AS the school year draws to a close and thousands of teenagers weigh up their options we hear from a young man who started what soon became a successful business at the age of 16.


Darren Cryans.



What is your business called?

Instant Impact Gardens.

Where is it based?

Paisley, Renfrewshire.

What services does it offer?

A comprehensive range including garden design and all aspects of landscaping and private and commercial grounds maintenance. We work on projects of all different sizes across Scotland, from garden maintenance to full design makeovers with a solid base of loyal customers.

To whom does it sell?

We work with both commercial and domestic clients in Glasgow, Renfrewshire, Ayrshire and Falkirk.

What is its turnover?

Our projections show that over the next three years we’ll be into seven figures.

How many employees?


When was it formed?

I set up the business in 2006 when I was just 16.

I was mature at 16 but there were challenges and difficulties to setting up a business so young. When I started out my grandad used to put my lawnmower and tools into the back of his car and drop me off to jobs and pick me back up later in the day. Once I began to drive I basically designed and worked on gardens using a Vauxhall Corsa packed with bricks and materials.

But the hardest thing was ensuring customers and suppliers trusted me. It was easier with suppliers as I always paid quickly and now 12 years later I’m still using the same companies.

With customers I had to build trust which came about through word-of-mouth and personal referrals. Initially I did work for family and friends and the local church I was involved in. Then my reputation began to grow – our work is extremely visual and people walking past or neighbours can see what we’re doing.

I also faced challenges when I began to use sub-contractors and take on employees as they were older than me. Whilst I didn’t mind it, there were a few people in their 40s who didn’t like a 16-year-old telling them what to do but my natural people skills, knowledge and quality of work meant I was able to overcome this.

Why did you take the plunge?

From a very young age I wanted to be my own boss and when I left school I decided to set up my own business. I loved watching Ground Force and I always thought gardening looked like a satisfying and interesting job. After looking into local courses I set up Instant Impact Gardens and put myself through an apprenticeship whilst studying at Langside College. This mix of learning on the job and gaining the necessary qualifications worked really well for me.

What were you doing before you took the plunge?

Full time education.

How did you raise the start-up funding?

I received a £1,000 grant from Business Gateway. As I still lived at home it was relatively easy to finance at the beginning.

What was your biggest break?

When we won a contract with a large, UK based facilities company, Workmen LLP, to work on its commercial retail parks and office blocks. In the five years since winning this contract it has actually expanded which is great.

What was your worst moment?

When the business was at a crossroads after a few years. I was offered a job in a different industry which would have meant a good wage and stability, so it was a decision I couldn’t take lightly. The economy was faltering and it did really feel like make or break time for Instant Impact Gardens. I had to do a lot of soul searching and I decided that I would decline the job offer and continue working on my dream. I vowed to do everything I could to make the company a success and to grow it and create local jobs. It wasn’t the best of times but now I can confidently say that I made the right decision.

What do you most enjoy about running the business?

The creative side of the business; working with a blank canvas and turning it into a whole new outdoor space for customers. But generally I enjoy the pressure that comes with running a business and thrive on it.

What do you least enjoy?

Paperwork. I’m not a big fan of the office side of the business and prefer to be meeting customers and potential suppliers face-to-face and being outdoors carrying out the work.

What are your ambitions for the firm?

The position we’re in after 12 years is really exciting and now I’m looking to build on our brand and reputation to become one of the biggest companies in Scotland in our industry.

To coincide with our expansion I wanted to review our digital presence and gain impartial advice on what options were available to me. I met with Business Gateway Renfrewshire to find out what support I could access and my experience has been terrific. Although I had a vision for my website and social media, I didn’t have the required knowledge and my Business Gateway adviser was able to provide expert help that would enhance the profile of Instant Impact Gardens by using digital platforms to promote the business to a wider audience. This has been a huge help.

What are your five top priorities?

To continue steady, responsible growth.

To ensure our brand is recognisable.

To find a good work/life balance.

To make my family proud.

To leave a legacy that will hopefully be passed onto my family.

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

I’ve had great support from my local authority but I still think there should be more support for businesses of our size. At the moment it feels like we’re being penalised for being successful. When you consider that we have staff, suppliers and sub-contractors that are all reliant on us, more government support, such as tax breaks, would be beneficial.

How do you relax?

I spend time with my wife and we welcome our first baby later this year which is really exciting. I also relax by going to the gym each morning.