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Scotland's oldest social enterprise appoints new chief executive

This news post is almost 3 years old

Glencraft, the luxury mattress social enterprise that has supported disabled people with work for 178 years, has appointed a new managing director.

Donald MacKay, who reached CEO level during a 30-year career in the energy sector that saw him live in 10 countries, has taken on the custodian role with one of Scotland’s most famous social enterprises.

He takes up the reins from Graham McWilliam who held the prestigious position at Aberdeen-based Glencraft for six years. Graham took the decision in May to step down and will be pursuing new business interests after a short break.

MacKay said: “It is an honour and privilege to be entrusted to lead, support and develop such a highly-regarded and vitally important social enterprise.

“I’d like to thank Graham for his remarkable work during a time of intense challenges, including the downturn in the oil and gas market and the implications of the Covid-19 pandemic. He passes on a business in a strong position, and we look forward to creating the next part of the Glencraft story.

“Businesses and the community across Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire have always been tremendous supporters of Glencraft and I look forward to strengthening those relationships.

“I have enjoyed my career in the energy sector but the chance to shape an organisation with an international reputation for quality and one that provides dignity through work opportunities that may not otherwise be available was simply too good to turn down.”

Jonathan Smith, who has been confirmed as chairman of Glencraft, said: “We wish Graham all the best in his next adventure. He led our transformation to a luxury brand, expanded our reach through international agreements and supported the growth and development of a talented team. When Graham announced he was stepping down, the Glencraft board set in motion a process to find someone whose leadership qualities embrace the professional will and personal humility that this demanding role requires. I’m delighted to say we have found that in Donald.”

McWilliam said: “I’m of course sad to be leaving Glencraft but the time had come to find new challenges. In recent years, Glencraft has been put on the right track and I have no doubt that Donald and the team will build on this to ensure it continues to grow not only as a commercial enterprise but as a valued support network in the Aberdeen community.”

One of McWilliam's final achievements at Glencraft was securing £75,000 of government funding – part of the Adapt and Thrive third sector initiative – to replace outdated machinery and improve reliability and efficiency at the organisation’s Mastrick site, where its luxury handmade mattresses are produced.

Born and raised in Lewis, MacKay is a board member of Bòrd na Gàidhlig, a public body tasked with ensuring the advancement of the Gaelic language in Scotland. In a career that started at Schlumberger, he has held a number of senior positions including Vice-President (Europe) at Odfjell Well Services, interim CEO at Morgenstern and CEO at Read Cased Hole.

In May this year Glencraft was praised for its work and community contribution in a letter from Prime Minister Boris Johnson. It came following Glencraft’s success in attaining a Queen’s Award for Enterprise for promoting opportunity through social mobility. The honour was a fitting tribute to former Glencraft chairman Duncan Skinner, who was diagnosed with cancer and sadly died earlier this year.

Skinner, along with businessman Bob Keiller, led the fight to save Glencraft in 2010. It faced closure after issues following a funding review. The charity, which also employs people from challenging socio-economic backgrounds, has since gone from strength to strength, supporting 38 jobs and attracting worldwide admirers.

Glencraft is a recognised global luxury mattress brand – with sales to five-star hotels and distribution agreements with companies in South Korea and China. Through its partners, Glencraft has branded stores in Singapore and Hong Kong.

Customers in the North-east of Scotland include The Fife Arms Hotel in Braemar, Buchan Braes Hotel near Peterhead, Maryculter House Hotel just outside Aberdeen and The Chester Hotel in Aberdeen. Other customers include The Balmoral in Edinburgh, Brown’s Hotel in London’s Mayfair district and the Caledonian Sleeper Service. It also counts North Sea operators among its clients.

Glencraft won the Queen’s Award for Enterprise, Promoting Opportunity (through social mobility) for its commitment to supporting people from under-represented groups, while providing development and training support to its staff and a sustainable business model. One member of staff has been with Glencraft for nearly 50 years, while another provides key manufacturing skills despite being blind. He has been with Glencraft for 35 years.

The handmade luxury mattresses, some of which have 3,000 pocket springs, have been showcased in Vogue magazine and have a 10-year guarantee. They incorporate UK-sourced natural materials such as horsehair, mohair, cashmere, wool and alpaca wool. Established in 1843, the not-for-profit enterprise also manufactures divans and headboards.