Page last updated at 12:12 GMT, Wednesday, 15 October 2008 13:12 UK

Can new firms survive the storm?


The four firms explain how they are attempting to survive the economic crisis

Simon Willis
Newsnight Scotland

It is astonishing, and slightly alarming, how much can change in three weeks.

When we first visited the four new Highland businesses we're following through this year of financial turmoil, the economic landscape was quite different.

Three weeks ago, the government had not nationalised Scotland's largest company, the Royal Bank of Scotland.

The prime minister's political fortune was ebbing away, along with his party's chances of winning the Glenrothes by-election.

And our four new businesses were confident and optimistic.

I repeat, it is astonishing how much can change in just 21 days.

Derek Grier
Derek Grier engraves glassware which he sells through gift shops

We called this series 'Born In A Storm', but we had no idea how difficult a marketplace our infant enterprises were entering.

Neither did they. Already, the credit crunch has bitten three of them.

It takes courage to admit your business has problems, particularly to a television camera.

As far as I can tell, all are working their way through their challenges, spurred on by the certainty that, if they can survive lean times, they can flourish when the upturn arrives.

Derek Grier - Keatek Engraving

Cash flow has been Derek's main difficulty.

Larger customers use their muscle to pay late, while suppliers demand their cash up-front.

In normal times, the bank allows an overdraft to bridge the gap.

But as many people have already said, these are not normal times.

Derek was told his overdraft won't be extended.

It has taken considerable skill to keep customers and suppliers satisfied.

David Dignan - Technical Services

When a rural business, like a fish farm or saw-mill, wants to introduce some new plant, David offers his expertise.

Three weeks ago he was confident his customers were using the slowdown to invest and install new equipment when production was quiet.

David Dignan
David Dignan's firm provides new plants and machinery

Not any longer. Some are starting to delay projects or not take them past the planning stage. New customers have stopped ringing.

Naturally, Derek is concerned but he is calmly assessing his next move.

Until this point his customers found him, but now, he's out there, looking for them.

Lisa Malone - Equus Riding School

A 90,000 loan already hangs over Lisa's riding school. Business is good, so the repayments aren't a problem.

However, Lisa wants to expand because winter weather means cancelled lessons and lost income.

Lisa Malone
Lisa Malone started her riding school in April

So to keep the horses working in all weathers she wants to build an indoor riding centre.

Depending upon the size, that could double her loan.

Ruefully, she laughs at the notion of any bank lending her the money in the current climate.

Which leaves her the problem; how does she keep her existing investment working at peak capacity throughout the winter?

Kenneth Whitehead - Digital Recyclers

Recycling computers is the only one of our four new enterprises for whom the credit crunch is good news.

Tens of thousands of computers are disposed of by public authorities each year.

Kenneth Whitehead
The credit crunch has been good for Kenneth Whitehead's business

Kenneth profits whether he strips down the components for scrap, or refurbishes the computers and sells them at a bargain price.

He has had no shortage of customers looking to save money by buying a refurbished computer.

He is looking for bigger premises, but that's a different story which we'll explore next time.

Following firms born in a storm
24 Sep 08 |  Highlands and Islands

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