So, this is my first Pilot blog. You could say it’s my pilot Pilot blog. Well, you could but as we all know, Pilot has a strict no-puns rule.

Pat’s off for a well-earned break at the moment and I’m sitting on my own in the brewery (sob). I’m lonely, lost and on my own (it’s only day two), but it’s allowing me to draw a wonderfully convenient comparison to how it feels to start a small business, as all of these feelings apply when you take the plunge and set out on your own. Yes, you make great connections with your customers, many of whom become good pals, and often (certainly in the brewing industry) even your competitors are there to help you out and offer advice. But ultimately, the entire weight of the business is on your shoulders and once it’s up there, you can’t put it down. You get your head down, work your arse off, and other than the odd bit of customer feedback/social media interaction and the fact that you’re still in business, there’s often no way of knowing if you’re doing well or not. If only there was some kind of award ceremony that acknowledged the achievement and hard-work of start-up businesses, particularly the smaller ones that often get overlooked… (Can you see where I’m going with this?)

Skip to last Thursday night. There’s a long pause, anticipation, the envelope is opened… “And the winner is, Pilot Beer Ltd”. Patrick and I are at the inaugural Buchanan Business Awards. These awards are for micro-businesses (under ten employees) and are organised by Capital City Partnership and the Business Gateway as part of Edinburgh’s ‘Joined up for Business’ partnership. Set up to celebrate the legacy of the late Councillor Tom Buchanan, who, as Convenor of the City’s Economy Committee and Chair of the Capital City Partnership Board, was passionate about supporting and promoting the critical role that micro businesses have as a key contributor to the City’s economy. Here we are, Patrick and I, in the impressive Conference Centre at RBS Gogarburn, wearing suits (very rare for us these days), and following a drinks reception and buffet (with particularly noteworthy pies), we’re sitting at round tables with the other finalists, looking up to the stage.

First award: Growth Business of the Year. The finalists were Bright Red Publishing and, us. Pilot. We knew we were finalists in two categories, so were hopeful we’d be lucky enough to win one of them but it was still a huge surprise to hear our name read out. We were totally unprepared and were more than a bit rosy with nerves when we got to the stage to accept the award from the nice lady from Business Gateway. A proper, glass award it was too. We sat back down and started to relax, safe in the ‘knowledge’ that we’d done our bit for the evening.

Second award: Employer of the Year. This was won by Flavours of Italy, with Grease Monkey as runner-up.

Third award: Young Entrepreneur of the Year. This was won by Mademoiselle Macaron, with We are the Future, coming second.

Forth award: Developing Business of the Year. This was won by Cahoonas Ltd, with Packashack as runner-up.

Fifth award: Innovative Business of the Year. This was worthily won by Grease Monkey, with ourselves, yes, Pilot, coming second.

But wait. There was one more award. The Overall Business of the Year Award. For some reason, most likely our failure to read anything properly (we’ve had a busy year), we thought that if you’d won one already, you weren’t in the running for this award. “And the winner is, (dun dun duuuuuuuuun) Pilot Beer Ltd”. Crikey. Genuinely wasn’t expecting this one. Up we go again, red faced and flustered. We’re not used to getting this much attention. Capital City Partnership Chief Executive, Jim Rafferty handed us an even bigger, glass award and we even had to say something this time. We had nothing prepared but fortunately Pat’s pretty good at winging it, getting a few words of thanks out and even managing a bit of ‘bants’ with compare JoJo Sutherland.

So what’s the point of this rambling blog? Well, other than a chance to show-off that we’re now a multi (two awards counts as multi, right?) award winning brewery, it’s a pretty long-winded way of saying what a boost these awards have given us. Yes, there’s the prestige and the prize money, which will be incredibly useful in our quest to seek means of growing the business, but perhaps more importantly, it’s given us a metaphorical hug, a pat on the back to reassure us that all this hard work (and tight cash-flow) is actually paying off. It’s shown us that we’re not on our own and there are loads of other, truly great, exciting small businesses in Edinburgh, all in the same boat and going through similar things. Every one of them there last Thursday (details below) were worthy winners and I encourage you (particularly those of you based in Edinburgh) to have a wee look at what they’re up to, and if you like what they do, give them some much deserved support.

And finally, I’d like to say a huge thank you to all at Capital City Partnership (particularly Ellen for deeming us worthy of nomination), Business Gateway and all of the sponsors for this genuinely beneficial event. Long may it last.

Bright Red Publishing  |  |  @brightred
Flavours of Italy  |  |  @flavoursofitaly
Grease Monkey  |  |  @greasemonkeycyc
We are the Future  |  |  @watf_
Mademoiselle Macaron  |  |  @mml_macaron
Cahoonas Ltd  |
Packashack  |  |  @packashack