Micro-enterprises from across rural Scotland are being encouraged to sign up to a new online directory that will allow customers, suppliers and visitors to find firms by geography and sector.

The Rural Enterprise Directory Scotland (REDS) is part of the Smart Village initiative from GrowBiz, the country’s specialist rural enterprise support organisation. It is said REDS will be the first online directory of its kind, designed to stimulate connection and collaboration between rural and island businesses across Scotland.

“Nearly 25 per cent of adults in rural Scotland are self-employed – more than twice the rate of urban areas – and challenges such as inconsistent broadband coverage, poor transport links and greater distances to food supplies and health services means that rural businesses and their communities were already under severe pressure before the coronavirus pandemic,” GrowBiz chief executive Jackie Brierton said.

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“Scotland’s micro-enterprises form the backbone of our rural economy and they need support – both financial and practical – to adapt where necessary and ultimately recover. Business which join the directory will have access to practical support from GrowBiz and the enterprise agencies, invitations to exclusive events and also be eligible to apply for a REDS grant, once funding is in place, which will help owners develop their businesses in collaboration with other rural businesses.”

Young people are one of the key target groups the directory intends to support. With fewer employment opportunities in rural areas, REDS aims to encourage young people to consider entrepreneurship as a career path.

Alongside the directory, GrowBiz is running a CrowdFund Scotland campaign for the “REDS Fund: Supporting Scotland’s Rural Future”. Its target is to raise £3 million to support up to 1,200 micro-enterprises across the country.