Zara’s Planet saddling up to ride into Fortuna 50

Jill Dolan’s business – the UK arm of Zara’s Planet – seems to be galloping along nicely.

Polo helps Zara's Planet to make a mint. Picture: Getty
Polo helps Zara's Planet to make a mint. Picture: Getty

The Dunblane-based firm specialises in horse-riding holidays, which, for the more adventurous types, include traversing the open steppes of Mongolia, herding cattle in the United States, playing polo in Buenos Aires and learning classical dressage in Portugal.

The Scots business is sister company to an Irish operation founded by Dolan’s life-long friend Zara Stassin – hence the branding. Dolan’s sister, Laura, is also involved in the venture – which is celebrating its tenth year in business.

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Now the girls’ hard work appears to have paid off, with Zara’s Planet making it on to the Fortuna 50 index of Britain’s fastest growing female-led small businesses – a listing dominated by businesses from south of the Border.

Dolan tells us that she is “absolutely thrilled” to have attracted such an accolade, even more so to have it endorsed by a letter of congratulations from a certain Mr Cameron at Number 10. We are not sure if the PM will be clambering into the saddle any time soon though.

Adoption works out well

Adopt an Intern, the not-for-profit spin-out company that does exactly what it says on the tin, stages its inaugural awards bash next month.

Since its formation in 2010, the venture has facilitated in excess of 900 internships. Ahead of the awards evening at the Scottish Parliament on 30 April, Adopt an Intern’s first even candidate – Iain McDonald – has been sharing his experience of graduating from university and searching for employment.

“In 2008, I graduated from the University of St Andrews with a degree in English Literature. This was right in the teeth of the recession, so I’d started to wonder whether I might struggle to find work.

“A part-time retail position did just about enough to keep the lights on, but it wasn’t quite what I’d imagined when I made the decision to study at university. I was pretty well demoralised by the time a friend told me about the work of Adopt an Intern.

“In February 2010, I applied for a paid position writing for a small business publication in Edinburgh, Young Company Finance. I couldn’t believe my luck, being paid for what I wanted to do!

“I worked with the company for five months before moving on to a permanent corporate communications position with a government agency. I’ve no doubt this opportunity would never have presented itself without the experience Adopt an Intern gave me. After a few years, I moved to the Middle East to become a copywriter with a start-up digital agency – and I’m still there.”

Mother knows best…

Pubs have been vocal about the threat to Britain’s pubs from cheap booze at the supermarkets, against a backdrop where about one in six premises have closed since 2004.

Tim Martin, founder, chairman and leading shareholder in JD Wetherspoon, which has several dozen pubs in Scotland including The Standing Order in Edinburgh, has come up with an amusing emotional blackmail twist on the attempted fightback, however.

Spotted in one of his pubs by an eagle-eyed drinker from the business desk is a leaflet dreamed up by Martin himself with the arresting slogan “Don’t pre-drink, what would your mother think?”