Name: David Scott.

Age: 47.

What is your business called?

Sandbaggers Expeditions.

Where is it based?

Newton Mearns, on the outskirts of Glasgow..

What services does it offer?

We’re an expeditions and adventure planning, consultancy and delivery company. We lead adventure tourism events and expeditions across a variety of terrains, including deserts and frozen lakes, in Africa and Asia, for instance. We also provide advice, support and delivery of projects to various commercial clients. We operate in some of the most remote but also ruggedly beautiful parts of the world.

To whom does it sell?

Clients include solo and group expeditioners, events companies, film crews and adventure tourists.

What is its turnover?

In the early days when it was more of a lifestyle business it could be anything from a few thousand pounds to £100,000, but we’ve seen really good growth over the last few years as we’ve developed the business. Next year will see us reach between £300,000 and £400,000 based on our current bookings.

How many employees?

Four and we use a number of freelance, contracted staff in different parts of the world as and when we require them.

When was it formed?


Why did you take the plunge?

I studied physiology at university so have always been interested in the capabilities of the human body under challenging conditions. I did my first adventure race when I completed the Marathon des Sables stage race across the Sahara Desert in 2000. This gave me a real taste for adventure and expeditions. I then organised the first ever stage race across the Gobi Desert in Mongolia in 2004 and the business really grew from there. It allowed me to turn my love for adventure, travel and the outdoors into a way to earn a living.

What were you doing before you took the plunge?

I’d just returned home from travelling for a year where I worked on a pearl oyster diving boat and did some expedition stuff of my own. Before that I served with Strathclyde Police for a number of years, having joined straight after graduating from the University of Glasgow.

How did you raise the start-up funding?

I invested £750 of my own money on a pretty ropey website to get started and that was it! Everything else has been pretty much funded from cash flow.

What was your biggest break?

There’s been a few. We’ve done some decent corporate work with banks in the desert and worked with some great film crews all over the world. Recently we worked with the BBC taking a group of celebrities, including radio DJ Nick Grimshaw and television presenter Louise Minchin, across the Namib Desert in Namibia for Sport Relief. But mostly it’s been a series of small breaks, relationship-forming and meeting some great people. It’s always fun working on record attempts such as Mark Beaumont’s record-breaking Around the World in 80 Days cycle (we took him through Russia, Mongolia and China), or Donnie Campbell and Andrew Murray’s world-first run across the Namib Desert.

What was your worst moment?

Commercially, the Covid pandemic has obviously had a major impact. With so many travel restrictions and uncertainty over how long they’ll continue it’s been really hard to plan. We’ve had to cancel eight trips this year, although two of these were reconnaissance trips. Fortunately everyone who booked on one of these trips has agreed to a deferral and we’ll run the expeditions at a later date. We have offered everyone either alternative dates or a refund if these aren’t suitable.

What do you most enjoy about running the business?

Travelling to and exploring new places in some of the most stunning parts of the world.

What do you least enjoy?

Checking into and hanging about airports!

What are your ambitions for the firm?

We are developing some new locations for clients including Greenland, Central Asia and Kamchatka, in the far North-east of Russia. We also have some ambitious plans to develop our offices in Ulaanbaatar and Buenos Aires. The next stage for us is to grow the business professionally while still trying to maintain the feel of a lifestyle business.

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

Providing as much clarity as possible over travel restrictions is helpful, but clearly this is very difficult with such a rapidly changing situation.

Another thing which would be helpful would be a more phased end of the furlough scheme based on sectors. For instance, as soon as pubs and restaurants were able to open they were busy immediately. But it doesn’t work like that in the travel or tourism sector as so much advanced planning is involved. Also, some sort of tourism equivalent of the Eat Out to Help Out scheme could provide a great boost for businesses like Sandbaggers.

What was the most valuable lesson that you learned?

Make strong, trustful connections with native operators and hold onto them.

How do you relax?

Open water swimming with like-minded friends.