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Strathclyde Business School

Family business cabin fever puts learning into practice

By Daniel Jack - Posted on 28 February 2024

Cousins Daniel and Adam Jack both studied at Strathclyde Business School, setting up their own tourism business once they’d both graduated. Here, Daniel shares the story of their start up, putting learning into practice.

I actually started my studies at Strathclyde Business School a little later than most do at the age of 23. Once I decided starting my own business was what I wanted to do, I quit my dead-end retail job and applied to SBS. I studied Entrepreneurship and Marketing, graduating in 2020 while Adam did Entrepreneurship and Tourism and graduated in 2018 – altogether, what we studied was a pretty fitting blend of disciplines for the business we’ve gone on to start up together - Jack's Alt-Stays, one-of-a-kind, self-catering cabin accommodation where quirky interior design meets eco-consciousness in a stunning island setting.

Adam and I had always loved the idea of starting a family business together but were never quite sure what. During my final year, Adam took a trip around the North Coast 500, staying in some pretty cool places along the way. He came back all inspired and suggested we could do something similar “but 10x better and totally unique”. 

We had both stayed in some weird and wonderful places around the world, so equipped with the knowledge gained at SBS, we set out to bring that home to North Ayrshire and create the ultimate staycation escape. 

As cousins, we work very well together and, believe me, we’ve had plenty of opportunities to fall out. We both have quite different skill sets though which complements the other’s well and I feel there’s a greater sense of commitment and dedication in a family business which strengthens many of its facets. 

The ‘cousin co-founders’ element is front and centre of our brand image, and our audience’s relatability to that family unit is a key part of our marketing success. We’ve also drafted in some other family members along the way: we get advice from Adam’s dad, landscaping and gardening help from Adam’s mum, and on-site support from a brother and sister-in-law. My wife has even been persuaded to clean a few hot tubs! 

The final concept of our business hasn’t shifted too far from what we initially came up with. We set out to create an accommodation experience like no other in Scotland. Our idea was to unconventionally theme each individual cabin and bring those themes to life with imaginative and instagrammable interior design features including mood lighting, quirky ornamentation and a floor-to-ceiling bespoke artist’s wall mural in each cabin. 

We recently completed our first year of trading and have so far exceeded all expectations. With one in three stays leaving consistently 5-star reviews, the guest experience is spot on and we’re delighted with that. 

That’s obviously the most important thing but one major highlight was taking home a Scottish EDGE main category prize of £90k which happened in November 2023. We were delighted with that but then came the cherry on the cake – the news we were to receive a VisitScotland Thistle Award for ‘The Best Self Catering Accommodation Experience’ in the West of Scotland region. To achieve this accolade less than a year into trading is something we’re very proud of. 

As we were both born and bred just across the water in Largs and have many fond memories of visiting Millport through our childhoods, when it came to setting up our business, we thought ‘where better to set up than there?’ With both of us still living in Largs, the daily commute isn’t so bad either! Other than that, Millport is a cracking destination that’s firmly in the minds of those living in Glasgow and the West - it’s no coincidence that 75% of our guests come from this region. 

There were of course some difficulties we had to contend with. We started working on the cabin ideas just as the first lockdown kicked in, which was good in that there wasn’t much else to do than spend countless hours on Zoom calls developing the concept, but throughout the cabin build and site development we were in and out of lockdowns, travel restrictions, and suffered a lot of contractor absence, pushing back the schedule and ultimately the launch date. Saying that, this extra time gave us the opportunity to build up and excite our social audience, and really perfect the guest experience. 

Operating on an island has its pros and cons. On the one hand, our stunning island location and its fantastic local offerings is a real draw to booking guests. On the other hand, everything costs that bit more to get here, and during the winter, the weather can occasionally disrupt the ferry service, presenting a challenge getting guests on and off the island on time. In these scenarios, it’s all about communicating effectively with guests real-time, ensuring we look after them, and they really appreciate that. 

After a flying start, we’re now thinking about the next steps for the business. We’d love to firstly grow locally in Millport, then grow nationally by partnering with existing landowners seeking to diversify their land. 

As Strathclyders, we know Strathclyde is ‘The Place of Useful Learning’ and I feel our business is a great example of that applied. We’ve really put to use all of the critical skills gained during our university experience that are required to start up a new business. Every learning - from digital marketing to entrepreneurial capital - we put into practice every day. 

The family business module within the Entrepreneurship class was of particular interest to me as, at the time I was taking the class, we had already decided we were going to start our family business. I paid particular attention in that one! 

Having your own business is exciting and I'd say this to anyone thinking of setting up their own venture: go for it. Overcome the inertia. There’s a world of entrepreneurial support out there and Scotland has a really vibrant and supportive entrepreneurial ecosystem to start up in. 

Contact details

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 Postgraduate admissions
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