A YOUNG entrepreneur who set up an organisation to support survivors of domestic abuse has been named as the University of the Highlands and Islands Alumnus of the Year.
Rachael Bews (25) from Evanton was nominated for the award in recognition of the achievements she has made since graduating from Inverness College UHI in 2014.
After gaining a first-class honours degree in business and management, Rachael specialised as a digital marketing consultant, developing a portfolio of clients around Scotland.
She founded ALICAS, a social enterprise which gifts bespoke clothing parcels to women who have fled abusive relationships, in February 2018. The packs are made using surplus retail stock which would otherwise be sent to landfill or incineration.
Rachael set up ALICAS after meeting Ali, a woman who moved across the country with only the clothes she was wearing. Ali explained that having a good coat and pair of shoes played an important part in rebuilding her life, enabling her to attend job interviews and take her children to school with confidence.
Inspired by Ali’s story, ALICAS provides women with capsule wardrobes, tailored to their styles, sizes and religious or cultural needs. The enterprise has attracted seed funding from UnLtd and has been awarded a place at the Royal Bank of Scotland’s Entrepreneur Accelerator at the company’s headquarters in Edinburgh. Rachael has also been awarded a RSE Unlocking Ambition Enterprise Fellowship which will allow her to develop the venture with support from the CREATE, the Centre for Enterprise and Innovation at Inverness College UHI.
Speaking about her award, Rachael said: “I’m honoured and privileged to have been awarded the university’s prestigious title, ‘Alumnus of the Year.’
“The University of the Highlands and Islands played a formative role in sparking my passion for and experience of enterprise and entrepreneurship, especially through my involvement with CREATE, the Centre for Enterprise and Innovation. I couldn’t be more delighted to continue working with the university and CREATE on my new venture, ALICAS. With the continued support of the university and CREATE, it is now my ambition to create a scalable business model, designed to support as many women as possible.”
Professor Clive Mulholland, principal and vice-chancellor, said: “Rachael was an exceptional student during her time with us and has gone on to achieve great things since graduating. In her latest venture, she has combined her entrepreneurial acumen with her compassion for others to create an innovative social enterprise which has attracted national interest. Rachael is an excellent ambassador and is a very deserving winner of our 2018 Alumnus of the Year award.”
The University of the Highlands and Islands Alumnus of the Year award is presented annually to a graduate who has made an outstanding contribution to their community or who has made significant achievements in arts or sciences, business or in public or academic life. Rachael will receive her award at the Inverness College UHI graduation ceremony on Thursday 4 October.
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