Procurement · 11 July 2018

This Glaswegian startup gives you the perfect excuse to work from home

Melanie Russell, Outside in Garden Rooms founder

These glamourised garden spaces can be built into modern office spaces, into studios and soundproofed, or be perfect as a hang-out spot for youngsters. Outside In Garden Rooms are as versatile as it’s founder.

Melanie Russell had previously co-owned a digital agency but felt it was time for a career change and wanted to explore her green fingers without getting too dirty.

As the fourth part of our Women in Micro Business series, we caught up with the single mum and business owner, Russell, to find out how she “keeps her plates spinning” by juggling work and family life.

Who are you and what is your business?

Melanie Russell director and owner of Outside In Garden Rooms. We design and build highly insulated, fully finished timber Garden Rooms from our Glasgow workshop, they can be offices, studios, spare rooms, the list of uses is endless.

What is the company’s turnover?

I founded the business in September 2017, taking the first 6 months to develop our prototype so the business is still in its infancy and I only properly launched to market during May 2018.

My turnover aim for the first year is £50,000 with a £10,000 net profit although I have secured orders this week to the tune of £38,000 so am hopeful of surpassing the projected turnover.

What challenges can women expect to face in business?

I think the challenges are the same if you’re a man or a woman. It’s hard, hard work getting your product or service out there and you have to be prepared to work damn hard to make it a success.

Depending on the type of organisation, you need to be realistic with regards having funds available to support you through the early stages.

Do you think there are enough women running their own businesses?

Since launching my business, I’ve joined a variety of female related business groups and have been amazed at the incredible network that’s out there.

The support on offer through mutual conversations on many platforms is incredible so clearly, we are out there and doing some amazing work!

What do you think are the advantages of having more women in business?

Women have an amazing natural ability to juggle many aspects of life while keeping cool (at least outwardly)! I constantly use the analogy of “keeping the plates spinning”.

Combining work life with being a single mum with endless extra curricular activities and running the house etc. can be an utterly overwhelming task but it gets done as it simply has to.

Women can apply this logic to the business world in a phenomenal way which is a mighty thing to behold.

Have you ever had any discriminative experiences because of being female?

Genuinely, I haven’t! I think it perhaps comes down to the fact I see everyone as equal, be they men or women, therefore, I just don’t let myself be discriminated against. I’ve been thrown into networking events with all sorts of CEO’s of national businesses (mainly men) but I find if I think of them in a home environment, ultimately they’re just someone’s dad so it’s no different to anyone.

If you let yourself be intimidated or discriminated against I guess it shows. I’m a woman working in a heavily male orientated trades business but find if you give as good as you get or treat everyone the way you expect to be treated, the respect is there! Don’t get me wrong, I don’t doubt it’s out there but I’m fortunate enough to have never experienced it.

How do you handle knockbacks?

I’ve worked in business development all my working career so sadly knockbacks are just part of the course. I totally appreciate it takes a specific person to work in this role and run their own business, however, I take the approach that business is business and it’s nothing personal. If I did take it personally, I’d have been in a crumpled heap long ago, you just have to shake it off and move onto the next opportunity.

What advice do you have for other women wanting to start their own business

Research, planning and never underestimate the work involved. Nothing lands on your lap, you have to be prepared to get out there and make opportunities happen.

Take all the help you can get and say no to nothing. If someone invites you to an event that you’re not sure is worthwhile, if you have the time, do it, you just never know who might be there to open a new door.

What can the business community do to help more women entrepreneurs?

Advise each other. We’ve all been on our own journeys and picked up hints and tips along the way! Again through closed groups on social media, I’ve connected with a wealth of “mumpreneurs”, Scottish business women, the list goes on.

There’s lots of help and support out there so don’t be scared to ask others for advice. The more established businesses should also play a part in offering support and advice to younger businesses.

How do you hope your business to develop in the future?

I have all sorts of ambitions for the business. I’d like to partner with local councils to offer my rooms as a social enterprise space or pop up offices for SMEs within a disused warehouse or in a regeneration area.

I’d also love to tie in with outdoor education organisations or travel bodies as I’m looking into offering a solar or wind-powered room which could be built “off grid”. Franchising is also in the long term vision as we’ve been developing the rooms very much as a product with systems in place which would make that very realistic.

Who are your business heroes?

I’d like to say Richard Branson or Karren Brady but ultimately, it has to be my Dad! Before he retired he was a highly respected Chief Exec of a sizeable business having grafted his way through the ranks to reach the top.

What are you reading at the moment?

A very dull document on paid Facebook ads and how best to implement them!

Which one song is always on your playlist?

Oooo crikey, too many wide and varied playlists so don’t have one consistent song, thank you for music streaming services!

Where was your last holiday?

North of Scotland

When are you happiest?

When surrounded by family on holidays in the north of Scotland.

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Carly Hacon is a reporter for Business Advice. She has a BA in journalism from Kingston University, and has previously worked as a features editor for a local newspaper.


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