AFTER a week in which Brexit has hogged the headlines we hear from a businesswoman who highlights uncertainty about what the vote will mean for small firms.


Julie Grieve.



What is your business called?

Information Apps.

Where is it based?


What services does it offer?

Software called Criton which allows hospitality accommodation providers to publish their guest information book into a branded app.

To whom does it sell?

Our market includes hotels, serviced apartments, Airbnb hosts, self-catering and holiday homes, B&Bs, Guesthouses, Barges, Boats, Cruises, anything where the guest will want information on the property.

What is its turnover?

We’ve just launched and have free trials going on just now, so the answer is £0! But we have strong growth projections, with a turnover of £5 million within 3 years.

How many employees?

Three, soon to be five now we’ve received our innovation award from Scottish Enterprise.

When was it formed?

I incorporated the business in November 2015 when I left the Lateral City apartments business, but I recruited my first developer in June last year and that’s when we started to develop the product.

Why did you take the plunge?

When I set up Lateral City as the apartments arm of the Chris Stewart Group I wrote the guest information books, having spent a small fortune on lovely leather in-apartment folders. I realised that as soon as I printed them and wrestled the paper into the plastic internal folders…no mean feat… that they were out of date because I wanted to change recommendations to our guests for example.

I went online to look for something more technical but I couldn’t find anything I thought was suitable. The quote for an app was £8500, not in our budget! So I parked the thought but it nagged away at me and eventually I just had an overwhelming urge to do it myself. It’s hard to explain why exactly except I believed I could build something that other people like me could use.

What were you doing before you took the plunge?

Running Lateral City Apartments, where I took over the operations of Merchiston Residence and opened Old Town Chambers, which offers 50 five star apartments in the heart of Edinburgh’s Old Town.

I found the serviced apartment industry fascinating. It was growing at a significant pace and there was a lack of standardisation which meant there were real opportunities. It was an exciting time to be involved in opening something in such a historic location. The dominance of the online travel agents was growing and it was squeezing operators’ margins.

How did you raise the start-up funding?

Before Lateral City I was managing director of Abbey Business Centres and a shareholder. I’m investing some of the proceeds from the sale of that business to Regus in 2010 and I’ve been fortunate to receive a £60,000 Innovation Grant from Scottish Enterprise. This will help enormously as I grow the team.

I moved to our holiday home in Elie to release funds to start the business.

I have to say that the start-up eco system in Scotland is very, very good just now. In the run up to launch I’ve received a lot of in-kind support from Scottish Enterprise, helping me to really flesh out the idea and understand the competitive market place as well as working with me on the strategy. Applying for the innovation award was by no means easy but you are supported through the process and I felt absolutely euphoric when I heard it had been approved.

I also want to say how helpful the team at Codebase and the other occupants have been. I started hot-desking there and I’ve moved to the Co-working space when my developers came on board. The other companies are so happy to help each other and I have picked a lot of successful brains in the past six months, all of whom are generous with their time and advice.

What was your biggest break?

To this day I say being asked to be MD of Abbey Business Centres in 2004, I wouldn’t have applied and yet it was a big step in my career.

At the time I was on the management team and the business was facing big challenges. The recession in the early noughties had seriously affected the serviced office industry because the dot com bubble had burst and left the industry with a lot of empty offices full of sofas and pinball machines.

What do you enjoy most about running the business?

People. I love building teams and I love helping customers solve their problems. I thoroughly enjoy the challenge of building a culture which means the staff feel they can get on with their job and where there are as few politics as possible.

What do you least enjoy?

There’s a lot of unnecessary paperwork and red tape when you run a business and it takes up a lot of your time or you have to pay someone to take care of it.

What are your ambitions for the firm?

Initially I am aiming to secure five per cent of the hotel, serviced apartment and holiday home market in the UK over the next three years. I also want to take the product global but to capitalise on our first mover advantage I will need investment.

What are your top priorities?

Sales; to add two more staff; bigger digs (hopefully still in Codebase); more development and finally making sure I ‘keep the heid’, by that I mean, I can be a bit of a workaholic and the advent of email on phones has meant I am available 24/7, which is not always a good thing. I want to make sure I make time for my family and friends, whilst doing right by the business. A wise man once told me you need to take care of yourself so you can take care of your business.

What could the Westminster and/or Scottish government do that would help?

Sort out the infernal confusion and uncertainty around Brexit which I think is bad for business and at this time sends a dreadful message to folks who work here. It’s hard to write a business plan with the exchange rate moving up and down on a regular basis.

What was the most valuable lesson that you learned?

That you can’t get promoted if your team can’t cope without you. You need to build capability into your business so that your staff grow and that it’s not all about you.

How do you relax?

Walking on the glorious beach at Elie with my dogs and my husband. I’ve taken up golf too, but with my handicap it’s often not relaxing!