Giving young people the opportunity to develop their entrepreneurial skills is a key driver for Gary McEwan, who knows from first hand experience the importance of providing support to shape youngsters’ business talents. Despite leaving school with no formal qualifications, Gary became UK entrepreneur of the year when he was just 26 and is currently the Chief Executive of Enterprise North East Trust (Enterprise); a position he has held since November 2008.
In his current role, Gary leads a team of 65 staff at Enterprise, which offers a range of services for new and growing businesses across the north east and Tayside, including the delivery of the Business Gateway services on behalf of the local authorities. Enterprise also provides serviced office accommodation through its 16 business centres and also assists in the setting up and development of more than 1,700 businesses every year.
Born and bred in Glasgow, Gary attended school at Bankhead Primary and Stonelaw High School. Despite displaying entrepreneurial talents from a young age, he was never given the opportunity to develop these, and left school at the age of 16 with no formal qualifications. From that point forward he was an entrepreneur starting his first business with £20 selling dog food from door to door. Along with two other ventures, which he started with very little and ended up with very little, he learned lessons from each and began enjoying business success. With an ambition to develop his business talents, Gary ran several companies and was involved in raising funding for start up and growth, developing management teams and creating commercial strategies.
Gary says, “I’m am often asked if I thought it would have been easier if I had formal qualifications and secured a job, but that option was never available to me. I was always determined to run a successful business. The fact I had no qualifications, meant that I had to think innovatively when dealing with challenging situations and look for the answers within myself, as I didn’t have anything else to fall back on.
“My biggest entrepreneurial success was AFT, a driver training school teaching people to drive class 1 HGV’s. To start the business I secured funding from PSYBT and the company quickly developed providing people with training to drive buses, fork lift trucks, cars, motorcycles and a range of other vehicles. The success of this business earned me the Shell Livewire UK Entrepreneur of the Year title in 1993.”
In 1994, Gary was presented with Shell Livewire’s Most Significant Growth award in recognition of his track record for business development in Scotland. In 2005, HM Queen Elizabeth II presented Gary with the Queen’s Award for Enterprise Promotion, and in 2006, he was inducted into the Shell Livewire Hall of Fame. Other achievements include being made an Honorary Vice President of Young Enterprise Scotland and Honorary Fellow of the University of Dundee.
Once Gary exited from his most successful business, he started Equitygap in 1999, a business angel syndicate based in the West of Scotland. His vision was to develop a syndicate of high net worth individuals and bring investor ready deals to the group for consideration.
During his career, Gary has worked closely with Scottish Enterprise. In 1997, he was sponsored by the organisation to assist in the development of an economic development strategy in Paraguay, South America. Gary was also one of ten appointed professional mentors to carry out an assessment of the 600+ business advisers working in the Scottish Enterprise network. His entrepreneurial skills and business acumen led Gary to being described as ‘one of the best business advisers in Scotland’ by Professor John Parker, Managing Director of IBP Academy who lead the Premier Adviser accreditation process
Gary became a Non-Executive Director with Enterprise in 2007 and took up the post of interim CEO following the departure of Chris Travis in November 2008. Gary’s childhood experiences of receiving little support for his entrepreneurial talent through his education has led to him spearheading Enterprise’s new Youth Business Challenge Initiative. The project gives teenagers from Grampian and Tayside the chance to take part in a series of challenges to develop their entrepreneurial flair. Gary is also Regional Chairman for Grampian for The Prince’s Scottish Youth Business Trust (PSYBT). In this role, Gary chairs funding panels and interviews young people who are looking for support from PSYBT to start their own businesses.Back to blog