Laurence Malyon and Jake Murray.


We are both 23 years old.

What is your business called?

Donnini Apartments.

Where is it based?

Our office is based in Ayr and we have apartments all over Ayrshire. We have recently expanded into Stirling and plan to add another region at the start of 2020 and then a further five before the end of 2020. After that we will focus on our international expansion plans.

What services does it offer?

Short and medium term stays throughout Scotland. Our portfolio includes apartments that we own and some that we lease from other owners.

To whom does it sell?

We focus mainly on corporate and business clients, but we also have a lot of leisure guests. We get very busy over the summer with additional holiday guests as well as our non-seasonal business guests.

What is its turnover?

We are aiming to reach approximately £1 million in the next year.

How many employees?

Eight. We are looking to double this within the next year.

When was the business formed?

We started trading as Donnini Apartments in 2017.

Why did you take the plunge?

Whilst studying at the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow, we decided to work on a property renovation project for Jake’s dad’s friend. After realising that there was an opportunity to do similar projects ourselves – with obvious commercial potential – and that we had a shared interest in starting up a business, we decided to start our own property renovation firm. At the time all we knew was that we wanted to start a business and that things would progress and adapt from there.

We have both wanted to be in business for our whole lives – it’s all we’ve ever seen ourselves doing. To find each other – both with the same mindset on this topic – was really exciting. Although we are very different people, having that common goal has allowed us to achieve what we have at a relatively young age.

What were you doing before you took the plunge?

We were both at Strathclyde but had an active interest in property development due to the work we were doing. Jake was studying economics and finance and I was reading economics and marketing. We have our own areas of expertise and take responsibility for those aspects of the business.

How did you raise the start-up funding?

Once we decided that there was an opportunity to start our own property business, we came up with an initial plan about how we could successfully renovate our first properties and got some private investors on board – our charm seemed to pay off! Since then we’ve focussed on re-investing profits back into the business.

What was your biggest break?

Our mentality when we started Donnini, the same mentality that we hold today: To say yes to great opportunities that come up – even if we don’t yet know how we’re going to fulfil them.

In our early days we had a huge enquiry from a rather large multi-national company and managed to get all of the apartments concerned ready just four days before check-in. To say there were a few sleepless nights would be an understatement. This particular client (who now books multiple apartments with us every year) was the catalyst for us bringing on our first team members and has been crucial to our growth.

What do you most enjoy about running the business?

Working with our team. We enjoy taking on new members of staff and seeing them grow and develop as individuals. We have a clear vision and aspirations, so creating a plan, seeing the business develop and the vision subsequently become a reality is a very exciting part of the process.

What do you least enjoy?

Our biggest challenge to date has probably been in recruitment. It has been a very time- intensive process to find the team members we have now but was absolutely worth the effort!

What is your biggest bugbear?

It can be frustrating when things don’t progress as quickly as we’d like them to. Sometimes things happen that slow you down, but we try to keep coming up with solutions and not to become too focused on the problems. We have a Tuesday team meeting every week, when we lay out issues and fix them for the next ‘TTM’. This works effectively to ensure we are always progressing.

What are your ambitions for the firm?

We want to keep growing our strong team and company culture. We also want to increase the number of properties we have and to expand into other regions, and abroad, in the next five years.

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

Ensure that all types of businesses are able to source funding as well as support.

We have been able to access free specialist advice from Business Gateway, which has been great in helping us grow. They have also been fantastic in building our network, meaning we have been able to build connections with local businesses.

What was the most valuable lesson that you learned?

We learned very quickly that people are the key to growth. You can’t do everything yourself or you end up taking on too much, getting overwhelmed and making mistakes. Taking on new people and working as a team has helped us to grow the business and become what we are now. You can push so much harder as a team.

How do you relax?

Mostly by going to the gym or doing something that stimulates the mind.

We enjoy taking part in activities, rather than sitting down to do nothing - or else we would just think about the business!