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coastline of west Harris

Essence of Harris

Essence of Harris was set up in 2015 in the Outer Hebrides by Jamie McGowan and his wife, Deenie McGowan.

Not afraid to think big

Founding and growing a business in the Western Isles is not without its challenges. To keep up with those on the mainland, Essence of Harris founder, Jamie McGowan believes that businesses must possess drive and have a hunger to learn along the way.

A key challenge facing Essence of Harris was not thinking big enough, especially when it came to their customers. The team needed to understand how the company could best identify and connect with the people buying their products.

Jamie, who recently won Director of the Year, for the SME category, at the Institute of Directors Scotland awards, said: “It’s very easy to stay in a bubble up here and isolate yourself. From day one we faced the problem of not thinking big enough for the business and its future.

“Initially, we had planned to focus on candles. We had not taken time to think about the company culture, what drives and inspires our team and the opportunities for collaborating not just on the island but across Scotland as a whole.”

Although we are based in a small community, what I’ve learnt is that it’s important not to set limits and seek out positive opportunities.
Jamie McGowan, Essence of Harris

what customers want

Through our Entrepreneurship programme and the network it has created, Jamie was introduced to techniques which helped him get to know his customers. He recognised it’s not all about the product you are selling, it’s about establishing a product that your customers want.

Essence of Harris has been given the guidance needed to tap into the mindset of their consumer and build a targeted business strategy, which has hugely benefited the company.  

Jamie said: “This programme supplied me with the confidence and acted as a catalyst to take the next steps in growing our offering.

“It reminded me that I am part of a larger, dynamic market place.”

From its inception, HIE has supported Essence of Harris’ growth with expert advice, funding and training for its staff.

Earlier this year Jamie had the opportunity to travel to Boston to take part in the globally renowned MIT Entrepreneurship Development Programme. Having access to these experts and this experience helped him develop a formula for success that would grow his business.   

He said: “Travelling to America and being immersed in a dynamic business environment was a tremendous experience. Having access to inspirational speakers with an entrepreneurial mindset expands your horizons and makes you think big for your business.

“Although we are based in a small community, what I’ve learnt is that it’s important not to set limits and seek out positive opportunities.”

“Essence of Harris has been engaged with HIE for the past four years and has received first-class support, funding and market knowledge, which continues to help us grow, adapt and train our employees. It’s all about collaborating and growing together.

“Working with the Entrepreneurship programme has inspired us to grow this business far and wide and I would encourage others to look to do the same.”

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Essence of Harris scented products sitting on white sand beach


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