IT started with buying a stranger a drink after Scotland's World Cup qualifying match in Tallinn in 1993. That led to Iain Lawson building a Baltic network of business contacts, buying Estonia's former national pest control service, and becoming that country's consul general in Scotland.
Lawson couldn't have known that the local who persuaded the barman to keep the beer flowing for the Tartan Army was economic adviser to the Estonian prime minister.
That simple border-busting gesture of thanks would open up a world of opportunities in one of the most dynamic pockets of the New Europe.
Now Lawson is aiming to encourage other Scots businesses to follow his lead when he takes a leading role part in the Conference on New Europe being organised by the Scottish Council Development and Industry (SCDI) and Scottish Enterprise in Edinburgh next month.
The largest gathering of Eastern European and Scottish diplomats and trade bodies ever held in Scotland, the New Europe event aims to wake Scots businesses up to the red-hot export and growth opportunities on our doorstep.
"There have been massive changes in Eastern Europe but there are still great opportunities," Lawson said.
The European Union's (EU) expansion over the past four years has created the world largest single market, with access to almost 500 million consumers with more than 30% of the world's GDP.
Poland, the largest of the former Eastern bloc states to join in 2004, recorded a growth rate of 7% last year. In Estonia that figure was an astonishing 11%.
Jane Gotts, international trade manager for the SCDI, said the accession of the 10 Eastern European countries had created a vibrant market that Scots businesses were not yet fully exploiting.
"There has been a huge upturn in their economies over the past few years," she said. "These countries' economies are catching us up fast and they are investing hugely in all aspects of their national infrastructure, creating demand for construction, manufacturing supply chain and services like translation and architecture.
"There is also a hunger for education, energy and tourism services, while the growth of direct flights to these markets has eased incoming and outgoing trade.
"Many of these new markets are small like Scotland and are keen to do business with a similar-sized partner because of the perceived threats of bigger markets."
The single European market also means that all member countries share much of the same legal framework, which makes it much easier for Scots companies to agree - and to enforce - commercial contracts.
In recent years the SCDI, along with the entire enterprise network and past and present Holyrood administrations have seemed keener to encourage growing Scots businesses to look at the Chinese and Indian markets.
But while trade experts rightly argue that the strategies are not mutually exclusive, at least one business which has thrived in Eastern Europe feels that too great a focus on the "China challenge" could be diverting attention from lower-hanging fruit closer to home.
"I feel the pendulum is about to swing," said Farquhar MacKinnon, managing director of Supply Technologies in Linwood, which procures parts and materials for manufacturers.
"As far as China is concerned it is getting more expensive to ship freight, the cost of money is going up, and inflation there is becoming significant.
"Eastern Europe is a lot nearer, which makes it easier to manage facilities there, and the general level of education is better. Most of these countries are bilingual and often their second language is English."
Supply Technologies, whose parent company has a global turnover of $500million, established a base in Budapest when Hungary joined the EU four years ago.
Many of its customers are in the IT sector and were mass migrating to eastern Europe at that time.
The company now has customers in the Czech Republic, Romania, Slovenia and Romania and is considering a permanent presence in Poland.
That trade contributes an estimated $8m to the Scottish division's $50m turnover.
While it is almost impossible to calculate total trade figures for Scotland and eastern Europe because of divergent statistical methods in EU states, individual firms have recorded significant boosts from contact with the new states.
Sunvic Controls of Uddingston in Lanarkshire, which makes central heating components, says trade with the countries of new Europe will soon amount to 10% of its £1.7 million annual exports. Derek Ferguson, Sunvic's product manager, feels that the market could have advantages over China for Scots.
"The potential there is great, and the market is wide open," he said. "They have lots of manufacturing facilities that we can benefit from, and they do not have some of the drawbacks that getting things made in China can have.
"We used to get components made in China with our badge on them. Now I have been shown those same parts in Romania, cheaper than I can sell them straight from China. They can take something and produce it much cheaper.
"There is a massive opportunity in Europe, all we have to do is get the right message, and keep pushing at building relationships.
Poland is one country with which Scottish companies are already establishing that relationship, partly thanks to the former Scottish Executive's Fresh Talent Initiative, which has helped bring 70,000 Poles to this country.
Warsaw's consul general in Edinburgh, Alexander Dietkow, said existing links can only help trade. "It is important to support each other in this.
"I certainly we feel that we have a lot in common and there is big potential for economic trade and exchange."
Poland has been one of the soaring success stories of European expansion. It is now the fifth-biggest manufacturer of cars in Europe, produces LCD and plasma screens, and is a major contributor of goods to supermarket chain Tesco.
But while those 10 new member states are important markets in themselves, SCDI points to another significant factor.
"The geographical shift of borders in the EU also allows Scottish companies to use new members' experience of working in non-EU states - the Baltic states are a great bridgehead for accessing the growing Russian market, and Poland provides a similar platform for doing business in Ukraine," says Gotts.
It is an aspect which David Smith, who directs European operations for the Scottish government and Scottish Enterprise overseas trade and investment arm Scottish Development International (SDI), stresses is a large part of the attraction of the not-so-far East.
"It is important to put it in global context. You have a variety of different components whose total GDP is currently not that much more than the GDP of the Netherlands .
"In certain markets you have fast growth and terrific opportunities and in the bigger capital cities there is a speedily growing middle class. They have disposable income and money to spend "But it is also worth considering the opportunities in New Europe in the context of further opportunities that might exist in future.
"Some of the Scottish companies in the IT sector should be looking to take advantage as another way to spread their reach. It is an opportunity to build a bridge into the Russian market."
THAT bridgehead to under-penetrated giants was something which businessman Iain Lawson, a former trade and industry spokesman for the SNP, felt was particularly important.
"There are lots of opportunities," said Lawson, "especially in the IT sector, which is so dynamic there. There are openings for partnerships with local firms which then allow Scots to do business with Finland or Russia.
"Certainly, if I was a Scottish software firm I would want to be getting involved in marketing Estonian products to Western Europe and in return getting some Scottish products into their markets."
Estonia has undergone something of an economic revolution since that first visit by the Tartan Army. And many of its foot soldiers were among the first to recognise the potential.
"There are loads of Scots out there," said Lawson. "We have a whole lot of Buchan farmers, who spotted the opening and went over, complete with sheep and cows. There's a very vibrant Scots community in Estonia, and other part of eastern Europe. But we want more."