Staff

Coming from a wide variety of business backgrounds, we offer the experience you need to help get your social enterprise off the ground.

Karen McGregor

Chief Executive

Karen brings over 15 years experience of developing the skills, capacity and potential of the third sector. She originally joined Firstport in 2009 to implement and deliver its start up seed funding programme which launched the Scottish Government’s Social Entrepreneurs Fund.


Since then Karen has enjoyed developing several new programmes at Firstport. These include place-based incubators (Beyond the Finish Line and the Vital Spark), a unique social investment accelerator (LaunchMe) and a scaling up and replication programme (Ditto).

Having started her career in the private sector, Karen moved to the public sector where she joined the Big Lottery Fund, and built up her particular expertise in grant funding policy. Seven years at the Lottery gave Karen an extensive background in developing new funding programmes and a communications strategy for large scale initiatives.
Karen recently joined the board of Indigo - a Glasgow based childcare social enterprise.

Maria Fernanda Ashley (currently on maternity leave)

Head of Marketing & Communications 

Maria joined the team in August 2010. She started her career as a Marketing Assistant for a social enterprise supporting young and social entrepreneurs in London. This role allowed her to develop an understanding of the opportunities and challenges faced by start up companies, especially those with social aims at the heart of their businesses.  

After that she had a stint in the private sector, working for a specialist insurance broker.

She relocated to Edinburgh in 2009 and worked in events management for a local charity.

Brian McMillan

Business Advisor

Brian joined Firstport in September 2010 bringing both business and community experience gained from his career to date. Since selling his own business in 1992, Brian has worked with the Federation of Small Business, moved to Fife to work with Community Businesses and returned to the West as a member of the Inverclyde Regeneration Partnership Implementation Team. In 1998 Brian moved to Belfast to launch and establish Belfast First Stop Shop Ltd, an arms-length company of Belfast City Council. In 2002 Brian returned to Scotland, and for a short time worked as a Business Adviser with Business Gateway in Dumfries before being asked to assume responsibility for the Dunbartonshire Business Gateway contract.

Brian has also served as both Vice President and Chairman of a Community social club with a membership of 1000. Brian enjoys assisting social entrepreneurs, particularly in the West of Scotland, to build viable businesses with social benefits.

Elaine Ogg

Administrative Support Officer

Elaine joined the team in March 2009 and came with experience gained across a variety of corporate including Standard Life, RBS and Marks & Spencer. Having gained a wealth of knowledge across a number of different roles, Elaine has experience in events management, project management and HR admin. Elaine also gained an understanding of customer service while spending a season as a holiday rep in Greece.

Elaine is responsible for the administration of the awards programme and provides event management and admin support across the whole organisation. She is also part of our enquiries team, so it is likely that she will be one of the first people you speak to at Firstport!

Away from work Elaine loves travelling, swimming, eating out and spending time with friends.

Laura Giulianotti

General Office Administrator

Laura has had a varied career mainly in the Payroll sector. Coming to Edinburgh, her first post was with the hotel industry as a Reception Leader gradually moving into payroll and HR with various other companies as varied as legal, a restaurant chain and finally a mental health charity.  

Meeting up with like minded friends, she spends weekends listening to music and when on her travels she enjoys sampling the local cuisine.

Kirstie Penman

Programme Manager

Kirstie has almost ten years’ experience of working with third sector organisations, and is passionate about helping individuals access the support they need to set up their own social enterprises, and start something good within their communities.

Before joining Firstport, Kirstie was involved in establishing a start-up social enterprise herself as one of the founding directors of “Locavore”, a Glasgow-based social enterprise dedicated to promoting a sustainable local food economy. During that time, Kirstie also worked in the Third Sector department of a major Scottish law firm, assisting a wide range of clients with issues relating to their legal structures; this included drafting governing documents, incorporating limited companies, assisting with applications for charitable status and CIC registration.

Kirstie was also involved in launching the first ever Scottish charitable incorporated organisation (SCIO) - Glasgow-based environmental charity “South Seeds” – and became a founding trustee.

Carol Stewart

Head of Communications and Marketing (maternity cover)

Carol joined the team in April 2017 to cover Maria Ashley’s maternity leave. She started her career as a journalist, working for ten years on regional and national newspapers in England, Scotland and New Zealand. She then moved into communications, developing PR strategies and campaigns for organisations including Imperial Cancer Research Fund (now Cancer Research UK), Disability Rights Commission, Capability Scotland, CHILDREN 1st and the Scottish Government.

Carol has also worked as a freelance PR consultant for a range of clients in the private, public and third sectors.

Gael Drummond

Head of Operations

Gael joined the team as Head of Operations in October 2014.

She was previously Legacy Manager for the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games and was responsible for developing and maintaining relationships with the Scottish Government and Glasgow City Council’s Legacy 2014 teams, as well as other stakeholders, locally based organisations and groups to ensure opportunities to participate in and benefit from the Games were maximised within Glasgow and across Scotland. Prior to this, Gael managed the roll out of schools based Community Sport Hubs for the City of Edinburgh Council.

Gael is a keen athlete and currently captains both the Scottish and Caledonia ladies water polo teams. Gael also sits on the water polo committee for Scottish Swimming, helping to shape and drive the sport forward in Scotland.

Angela Hogg

Vital Spark Programme Manager 

Angela joined the Firstport team in March 2016.

Angela has worked in the arts sector for over 30 years. Her roles have included Theatre in Education Practitioner, Theatre Administrator, Arts Projects Coordinator and Festival Programmer. During the 1990 Glasgow City Of Culture, Angela played a key role in staging a range of projects involving professional artists and community based participants. Angela honed her skills in community collaboration as Arts Development Officer in Glasgow’s East End before joining the Scottish Arts Council in 1998 where she supported a range of strategic initiatives including growth of an internationally renowned Scottish Children’s Theatre Sector and implementation of a disability policy supporting professional development for disabled artists.  

Since 2010, Angela has worked on a freelance capacity for a range of arts organisations including Creative Scotland. In the last 2 years she has developed her third sector experience as Funding Officer with the Big Lottery Fund.

Sally Johnston

Programme Manager

Sally joined the team in April 2016. She is excited to be leading on the What if…Girvan programme and will also work with the team across other start-up and development projects. Bringing experience from the private, public and third sectors, she has experience of working with start-up and growth businesses within the creative industries and has delivered training and investment programs across Scotland. She was part of the team delivering and developing Starter for 6 at Cultural Enterprise Office for 5 years.

Sally has worked as a freelance producer and project manager most recently touring Broth, a storytelling performance nationally and also community based festivals as well as working with food pioneers Jelly and Gin. Sally is an accredited business coach and has been a mentor to several established social enterprises. She is Chair of Friends of the River Kelvin (FORK), a Glasgow based environmental charity.

Colin McMillan

Business Advisor 

Colin started working with Firstport in April 2016 and brings 13 years of academic, management and leisure industry experience.

Among his experience, Colin has worked as a manager with Edinburgh Leisure and latterly in the City of Edinburgh Council. In the local authority, he was responsible for supporting organisations to develop suitable business plans for community asset transfer in line with the Community Empowerment (Scotland) Act 2015.

Colin worked closely with community organisations to source funds and supported them to include the right business information for a successful application. With a very good knowledge of local authority operations, he has extensive experience of challenges and opportunities faced by social enterprises.

Colin has a Masters in Sport & Recreation Business Management and is a member of the Chartered Institute for the Management of Sport & Physical Activity. He plays cricket and running when his kids allow him the time!

Jess Gray

Communications Officer

Jess joined Firstport in March 2017. She gained experience working with start up companies during her previous role as Senior Communications Officer at the UK trade association for biotechnology companies. She has joined the team to help promote the programmes and business support that we offer.

Jess has a background in science, with an Honour’s degree in Immunology from the University of Edinburgh and an MSc in Science Communication that she completed in Bristol.

Jess has moved up from London to join us at Firstport and loves spending time back in the countryside.