Social enterprise Cope has scooped the top award in the annual Social Enterprise Awards Scotland.
The gong was presented by deputy first minister John Swinney at a ceremony hosted in Scottish parliament last night, hosted by Shetland MSP Tavish Scott.
Cope, which provides training and employment opportunities for people with disabilities, was one of six social enterprises shortlisted in the Social Enterprise of the Year category and will now represent Scotland at the national UK awards in London on 26th November.
General manager Ingrid Webb said they were delighted to have won against a field of very worthy candidates.
“What we try to do every day is to help people with a learning difficulty achieve great things,” Mrs Webb said.
“As a team, we support, learn and encourage each other to be better, more ambitious and thoughtful people.
“It’s not always easy, and we rely on our customers’ support. By buying our products, we can guarantee that people with disabilities have the opportunity to be part of something that makes them feel valued within their community.
“I think that’s something we all need in our lives.
“My hope is that our customers continue to shop with us and we will continue to show you that your trust in us is justified.
“We are grateful to each and every person in the Cope Ltd team and our board of directors who all volunteer their time to us. It’s an absolute team effort.”
The announcement was more good news for the Cope team after the company was named Best Social Enterprise 2015 at the Highland Business Awards in September.
Mrs Webb said Cope and other social enterprises had similar challenges, though Cope had different challenges too, given its location.
“I think it’s nice for people down on the mainland to see that a social enterprise can thrive in a rural area,” she said, attributing their success to “ a lot of hard work” and the support of folk in Shetland.
“We absolutely believe that somebody with a disability can produce high quality goods and last night was a recognition of that across the sector.”
Mrs Webb said Cope would continue to build on its work and was working with Highlands and Islands Enterprise and other organisations to look at how it could promote its products outwith Shetland.
By broadening its customer base, she said Cope could provide more employment and training opportunities.
“It really is exciting times and we will continue to work as hard as we have been doing over the past few years to push that forward,” Mrs Webb added.
Cope was recognised for its vision and strategic direction, clear leadership and management, customer satisfaction, its community impact, as well as good brand awareness and its creativity and innovation.
Fraser Kelly of the judging panel said: “Cope Ltd stood out as the clear winner. They took a big step to rebrand and have moved the businesses into a different phase of development.”
Mr Scott said: “I’m very proud that Cope Ltd has won this major Scottish award.
“After the tremendous changes that Ingrid and the team have made, this is national recognition for all that hard work. Roll on London.”