor)

This is a run-on point, and quite a general one at that.

If you are willing to act as a middle-man for the seafood industry, it is a real chance to make some money. You could be down on the bay-front selling crab sandwiches from a converted camper van, or brokering sales to fancy restaurants abroad. Either way, there is a chance for some money to be made.

  1. Campsite Owner

What better way to become one with nature?

Scotland has some of the most relaxed wild camping laws in the world, which makes it a haven for those strange people who like to sleep on a muddy floor.

Even the most hardened campers out there will still appreciate some basic amenities. For a relatively low initial investment on land, you could soon be running a busy campsite.

Don’t believe me? Take a drive through Arisaig on a sunny day and you will be converted to a believer.

  1. Glamping Pods

What used to be a bit of a novelty, has transformed into one of the most cost-effective ways to maximise revenue from undeveloped land.

Glamping pods come in a range of shapes, sizes, and styles. The best things about them are that they are relatively inexpensive, semi-permanent, low maintenance, and can command incredibly high prices per night. If you manage to suss out a good spot to put them, they can very quickly pay for themselves.

  1. Local Twists

This is a bit of a strange one that I only recently heard about it, and have been thinking about it nonstop ever since.

Askival Rum is a new rum brand established in Scotland, which isn’t really a country known for its rum-making expertise. However, its unique selling point is that it is produced and bottled on the isle of Rùm…

The brand has grown rapidly – and is making quite an impression. A quick glance at a map of Scotland has revealed that there are dozens of other opportunities just like this.

Eggs from the Isle of Eigg, anyone…?

  1. Professional Smoker

Snoop Dogg isn’t the only person who gets paid to smoke up on the regular, you could to!

Whether it is fish, meat, cheese, or any other brave new idea you have thought up – Scotland has a highly successful smokery industry. There is an incredible number of micro-smokeries throughout Scotland creating some bizarre produce – so there is clearly a large market for it.

  1. Sea-weed dealer – get it!?

It doesn’t take a genius to figure out the link between the last idea and this one, does it…?

Seaweed is an incredibly underutilised resource – one which we have in abundance. According to Wikipedia, Scotland has almost 10,250 miles of coastline. That is 10,250 miles of untapped potential.

Seaweed can be found in fertilizers, animal feed, fish feed, biofuel, cosmetics, aquaponics schemes, and of course – food. As the human population continues to grow, expect to see exploration into new resources to exploit.

Get in on this before it takes off!

  1. Air BnB Host

This is another business that attracts mixed responses.

It is absolutely true that Air BnB has the potential to decimate local travel economies. Take our capital city, Edinburgh, for example.

There are an estimated 13,208 listings in the Edinburgh area. This number is driven by supply and demand mechanics, huge tourist numbers flocking to Edinburgh creating an unsustainable property market.

Rent prices are sky-high, as are property prices in desirable areas. The worst part? A lot of these Air BnB properties are empty half of the time…   

Source: Inside AirBnB

However, in areas where there isn’t such incredible demand the business model can be much more sustainable and not quite so damaging for the local economy.

  1. Professional tablet-eer

Tablet is Scotland’s answer to fudge.

Incredibly easy to make, even easier to eat – tablet is something that both tourists and Scots adore. It is believed that the production of tablet can be traced back to the 1700s, it has clearly stuck around for a reason!

Low cost to get started, little expertise needed to create, and the added bonus of eating all the tablet you could ever dream of…

  1. Professional shortbread-eer

To this day I have never seen a shortbread tin that isn’t filled with various sewing paraphernalia or other bits and bobs… Surely this isn’t just me?

It was surprising to learn that shortbread tins are actually usually filled with shortbread. What’s more, tourists will pay a pretty penny for some authentic Scottish shortbread. If you ever have the chance, take a look at the going rate for shortbread in a shop in the USA… it is nearly worth its weight in gold.

Like tablet – shortbread is incredibly easy to make with relatively low start-up costs to begin with.

  1. Mixologist

There are two drinks that dominate the Scottish drinks market – Irn Bru, and Buckfast. Water does not even make it close to the top 5.

Say what you will about the Scots – but we are efficient. Combining unholy amounts of caffeine with alcohol? Replace your morning coffee with some Bucky, two birds with one stone.

Although this may not be a ‘complete’ business idea, it could be something interesting to add to your already existing business. By making a unique cocktail involving some of the nations favourite drinks could provide a really fun way of marketing your business, and is something that will get people through the door.

Also, think of the potential puns that could be made!? Ne-bru­-ni (Negroni), Cos-bru-politan (Cosmopolitan), Buck-ardi (Bacardi)… This alone makes it a worthwhile venture.

  1. Artisan Ice Cream

Again, slightly following on from the last idea here. This has already been done with varying degrees of success – but it has always been consistently picked up by local media sources (free advertising to your customers).

Buckfast infused ice cream – Glasgow Live

Scotland has so many unique (and famous) foodstuffs that could easily be made into a world-beating ice cream flavour. Shortbread, whiskey, buckfast, irn-bru, tablet… the list goes on. Just make sure to stay away from kippers.

  1. North Coast 500 Tour Guide

The North Coast 500 is one of Scotland’s most famous attractions.

A 516-mile route linking some of the Highland’s best along a gorgeous scenic journey. Although the NC500 is absolutely doable solo, or with no guidance – there will always be those looking for a more comprehensive experience.

Brush up on your local knowledge, share your local secrets, create an entire package deal for your potential customers to enjoy. By taking over the travel itinerary and the majority of the planning, it allows customers to entirely unwind and take in what they came to see – Scotland.

There will always be those out there looking for an ‘authentic’ Scottish experience and looking for something a little bit extra from the norm.

  1. Custom Campers

If you have the mechanical know-how and the time to spare, customising campervans to meet customer specifications can be an incredible money-spinner.

Take a look at this website here, it’s for a business that already operates in similar fashion: Caledonian Campers

The mark-up in the price for converted campervans is massive – this business shows a £60,000 price-tag for their mid-range products. The added value to the original vehicles is insane. Even if it does not result directly in a sale, vans can be rented out until they are sold.

Although not unique to Scotland, our relaxed camping laws and incredible scenery make it a prime location for campers and campervans alike.

  1. Van-life/cottage-core influencer

I never thought in a million years I would ever type anything so pretentious, but here we are.

It’s all the rage right now – influencers on platforms like Instagram, TikTok, and YouTube documenting their ‘everyday’ life to huge audiences. This type of content is obviously quite difficult to scale up and monetise and should be seen as a labour of love rather than a business that will offer instant results.

In particular this type of content offers an escape from the everyday 9-5 that most of us find ourselves in.

Try starting this off as a hobby first and seeing what works. Gauge out what your viewers really want to see before you commit too much time to a project that may not be following the best direction.

If you get lucky (and work hard) then your videos will be monetised, you’ll grow a loyal following of viewers, brands will want to partner with you… just for videoing your everyday life. TikTok user @oldtimehawkey has grown his channel to 1.4 million followers in exactly a year, just by posting short outdoorsy videos that evoke feelings of relaxation.

  1. Wildflower bouquets

The idea of florists creating bouquets of flowers is hardly a novel idea, so I won’t try to pass it off as one of my own. Where there may be an opportunity within this market is focussing either partially or exclusively on Scottish wildflowers.

We are blessed with some stunning flora, truly. Although I am not entirely sure on the legality of picking true wild-growing flowers, if they can grow in the wild then they should be easy enough to cultivate commercially!

All that is then needed is a creative soul to package them aesthetically, and you’re good to go.

  1. Scottish Heather Honey

For the size of this country there is a disproportionate amount of ‘worlds-best’ products originating from here.

This isn’t even my inner patriot revealing my incredible bias for Scottish products, the other countries of the world believe so too!

For as much as the Kiwis love to go on about their Manuka honey, it doesn’t even come close to Scottish Heather Honey.

‘Scottish heather honey is unique in its taste, aroma and medicinal use. It’s now considered to be the most effective honey for treating infections. Yes, even more effective than New Zealand’s Manuka honey, and at a fraction of the cost.’ – Secrets of the Bees

Although you would be competing against some very well established businesses already producing Scottish Heather Honey, the comparative advantage against the rest of the world is what earns it the mention.