Wasps, Inverness Creative Academy, Midmills Building, Stephen's St, Inverness, IV2 3JP

Red Squirrel

Tailored development for rural and creative SMEs

Red Squirrel Logo that says "Red Squirrel: People, Place, Prosperity"

In today’s business world, ideas around successful organisations are often defined through terms such as ‘profit-maximising’ and ‘growth-driven’. While relevant, these terms don’t necessarily support the full picture for ambitious businesses in rural regions. Creative businesses that are closely linked to community and place need more than a ‘one size fits all’ approach to business strategy.

Russwood building with quote: “The typical Highland company displays humility and modesty. It is not in our nature to shout about our strengths, whether that be our people, our product or our location. The Red Squirrel Project encourages the need to be more assertive in our strengths. As businesses grow and learn we are taught what works for large corporations and that learning is not always suited to rural organisations. That does not mean that Highland businesses should remain small, rather that a new way of teaching and understanding is required to allow rural businesses to expand while staying true to who they are. The Red Squirrel Project facilitates this perfectly. John Russell, Managing Director, Russwood

In our work we encounter many businesses that feel conventional models simply don’t recognise or capitalise on their distinctiveness. They tend to be found in rural and creative contexts though are by no means limited to these settings.

So, what is Red Squirrel?
Red Squirrel is a business development programme created by a rural, creative business (StrategyStory) for the distinctive needs of rural and creative businesses, and crucially, their people.

We know that many business development offerings are not tailored to the specifics of regions, or the nuances of businesses that operate within them. We know that rural business is often misunderstood. We’ve developed Red Squirrel to sort that. The programme offers tailored training in strategy and communications for rural and creative businesses so that they can grow in a way that suits their distinctive needs.

So…why Red Squirrels?!
We use ‘Red Squirrel’ as a metaphor for rural and creative businesses. Find out more from Professor Donald MacLean, who created the original concept:


The programme draws from Donald’s decades of research and practice in the field of strategy, Kate’s extensive career in media and communications, as well their own collective experiences of rural life, work and business.

Sheep skin rug and furniture in Isle of Skye setting with words: Jessica Hartwell, Marketing Director, Skyeskyns  “Working with Kate and Donald helped us articulate a strategy to capitalise on building momentum of consumer loyalty to home-grown products with provenance and craftsmanship at their heart. We have learned how to tell our story in a way that will capture customers’ hearts and minds and as a result and despite the cloudy economic horizons, we believe now is the time to invest in the future of our business to secure our place as Scotland’s sheepskin specialists.”

What do Red Squirrels (aka rural and creative businesses) get out of it?
A strategy for their distinctive needs
A Red Squirrel business model and management practice
A strategic communications plan
Skills in digital storytelling

Why do we feel this is so important?

Because rural business really matters, and we want to support rural and creative businesses in their way of life. As well as bespoke business support, Red Squirrel brings rural businesses together to strengthen our collective voice. We’ve created two documents to explain more.

Please email us at redsquirrel@strategystory.co.uk to sign up for our newsletter and receive these documents.

The original discussion paper (recently updated) created to share the idea and promote discussion

Brochure that explains the development programme

Front cover of the Red Squirrel discussion paper

Front cover of the Red Squirrel business programme

Who is this for?

Anyone who is interested in the original research, and the concept of our own distinctive way of doing businesses.


Who is this for?

– Policy makers, government and development agencies, those who have a role in supporting business

– Businesses who may be interested in being enrolled on the programme

Finding your tail in the rural business landscape

Mary Ann Kennedy and musicians in studio with the words:  “The programme is vital for both kinds of squirrels. For the reds, it’s all about empowerment. To help us realise that the way we do things is actually really powerful, that it achieves results on so many levels, and in a way can benefit more than just ourselves.”  Mary Ann Kennedy, musician and broadcaster, owner of Watercolour Music


Red Squirrel Taster sessions
We will be hosting a series of one hour taster sessions. If you’re interested in signing up please email Redsquirrel@strategystory.co.uk

Sound interesting?

Liked this? You might enjoy our What is Strategy? page


StrategyStory is a boutique consultancy and thought leadership business specialising in strategy and strategic communications. Led by Professor Donald MacLean and former BBC Senior Producer, Kate Hooper, the research-driven business pioneers new ways to create strategies that really work and that, crucially, put people at the heart of development.
Eilean Donan castle in background with words: A strategy with a story turns wishbone into backbone. Prof Donald MacLean.
Drawing from the Highlands and Islands storytelling traditions, the team combine modern storytelling approaches with the latest in strategic thinking to guide businesses, organisations and communities across the world to develop their strategies and communication practices. The business has clients in Australia and has worked with Harvard University as well as other organisations across Europe. Locally and nationally, StrategyStory has worked with both the private and public sector including the Scottish Government.
StrategyStory has a specific interest in rural business and entrepreneurship.

We deliver through partnership programmes, online learning, workshops, seminars and public speaking. We do lectures, talks and sessions on strategy and storytelling at private and public events.

If you’d like to arrange a conversation, please contact us at hello@strategystory.co.uk

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