Owner of tiny gift shop on one of Scotland’s smallest islands wins tourism prize

The owner of a tiny gift shop on a Hebridean island has been named one of Scotland’s best new tourism entrepreneurs.

The tiny island of Berneray. Picture: Doc Searls
The tiny island of Berneray. Picture: Doc Searls

Eilidh Carr has run Coralbox on Berneray since 2015, selling nautical and Hebridean-themed arts and crafts, jewellery, bags, candles and gift cards, as well as showcasing her own photography.

Now the 26-year-old has been named "entrepreneur of the year" in the first ever Young Women In Tourism Awards in Scotland.

Ms Carr studied photography in Aberdeen, but returned from the city to the island, where she now runs its only gift shop, after a spell working in its John Lewis store.

Eilidh Carr was named entrepreneur of the year at Scotland's first Young Women In Tourism Awards.

She launched her business at table top sales and then ran Coralbox from a converted caravan while her wooden shop was being built.

Coralbox, which has never had any public funding, supports more than 25 local craft-makers and businesses, is now open from March to December to accommodate demand from visitors, and now has online customers as far afield as America and Australia.

The judges said they were impressed by the “go-getter nature of this woman who recognised that a passion can be turned into a business.”

They added: “With a strong understanding of the importance of tourism to her area, her business has grown year on year and continues to drive new visitors.

Eilidh Carr started selling gifts from a converted caravan on the Isle of Berneray in the summer of 2016.

"Working in collaboration with other small producers in the area to cross-promote each other, she takes inspiration from the destination around her throughout every element of her business.

“Her entrepreneurial skills coupled with her love of the west coast make her a deserving winner.”

Ms Carr, who still travels up to 70 miles away from Berneray to take part in table top sales, said: "Tourism is one of the most important industries in both the Hebrides and in Scotland.

"We all need to work hard together to keep it alive and growing. My younger generation will work to keep people visiting the country to both cities and rural locations.

Eilidh Carr has customers who order gifts online from Berneray from as far afield as America and Australia.

"This will increase revenue to the areas and allow business across the sector to continue to grow from this. And for young people like me, it is a dream to be able to live and work back in the rural community I grew up in."

Open to women under 30 working in the tourism industry in Scotland, the awards were instigated by the Women in Tourism group to create a legacy from the Scottish Government's Year of Young People.

Other winners included Kathi Kamleitner, who was named "influencer of the year" for her blog Watch Me See, which she set up three years ago after relocating from Vienna to Glasgow. She was praised by the judges for her "passion for storytelling and drive to educate and inspire travellers and the wider sector."

Liz Robinson, conferencing and banqueting manager at the Fairmont resort in St Andrews was named rising star of the year, while Rosalyn Watson, who is studying international tourism at Edinburgh Napier University, was named best student.

Eilidh Carr's father spent four months building the wooden shop for Coralbox.

Susan Russell, chair of Women in Tourism, said: "Our team have been overwhelmed with volume and quality of applications for the inaugural Young Women In Tourism Awards.

"As one of the first legacy projects from the 2018 Year of Young People it was important to us that each winner would benefit from a package of support as they continue their careers within tourism.

"We're hugely thankful to our sponsors Expedia, Entrepreneurial Scotland, VisitScotland and HIT Scotland in gifting a range of work experiences to our winners.

"In addition to the accolade of being the first Young Women In Tourism Award winners, they will be able to meet new colleagues and gain new skills through these opportunities."

Coralbox is open to visitors from March to December.