STEP celebrates 30 years of pioneering Business Support
Once a thriving carpet factory, the John Player Building nearly didn’t make it through World War 2. A German bomber dropped a land mine, just missing the factory and hitting the old King’s Park football ground.
In 1983, a chapter of industrial history ended as John Player & Sons cigarette factory, originally opened in 1953, closed its doors in Stirling. A year later the building was handed over to the Central Region Industry and Business Park Trust Ltd and Stirling Enterprise Park (STEP) was formed. The site was then officially opened on 25th January 1985 by Mr David Murray.
One of the first of its kind, STEP’s goal was to ‘help grow the environment for growth and enterprise in Stirling’. Offering low-cost business premises, with the unique concept of offering free Business Support services, the opening of the site attracted royalty.
In 1986 phase 2 was opened 1st Aug 1986 by ‘Anne, Princess Royal’ and in 1988 phase 3 was opened 1st July 1988 by ‘Charles, Prince of Wales’.
In 1990, with the Park at full capacity of 81 thriving businesses, STEP, in partnership with Stirling Enterprise Economic Development Company (SEEDCO), set out to open the city centre ‘Stirling Business Centre’, SBC Ltd, with 47 modern office spaces. Demand was so high that the site was 75% full on the opening day in June 1991. Due to continuing demand for business premises, in 1996, STEP opened Enterprise House, a third site of office space, yet again the demand was so high that the site was full within eight months of opening its doors.
In 2000 Small Business Gateway, or Business Gateway as we know it today, was introduced by Scottish Enterprise, which recognised the growth potential in providing Business Support services to SME’s Scotland-wide. A consortium made up of STEP, Falkirk Enterprise Action Trust and Clackmannanshire Enterprise won the first three-year contract to deliver Business Support in the area. STEP continues its business counselling service under the new name of Business Gateway, and still does today, eighteen years later.
In the millennium, SME’s were finding their business growth restricted, due to a lack of IT and digital skills, so STEP opened a training centre dedicated to increasing digital business skills. The STEP Business Education Centre IT suites trained in all things IT and digital, from getting to know your hardware, to software skills and advanced techniques.
Today STEP remains as one of the largest business landlords in Stirling, offering flexible, low cost property for SME’s with the added benefit of Business Support.
In February 2016 Business Gateway launched Digital Boost to support businesses looking to improve their digital knowledge. This replaced STEP’s need for a Digital Academy and all digital training is now offered through the Digital Boost programme.
In Spring 2018 renovation of the STEP building at the new Kildean Business and Enterprise Hub, formerly the Kildean Hospital, was completed. The site offers affordable rent and flexible leases to start up or small businesses. Once again, this size of offices was highly popular with nine out of twelve offices being filled on opening.
From the industrial revolution, to the introduction of the Internet, the Euro, GDPR and now Brexit, STEP has always been the ‘go-to’ organisation in Stirling for SME’s to start, grow and overcome any business challenge.
Since STEP came into being in 1984, it has fulfilled a vital role, offering flexible workspaces to all types of businesses. STEP had a vision to offer new start and medium sized businesses the option of premises with flexible, competitive leases, giving them the added benefit of Business Support services and ‘watch them grow’. And that is exactly what STEP has helped many of Stirling’s business success stories do over the last 30 years!
STEP looks back at some of the Stirling companies it has supported throughout the last three decades.
The first six tenants STEP’ed inside in August 1984.
Raymond Elder B.D.S moved into STEP to offer floral art and the newest craze of continental sugar almond wedding favours.
Mr John Scott-Jackson brought the Heatseeker, an energy saving attachment for boilers to Stirling.
J.A. Brennan & Co.
A growing Accountancy firm, J.A Brennan & Co based its second Stirling location at STEP.
Acorn Insurance Services
Advising on all Insurance coverage, Acorn set up its Stirling office at STEP, as it needed ample free car parking.
Cambron Business Services
Mr David Miller and Mr Ian Whitfield were two ambitious entrepreneurs who set up an Office Sales company together.
Since these first 6 tenants, STEP has seen some world’s firsts through its doors.
In 1988, Stirling entrepreneur Bryan Sear, came up with a ‘world’s first’ to save lives. Working with the Killin Mountain Rescue team, Bryan identified the need for an Electric Blanket Sleeping Bag. After receiving funding from the Government’s Enterprise Allowance Scheme, he set up Peregrine Industries at Stirling Enterprise Park, and set out to make his first fortune.
Well known Fintry dairy farmer Katy Rodgers was considering diversification even in the early years of 1988. Her family received support from STEP when they decided to launch themselves into the world of ice-cream manufacturing. The Katy Rogers’ brand has since been a regular client at STEP, receiving growth support and other diversification model support.
In 1997 Moira MacPherson invented the first mass market anti-speeding car dashboard alarm. STEP supported Moira in getting her product to market, introducing her to Douglas Clark, of Clark Electronics, still based at STEP today, who helped create a prototype, and the manufacture of the first 500 units.
Over the decades there are some tenants who have stood the test of hard times and economic crashes, and remain STEP tenants to this day.
Stirling Surveys is a map-making and publishing company specialising in the production of high quality maps. Patrick Blashill and Steven Barrett established the business at STEP in 1987 and it has won many awards for its products.
In early 1984, Margaret Porter and Dorothy Breckenridge established C-N-Do Scotland at STEP.
Combining years of experience and eternal enthusiasm for the Scottish outdoors, Margaret and Dorothy thought “If we can do these walks then just about anyone can do them as well” – and so it has been proved by the many hundreds the team has introduced to this lifelong addiction (but a healthy one mind you)! Some of their customers have even gone on to start their own outdoor activity businesses.