West Lothian Teenager Wins Inspirational Young Person Award 2023

Cabinet Secretary Mairi Gougeon praises teen for inspiring others as winner announced during Scottish Food & Drink Fortnight (2-16 September)

Scotland Food & Drink news Industry news Scottish Food & Drink Fortnight
Published: 07/09/2023

Sophie Mackenzie, a 19-year-old hotel supervisor from West Lothian has won NFU Mutual’s Inspirational Young Person Award.   

The award, which is in its fifth year, was launched by the commercial insurer in partnership with industry leadership organisation Scotland Food and Drink, seeking to uncover inspirational examples of talented 16 to 26-year-olds who own, work or study in the food and drink sector.

With a prize of £500, the award aims to highlight not only the enormous contribution that young people make to Scotland’s food and drink businesses, but also the importance of the sector to the wider economy.  

First-place winner Sophie took on the role of general assistant at The Watchman Hotel in Gullane, East Lothian on its opening in 2021, aged only just 18. It was Sophie’s first ever job and her outstanding dedication to service, standards and excellent feedback from patrons, led to her promotion to hotel supervisor in March 2022.

Sophie, who is studying for a HNC in Event Management, was nominated by hotel manager Neil King. He said: “Sophie is the perfect example of what hospitality can do for a young individual. She is a leading light for our industry and our hotel. Our business would not be the same without her.”

Alongside Sophie, runner-up for the award was Joanne Kerr, 21, of the Coo Shed in Ayr, who wins £300. The Coo Shed is a farm-themed coffee shop and milk vending machines, set on a dairy farm on the outskirts of the popular seaside town. Joanne was praised for her fantastic work ethic and her friendly 'can-do' attitude.

Sophie Mackenzie, this year’s first place winner said: “I'm extremely thankful to my manager Neil for nominating me and feel really proud of myself for achieving this accolade and in my first job. I get a real buzz working at The Watchman and seeing the delight our customers get from enjoying our food and facilities. I will be putting the money towards a car which will be a huge help for me with getting to college and work.”

Mark McBrearty, NFU Mutual Regional Manager: “Selecting a winner and runner up from the high quality of entries this year was very difficult, but I am delighted to be congratulating Sophie and Joanne, both worthy winners and wonderful ambassadors for our world-famous food and drink industry.”

 Mairi Gougeon, Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs and Islands, whose responsibility includes agriculture, food and drink policy, said: “I’d like to congratulate Sophie and Joanne for demonstrating the commitment, hard work and flair that is so vital to our food and drink industry. I know that this will inspire other young people to explore the exciting opportunities available in one of Scotland’s most successful sectors.

“The award also coincides with Food & Drink Fortnight during which we celebrate Scottish produce and encourage people to discover what is available right on their own doorstep.”

Iain Baxter, Chief Executive at Scotland Food & Drink, added: “Scotland has a proud reputation nationally and internationally for its food, drink and hospitality. Supporting the future of our sector by recognising up and coming talent is crucial to its long-term success.”

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