GRAMPIAN and Tayside are outperforming other parts of Scotland in new business start-ups, with women and former oil and gas employees contributing to record high numbers, according to new figures.

Of the 1,276 people starting new businesses through Business Gateway in Aberdeen city and Aberdeenshire over the last 12 months, more than half (51 per cent) were women, while almost 6 per cent were started by people who had been made redundant from the oil and gas industry.

“People in oil and gas have often harboured the notion of starting a business and are just waiting for the right circumstances to propel them into action,” said Gary McEwan, chief executive of Aberdeen-based social enterprise Elevator, which runs Business Gateway services for Aberdeen City, Aberdeenshire, Perth & Kinross, Dundee and Angus councils.

“So I think we’ll see more of that in the forthcoming year if the oil price stays low. But I think people will be surprised that only 15 per cent of our start-ups in Grampian overall are energy focused. It’s a much more diversified economy up here than most people would think.”

Elevator said the surge in female entrepreneurship over the past few years had been ‘exceptional,’ particularly in Aberdeenshire.

“Owning your own business can allow for a more flexible way of living that fits in well with family life,” Mr McEwan said. “We’ve invested a lot of time in programmes that are specifically for female-led entrepreneurial businesses and there seems to be renewed confidence around this whole area. We’re now seeing a situation where the majority of our start-ups are female-led, which is great news.”

In Tayside, the business start-up rate was almost 4 per cent ahead of target, with more than 830 new starts against the target of 800.

“Dundee is going through a structural transformation that is presenting lots of opportunities,” Mr McEwan said, adding that Tayside and Grampian seemed to be bucking the trend, while start-up rates across Scotland slowed.

For example, recent figures from the Committee of Scottish Bankers show that start-ups fell from 11,772 to 11,669 in the year from December 2014 to December 2015.

Elevator said it had exceeded by 27 per cent its 12-month target for the Grampian area of creating 1,000 new start-ups. Mr McEwan attributed this in large part to Elevator’s launch in 2014 of a £1 million Centre for Entrepreneurship in Aberdeen, inspired by US and European facilities.

“It looks like a Google campus,” Mr McEwan said. “You don’t sign in and wear a badge, and our advisers don’t wear suits. It’s a much more relaxed entrepreneurial environment. The public can walk in to do some market research or speak to one of our advisors without an appointment.”

A centre for Dundee will also be unveiled in the coming weeks. One of Elevator’s success stories is Mechelle Clark, 34. She set up Melt, a toastie takeway specialising in grilled cheese, on Aberdeen’s Holburn St after ten years in recruitment and training with a drilling contractor.

“I chefed when I was younger and used to run a cup cake company and always wanted to go back into food,” Ms Clark said. “After the second redundancy in 15 months, I interviewed for about 60 jobs and just decided – what better time than now?”

The business has been a big hit since it launched on 1 March, and has run out of bread on several occasions. Its ‘fancy toasties’ are made with artisanal bread and combines cheeses including local cheddar, French gruyere and Italian mascarpone with fillings such as haggis, bacon, rocket, French salt and the Italian hazelnut-chocolate spread, Nutella.