THRIVING Inverclyde business Firth of Clyde Boat Tours is being celebrated as a success story by support service Business Gateway ahead of Small Business Saturday.
The company, based at Kip Marina, Inverkip, launched in July 2022 and provides fishing, wildlife and scenic trips around the Clyde and nearby sea lochs.
Owned and operated by husband-and-wife team, Ed and Paula Gatti, who are wildlife medics with British Divers Marine Life Rescue, the business gives nature and wildlife enthusiasts the chance to explore the region.
After spending 30 years living in the USA, where Ed worked in law enforcement, the couple relocated to Skelmorlie in 2020. Keen to show off the beauty of Scotland’s shores, they had a goal of setting up a business on the water.
Through Business Gateway, Ed and Paula have accessed a suite of start-up support, which involved developing a business plan and accessing grant funding to develop a website. They also benefitted from advice from a marketing specialist.
Ed Gatti, co-owner, Firth of Clyde Boat Tours, said: “Without a doubt, the biggest challenge for us was marketing, which really came down to letting potential customers know that we existed in the first place.
“When you’re new to an area and entirely new at setting up a business, you need to establish what your customer base will look like, and then find ways to go about targeting them.
“A lot of tourists may only see Scotland as the Edinburgh Castle, and nothing more than that, so we had to establish routes to change their opinion.”
Operating for ten months out of the year, Firth of Clyde Boat Tours has recently expanded into providing fishing tours, supported by a marketing grant signposted by Business Gateway.
The business also works with filming crews and university research teams outside of the traditional tourist season to ensure a steady stream of income to help keep the business afloat.
Ed continued: “Business Gateway has been incredibly important throughout our start-up process, and even more so than we originally anticipated. Our advisor, Mario, has the unique ability in his position to direct and signpost us to various support services and grant funding, while also offering advice that is free of charge. You really can’t beat this when starting up a business.
“Mario has really become a mentor for us and is constantly sending through information on workshops and webinars, while also being on the other end of the phone if we’d like to chat something through. It’s been fantastic to have so much help and advice, and I’ve made sure that other business owners I have met are aware of Business Gateway’s services.”
Firth of Clyde Boat Tours has won an Inverclyde Chamber of Commerce ICON award, as well as achieving the four-star ‘excellent’ rating from Visit Scotland.
Hugh Lightbody, chief officer at Business Gateway, said: “Small businesses are the backbone of Scotland’s economy. However, recent years have posed various challenges to the sector, which has contributed to Business Gateway receiving over 25,000 enquiries this year. It remains critical that we provide the necessary support.
“We know that business confidence is low in light of recent global circumstances, so it is important we take opportunities such as Small Business Saturday to highlight businesses like Firth of Clyde Boat Tours, who do fantastic work in their local area to show off Scotland’s unique nature and wildlife.
“Our resources, workshops, webinars and network of local advisers at Business Gateway all play a vital role in guiding small business owners through every step of their journey, making sure they have the knowledge and resources needed to thrive.”