Keeping It In The Family

From liquidation to Saxen in 6 years … which just goes to show how any home working employees can take a negative down turn, flip the coin and go positive by starting up their own home based business.

This is the scenario Shirley Wallace faced when her employer went belly-up and instead of moping and trying to find another job, Shirley took the bull by the horns [her fiancé Gareth Gillespie], built an new start up online business, Saxen and started selling office furniture online from home in Newmilns, Ayrshire. 

Luckily for Shirley, Gareth had a number of years experience in sales, particularly office furniture, and website building.  Working from home wasn’t just the idea - Shirley and Gareth wanted to keep things in the family and hauled in Gareth’s Mum, Ruth Loudoun, who had several years’ experience in business accounts and banking.

So now we have Shirley [big boss lady], Gareth [the all essential bull] and Mum/Mum-in-law-to-be [money penny]. Sounds very bond, doesn’t it?

In true Bull-ish style Gareth quickly realised there was a lack of affordable, quality, ergonomic office chairs in the UK market and with Big Boss Lady and Mum-Money-Penny, he decided to sit right down on his bum … so to speak.

What he actually did was branch out with Mesh Office Chairs, as an Ayrshire-based distributor of ergonomic office chairs.

All this was now going on from the same home office!

Get this Saxen desk with your home office make over so your new start up business gets a productive boost
Purple Family

Shown above fund raising for a local hospice. Mum-money-penny is sitting next to David.  Nicola is between Mum and Shirley, wearing hat and scarf, and Alison is behind.

Spare Room Start Up

The three [to remind you - Big Boss Lady, The All Essential Bull and Mum-Money-Penny] all worked together from a spare bedroom until reaching the point where a further employee was essential.  Never mind the fact that space musta been tight in their spare room!

In true bull-style, Gareth threw a red flag at his friend, Alisdair McGready, asking him to not only join them in their spare room office but also to take the risk that all start-up business owners take - unpredictable earning.  Surprisingly, Alisdair agreed! 

The two companies continued from Gareth and Shirley’s spare bedroom and when they finally they outgrew the space, they purchased a small industrial unit in the next village, employing a further two local employees for customer service and internet sales for Saxen.  Now at last Gareth and Alisdair were free to concentrate on Mesh.

Keeping It In The Family

Nowadays, Shirley is the Managing Director of Saxen and Gareth the Managing Director of Mesh Office Seating.  Ruth (mum and mum-in-law) continues to keep a tight control of the purse strings as Financial Director for both companies (to the bane of Gareth and relief of Shirley)! Family friend, Alisdair is Sales Director for Mesh Office Seating!

Shirley’s mother Marion Wallace is Head Housekeeper in constant control of tea and coffee supplies and vacuum sacks and cleaning products for both companies. Michael Wallace (Shirley’s nephew and Marion’s grandson) works for Mesh Office Seating in warehouse distribution.  Nicola (Gareth’s sister and Ruth’s daughter) is responsible for online content marketing for both companies and writing the Saxen office furniture blog. 

They all now work happily – not in the home office spare room – but in a former lace mill, a half a mile from their humble bedroom beginnings!

Shirley's advice for a new start-up company ...


Put in the hours, don't cut corners and never be afraid to ask for help!

Early on Gareth and Shirley made a pact not to talk about work when out the office so naturally, family occasions inevitably end up involving shop talk and heated arguments!  Often not possible in regular office hours, discussions inevitably end up commencing out-with office hours.

Thankfully after much screaming and shouting (mostly by Nicola), no more spending (Ruth), need to move forward with bull-ish planning (Gareth) and need to be more cautious (Shirley and Ruth) they all end up speaking again.

Obtaining Gareth’s undivided attention can be difficult.  His mobile phone constantly rings.  Both Shirley and Ruth have discovered a good place to catch Gareth’s attention is when he is driving the car and they are passengers.  The Bull has no escape!

Inspiration and Advice for Others

Shirley admires the British entrepreneur Richard Branson and is most interested in his environmental and ecological work.  She admires the marketing expertise of Scottish born female entrepreneur Michelle Mone who is most well known for her lingerie range. 

Gareth is inspired by Steve [Apple] Jobs as he admired his vision.  Being a driven, determined individual his favourite film is Braveheart due to the perseverance and determination of William Wallace. 

Gareth's advice for a new start up business ....

Commit 100% to your business and never give up.

No matter where the home office is located Saxen’s collections will blend naturally into the home and the Mesh chairs feature names such as Enjoy, Ergohuman, Ergohuman Plus and Mirus.

What’s Next?

Mesh Office Chairs continues to expand and Gareth envisions an office chair manufacturing facility in the future.  He would also like to branch into mainland Europe while Shirley and Saxen are looking forward to opening a new showroom.

As a family-run company employing local and loyal people, they want to remain in the Irvine Valley where the business began and where family is based.  It has been a steep learning curve for all family members who are continually trying to improve their products and our service. 

Nicola finishes off this home business family story with a nice touch ...


We’re not doing too badly for a couple of bedroom start-up companies!

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