Name: James Gammell.

Age: 44.

What is your business called?

Conifox Adventure Park.

Where is it based?

On the outskirts of Kirkliston, near Edinburgh.

What services does it offer?

Conifox is an adventure park that we think is suitable for families with kids of every age. We currently have 35 acres of land and we are constantly evolving and innovating to improve the offering.

We have a restaurant on-site, Stables Bistro, and when business returns to normal and all lockdown restrictions have been lifted, we will begin to serve meals ranging from breakfast through to afternoon tea and evening dinners. We also have a BBQ which is up and running whenever the sun shines.

Coming soon we have an exciting new activity centre with a large indoor soft play which will house what we believe to be Scotland’s largest indoor slide, toddler soft play, baby room, three party rooms, a café and a 200-seater function suite.

What is its turnover?

Currently, £1 million.

How many employees?

We have 14 full-time employees and six part-time employees. Once the new indoor space is open and the restaurant is running at full capacity, we expect to be recruiting several other employees.

When was it formed?

Conifox was established in 1967 but the adventure park was only opened in 2016. Originally the business was a tree nursery before becoming a garden centre, and that business was hit hard by the 2008 credit crunch, and never recovered. I moved into Foxhall with my wife in 2014 and set about rebuilding the business. I just couldn’t bear to watch my grandfather’s company continue to lose money.

We decided to add a bistro and adventure park to attract more people to the garden centre. Conifox Adventure Park opened in September 2016 after a two-year build which included the redevelopment of a stables block into what is now the bistro.

What were you doing before you took the plunge?

I was managing director of Atlantic Sports Cars Ltd an American car business for 18 years. I started this at the age of 22 in Edinburgh and in 2003 after working to grow it for four years, I realised it was never going to reach its full potential in Scotland so I took the business down south to Luton and began tapping into the London wealth. Over the next few years we became arguably the UK’s largest Ford Mustang dealer and turned over £2m per year but when the credit crunch hit in 2008 things got very hard for the business.

Then, at the age of 36, I realised that I was selling myself to the business and working seven days a week. I looked around me at my friends who were all married with kids and realised that I really wanted a family myself. After deciding that it was no longer financially viable to continue with this business I returned North to my family and friends and soon after, met my now wife.

What was your biggest break?

I haven’t had that yet. Making the adventure park prosper has always been the end goal. I think the opening of the new building will be transformational for the business.

What was your worst moment?

Closing the adventure park and ceasing all construction work on the new indoor development as a direct result of the pandemic. When we were forced to close our doors, we were six months into the build and it has been so hard on so many people. We retained all of our key members of staff and those who couldn’t work such as our restaurant and event staff were furloughed. It’s been such a challenging time for myself, my family, the business and all of our employees. We have re-opened with great caution, at 50 per cent of capacity, but we are constantly monitoring the situation and updating our policies and park capacity limits to ensure that we are following the guidelines precisely. The saddest thing is to see the park not being able to function to its full potential and having to cancel all of our children’s events but we are confident that in time, life will return to normal.

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

Allow soft play centres to open again in Scotland and ease the restrictions on events (when it is deemed safe to do so) as this would enable us to start building our programme of events back up.

I don’t think it’s right that soft plays in England, Wales and Ireland can open, and Scottish soft plays are closed and the Scottish government have given no justification or scientific evidence to back up why they are keeping them closed. Soft plays have been closed since March and there has been no support at all for this industry

What was the most valuable lesson that you learned?

Working all of the hours in the day seven days a week doesn’t necessarily reward you – sometimes it’s about being smarter with your time and doing more, with less of it! If you have a sound business model, a team of great staff, and a family who support you every step of the way, there’s not much you can’t achieve.