WITH many shops lying empty across Scotland, the entrepreneur behind an innovative art and design store is calling for the authorities to take a radical approach to breathing fresh life into the country’s high streets.


Lynzi Leroy.



What is your business called?

Scottish Design Exchange.

Where is it based?


What products does it offer?

Art and design products created in Scotland.

At the moment we operate from a unit at Ocean Terminal in Leith. We are opening a unit in the Buchanan Galleries Centre in Glasgow in July and have our sights set on opening an outlet in Dundee.

All out products are made by Scottish-based artists, designers and craftspeople who rent space from us at our main store in Ocean Terminal and receive 100 per cent of the sales proceeds. We opened in response to a demand from artists, who can face difficulty getting their creative work to market.

What is its turnover?


How many employees?

Six rising to 12 after the Glasgow launch.

When was it formed?


Why did you take the plunge?

The idea came to me on a trip with my husband to his native France at Christmas, 2015. There is a strong culture in that country of supporting local artisans and craftspeople that doesn’t seem to exist here.

I thought it would be great if we could give artists and designers an opportunity to compete in the High Street and noticed there was a unit at Ocean Terminal that had been vacant for a long time. I approached the owners who agreed to let it to me, rent free, for six months, after which I’d have to pay the going rate. I thought ‘what the hell’ and decided to give it a go.

What were you doing before you took the plunge?

After working in staff training with Shell in Holland and Kazakhstan, I returned to Scotland and set-up and ran a cleaning company, before starting a new venture, A Space to Share. This is an online tool that enables business owners to share with freelancers everything from a hairdressers’ chair to a spare office. Its purpose is to allow businesses to keep going during difficult times by earning from any spare capacity they might have. It was this concept that led me to the idea of a collective space for creatives - a superstore selling the best of Scottish-based creativity. Without any external funding I knew I didn’t have much time to make it a success. I told myself that I would give it six months and, if it wasn’t washing its face by then, I’d walk away.

How did you raise the start-up funding?

I invested £5000 savings.

What was your biggest break?

Ocean Terminal investing their trust in my concept and proving that it was a win-win for both parties. Not everyone would have done what its owners did. Since then we’ve been able to access additional funding from First Port to support our expansion into Glasgow and other potential locations.

What do you most enjoy about running the business?

Knowing the positive impact we’re making. As well as being a lucrative business, we’re also keeping people in employment, doing what they love to do.

What do you least enjoy?

As a businesswoman, I get my head down and get things done. But, when it comes to business growth support you have to walk through treacle to move an inch - sometimes you feel yourself going backwards. There are so many organisations intended to support the scaling of successful enterprises that they’re tripping over themselves.

What are your ambitions for the firm?

After we open in Glasgow our sights are set first on Dundee and then on strategic tourist hotspots.

I also want to look at using the same principles in other market sectors. We’re also about to start arts and music workshops for primary age children, which we hope, will help to imbue young people with a sense that they can think big, be creative and make things happen.

What single thing would most help?

There is a town in Flanders that has revitalised its high street by fining owners of empty shops, favouring local businesses over chainstore outlets and operating a local currency to encourage spending in the town. It’s worked a treat and I’d love to see that kind of bold thinking in Scotland. If we’re to grow our economy, we have to think more imaginatively and step out of the ‘way we’ve always done things’ approach.

What was the most valuable lesson that you learned?

That Rome was not built in a day. It took me longer than I expected to recruit artists. This was a new concept with no proof of practice so anyone that signed up was doing it on the basis of my determination and optimism. I started with ten artists. There are now 120 in our Leith shop.