Recognising outstanding business excellence in the Stirling city region

Almost 200 guests flocked to the Stirling Court Hotel last week for a glittering ceremony and black-tie gala dinner to celebrate the wide range of organisations that were successful in the inaugural Stirling Business Excellence Awards.
All the winners cheer their victories on the night of the event at the Stirling Court Hotel.All the winners cheer their victories on the night of the event at the Stirling Court Hotel.
All the winners cheer their victories on the night of the event at the Stirling Court Hotel.

Businesses across Stirling and the surrounding area were recognised in the new awards from The Scotsman with headline sponsor Invest in Stirling, and in association with STEP.

The awards were designed to recognise the very best in the Stirling region, including a cross section of businesses, and highlighting the vital role they play in the economic growth of the area.

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As well as Invest in Stirling and STEP, other sponsors and partners included the University of Stirling, Graham & Sibbald, LOC Hire, ECO Hire, Techscaler and Kings Park Hospital.

On the night, The Real Food Cafe in Tyndrum was named Business of the Year, a category sponsored by Invest in Stirling.

Established in 2005 by Sarah Heward from a former derelict Little Chef on the A82 and West Highland Way, this business is now an iconic roadside diner. It is co-owned and managed by Sarah with her husband, Alan McColm, ably supported by their excellent team.

Winners were also unveiled in 13 other categories.

Jim Killough, commercial director at The Scotsman, said: “It was wonderful to see such a wide range of businesses of all sizes being celebrated at our inaugural Stirling Business Awards. There was a real buzz in the room during the awards ceremony, which provided an excellent networking opportunity.

“I’d like to congratulate all the businesses whose success was marked on the night and hope they continue to go from strength to strength.

“I’d also like to thank all our sponsors and supporters, including our headline sponsor, Invest in Stirling.”

Stirling Council leader Councillor Chris Kane, added: “The inaugural Stirling BusinessExcellence Awards was an inspiring event that showcased the drive, ambition and creativity of our exceptional entrepreneurs, as well as reaffirming our reputation as a centre of business and innovation excellence. Congratulations to all the winners and to all those shortlisted.

“The event highlighted Stirling’s strong track-record of effective collaboration between the public, private and third sectors, creating a vibrant and enterprising business environment where our economy, businesses and communities flourish.”

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He continued: “Our people are at the very heart of our inclusive economic growth ambitions, and it was fantastic to celebrate the stories, and achievements of our diverse and dynamic business community.

“Stirling celebrates its 900th anniversary this year and – thanks to our thriving businesses, creative collaborations and talented people – we are well positioned to unleash our full economic potential in the years ahead.”

The winners

Business of the Year Sponsored by Invest in Stirling

The Real Food Cafe, Tyndrum

The Real Food Cafe in Tyndrum is a shining example of a business that consistently invests in providing sustainable quality Scottish hospitality and tourism services, as well as delivering meaningful community engagement.

Established in 2005 by Sarah Heward from a former derelict Little Chef situated halfway between Glasgow and Fort William, this business is now an iconic roadside diner open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner throughout the year.

The cafe is co-owned and managed by Sarah with her husband, Alan McColm, who are supported by an excellent management team.

In 2023, the business turned over in excess of £2 million net, and employed 28 permanent team members. The cafe is a Living Wage Employer and all staff participate in a bonus scheme, which paid out almost £40,000 last year.

Food & Drink Business of the Year sponsored by STEP

The Inn at Kippen

The Inn at Kippen is owned by Paul Smith and Laura Carey. Paul is an award-winning chef, formerly of Mar Hall Hotel and Murrayfield Stadium, while Laura has a background in food and hospitality, and has also worked at Murrayfield.

The couple have developed the Inn’s menu using locally sourced fresh produce, and have collaborated with other local businesses achieving this.

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Their vision is for the Inn to develop as a warm and friendly traditional village pub, promoting the best food that Scotland’s larder produces.

The Inn also offers five rooms for overnight visitors.

SME Employer of the Year sponsored by the University of Stirling

Allanwater Brewhouse

This family-run business prides itself on its great local beers and ciders, Scottish-themed pizzas, bespoke tours, live acoustic music, and hospitality. They see it as a privilege to give each and every one of their valued guests an unforgettable experience.

Their highly trained staff give a warm welcome to new and returning visitors, with “Beer Advisors” on hand to offer in-depth knowledge of both their award-winning beers and local tourism attractions.

The Allanwater team endeavours to always go the extra mile in achieving customer approval and prides itself on their satisfaction.

Rural Business of the Year

Charlotte Grace Bridal

Charlotte Grace is an elegant, multi-award winning boutique located in the historic village of Doune, on the outskirts of Stirling, and has been helping brides find their perfect wedding-day look for more than 30 years.

It prides itself on providing an intimate, calm, private space to help make magical bridal memories.

Suzette Wright took over the boutique just before Covid, and has since grown it to include the offer of prom dresses.

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She has pushed her marketing to reach new audiences via social media, and launched her first Prom Showcase event at Colessio in Stirling in autumn last year.

Family Business of the Year


When Fletcher’s opened in 2019 the core aim behind the restaurant/hotel was to provide a warm, welcoming customer service, and a food and drink offering unlike anywhere else in Stirling. Led by Binnie brothers, Adam and Connor, one with a business background, the other a trained chef, from the get-go they created an environment with much better working hours and conditions than common in the industry.

This has been one of the key aspects of their success as it has allowed the business to attract and retain key team members, many of whom have served for years.

Startup Business Of The Year

SWIMSARA swimwear

SWIMSARA swimwear launched initially to solve a problem the founder, Paula Masterson, had – tan lines.

A frustrated consumer, there was nothing on the market to resolve Paula’s issue of not being able to source stylish, yet supportive swimwear that you could tan through.

It became clear to Paula there was nothing out there to cater to women seeking sexy and comfortable tanning swimwear, so she addressed the problem herself.

Retail, Leisure & Tourism sponsored by LOC Hire

Stirling Distillery

Stirling Distillery is a small family-run concern that has been creating hand-crafted spirits in the historic Old Smiddy – the city’s first legal distillery on the castle rock – since 2019. It also offers daily gin and whisky tastings, distillery tours and a weekly gin school.

Apprentice/Trainee sponsored by ECO Hire

Ryan Coalter

Ryan was referred to the Learning and Employability Service by Skills Development Scotland as a school leaver living with autism.

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Keen on developing a career in transport and logistics, his experience of school had left him feeling very isolated with poor expectations.

However, in addition to working with a literacies specialist, Ryan has successfully passed his driving theory and practical exams.

Business in the Community

Babes in the Wood Stirling

As a not-for-profit enterprise, Babes in the Wood Stirling’s mission is dedicated to reducing environmental impact, alleviating child poverty, and fostering community engagement.

Recognising the latter as a means of creating a positive impact on both people and the environment, it actively supports local firms through competitive hall hire rates, subsidised community classes, and a Christmas toy appeal.

Employer of the Year sponsored by Kings Park Hospital

Blueberry Hill Meals

Blueberry Hill prides itself on drawing talent from the local pool of long-term unemployed people, and has also invested in its staff through supported driving lessons and flexible working arrangements. They remain passionate about providing people with food that is not only nutritious, but also tasty, with that home-cooked flavour sorely missed by so many people.

Innovation Award sponsored by Techscaler

Wild Child Animation

Wild Child Animation is driving innovation using a unique combination of software that brings efficiency and better sustainability to children’s TV productions, with clients including the BBC and Warner Media.

Over the last two years, it has transitioned its computer-generated animation pipeline from a traditional software-based rendering approach to real-time, using Unreal Engine (Epic).

Sustainable Initiative sponsored by Graham & Sibbald

Myriad Wind Energy Systems

Myriad is developing a disruptive innovation – a modular, scalable multi-rotor wind turbine. This presents many small rotors on a single support structure, instead of the one giant rotor seen on conventional wind turbines.

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Based in Stirling, Myriad’s stated ambition is to make wind energy more affordable – particularly in remote hard-to-reach locations – with their revolutionary modular design.

Diversity & Inclusion Award

Radical Weavers Limited

Radical Weavers embodies the concepts of diversity and inclusion in their company values –“Inclusive, Inspiring, Wholehearted” – which define the organisation

With a core team that exemplifies a rich tapestry of backgrounds, abilities, and experiences, the approach truly embodies the spirit of this award. The company is female-owned and led, with five out of its eight members identifying as LGBT+, four as women, three as transgender or non-binary, drawn from diverse age groups, abilities, and backgrounds.

Entrepreneur of the Year

Jason Wagner

Digital creative, entrepreneur and designer, Jason has always worked under one concept –to offer an inspirational environment for creatives across all disciplines.

On a mission to help people realise their dreams by transcending the boundaries of creativity and technology, and inspiring people to build confident futures and create a kinder, simpler world, he founded Ping Creates in 2010.