What does your company do?
Jute & Co is a new shared workspace provider in Dundee’s thriving waterfront, set to open in August 2019. Initially spanning 9000 square feet on the top floor of the city’s landmark Dundee One building, it is beautifully designed and finished to accommodate companies of all sizes, from freelancers to more established corporates. The space is built around the understanding that businesses require a lot more than office space to thrive; community, connections and nurturing staff are important for business growth.
What do you do there / what is your role?
I am the founder and developer of Jute & Co. I spend much of my time at the moment overseeing construction and the fit out, and managing the various component parts of the project, from design to IT. That also means working with the great teams of people who are helping us to bring our vision to life.
The business was created in response to the latest worldwide research on how companies operate today and the need for real estate to adapt to the required flexibility. I have been working closely with interior specialists and designers to ensure that Jute & Co fulfills that requirement. I’m also driving the commercial side of the business, working with new members and building a strong management team to operate the business once we are open.
At the heart of our space is a service business and we are working hard to curate and initiate a programme of events to allow our members to grow.
What was the aha moment that led to the company founding?
I was working in a traditional style serviced office, which I used for convenience as it was near my daughter’s school. It struck me how successful it was but that there appeared to be a lack of high-quality shared workspace outside of bigger cities such as London and Manchester.
My research confirmed that this demand for flexible workspace has trebled globally in the last decade as business cycles accelerate, more people become self-employed, and the lines between work and leisure time blur.
We bought Dundee One, a 50,000 sq ft modern building that was struggling to attract occupiers, with our vision of community and flexibility in mind. The plan was to mix traditional offices with the dynamic shared workspace that Jute & Co provide.
There is growing awareness amongst businesses that quality office design and a positive work experience boosts productivity. With all of these things in mind, I saw a gap in the market for creating one of Scotland’s most advanced shared workspaces in a city that is undergoing a renaissance and fast becoming a thriving hub for enterprise, design and culture.
Ultimately Jute & Co will manage 17,000 sq ft on the ground and top floor with larger occupiers filling 32,000 sq ft in-between. As leases and business cycles shorten, we envisage that Jute & Co. members will develop and grow to create demand for the larger office suites.
Why did you launch the company?
London and the world’s leading cities have seen the rapid growth of offices as a hospitality business, in particular shared and flexible office spaces. There is a considerable supply gap in some regional cities. My extensive experience working in the commercial property market coupled with a number of years working in my family’s hospitality business have enabled me to bring a wealth of insight and ideas to the Jute & Co concept.
Where did you get assistance when you started? Have you taken any external funding? If so from who and when?
I have a long standing private investor for the Dundee One building, and have been supported by the same team for the current Jute & Co project.
We are working with one of the leading UK office design and fit-out firms Saracen, whose expertise are leading to us delivering an outstanding space.
Give us a brief history of the growth of the company
We founded Jute Properties Ltd in February 2018 to purchase Dundee One, an underperforming modern office building on Dundee’s waterfront. We have now leased the first three floors of that building as private office space to a range of local, UK and international businesses. Jute & Co was launched in May 2019 as a separate business to bring a co-working concept to the building, and we are on track to open in August 2019.
So what does it look like now with regard to staff and turnover?
On the top floor at Jute & Co. we have agreed pre-lets for 33% of the floor and are targeting 50% occupancy by opening on 1st August. In the past year we have agreed letting of 12,500 sq ft to four national and international firms on the 2nd and 3rd floors.
What’s the difference between when you started and now in your marketplace?
When I started in the commercial property business in 2005, the business cycle was much longer and average lease lengths were much longer. Tenants today are much more discerning and they want more flexibility, better value and the freedom to grow and develop at pace. Equally the flexibility to downsize as contracts end is important. I think the increased focus on creating an office space that supports people’s productivity and wellbeing is a very positive development.
What is your target market – who is buying your service?
Jute & Co has been designed to meet the needs of a wide range of businesses. Co-working and shared workspaces are popular with startups, freelancers and the creative and tech industries, equally corporates are preferring this space both for the service and also due to the reduced capital outlay. We know that the benefits of a co-working space, allowing for agility, worker satisfaction and a quality, vibrant place to work are becoming ever more important for all sectors and all sizes of company. From pre-lets so far, we see businesses ranging from accountancy and financial services to more creative industries basing themselves at Jute & Co. I’m really looking forward to seeing how our community develops.
What is your background?
After graduating from Aberdeen University with an Msc in Commercial Real Estate, I worked for seven years for one of Scotland’s most successful and well respected commercial property investment and development consultants – Roxburgh & Co. It was during this time that I qualified as a member of The Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors and honed my analytical skills by modelling large commercial and residential development and investment appraisals for the company.
In 2011 I became part of the senior management team at my family wholesale food distribution business Ochil foods, which gave me considerable expertise in running and operating a company which supplies the hospitality sector. The operational experience that I gained over seven years in the role was invaluable when it came to setting up a successful hospitality company in the office sector.
What are your goals for your business?
To grow Jute & Co into the number one regional hospitality led office operator and in doing so, redefine the regional workplace.
What has been the biggest challenge so far?
I have had several major challenges, from raising the capital to purchase Dundee One and build our first floor of shared workspace to implementing and designing the floor space to create a high quality residential/hotel feel into the practicalities of an office space. We are delighted with what we have achieved so far and am sure that the Dundee workforce and businesses will benefit from such a stunning place to work.
What do you know now that you wished you had known earlier?
As the construction phase grew and the amount of work required, I would have brought more management in to work alongside me sooner.
What’s the secret to good leadership?
Work hard and don’t take anything or anyone for granted. I believe looking after and taking the time to talk to people, whatever their role is incredibly important. These are two things both my father and mother at Ochil Foods and William Roxburgh at Roxburgh & Co all installed in me.
Where do you see the company in five years?
Our focus at the moment is very much on Jute & Co in Dundee, but we would like to be operating in other locations across Scotland and the north of England. I see us our “brand” being synonymous with a premier office service that allows businesses to grow beyond boundaries.
How can the Scottish startup/entrepreneur landscape be improved to help more businesses start up and grow?
From a property prospective creating space that allows entrepreneurs and start ups to work alongside other more experienced and established corporates enables both parties access to many of the complementary skills each possess. Jute & Co’s inter-connected mix of private and communal space and social community is the perfect space to build and foster these links.