Name: Gareth Claase.
What is your business called?
Where is it based?
What does it produce, what services does it offer?
We manufacture our patented ‘Gecko Panes’, which pop inside existing window frames and cut heat loss and emissions by up to 50 per cent. They eliminate condensation and we think are very easy to install. They’re unobtrusive and don’t impede the existing window in any way.
We sell direct to consumers UK-wide via our website for DIY install. We provide a professional installation service in the Edinburgh and Aberdeen areas, and will do so Scotland-wide by mid 2022.
To whom does it sell?
Owners and renters of residential and commercial period properties. We provide what we think is an easy and affordable way to upgrade historic windows.
Private landlords are also a key market, as our product helps them meet Energy Performance Certificate legislation while also making their properties more desirable to tenants.
What is its turnover?
We are still in our first full year of trading but are on track to turn over £80,000.
How many employees?
Three, although we’ll soon need more.
When was it formed?
I started the business at the end of 2020. The idea for an easier and better way to cut heat loss from windows occurred to me about ten years ago and I’ve been developing the concept ever since.
The idea came about through discussions on online green building forums. There’s a huge online community that is passionate about finding better ways to reduce emissions from homes.
It took ten years to achieve a product of commercial standard. I’ve spent a lot of time in the workshop and have a house full of prototypes.
Why did you take the plunge?
I’ve always been passionate about the need to reduce emissions from buildings but felt that conventional ways to do so were too expensive and disruptive. Windows are a case in point. Household emissions statistics show that we’ve made no progress on this issue in a generation. My product was ready, and friends and family were encouraging. It was time to give it a go.
What were you doing before you took the plunge?
I worked in economics and the banking industry for 15 years.
How did you raise the start-up funding?
I secured a place on the EU-funded Climate KIC programme, which provided £5,000. We were then accepted onto the Scottish Government’s Unlocking Ambition programme, which came with £25,000 of funding, and eventually won £50,000 in the 2021 Scottish Edge funding competition.
What was your biggest break?
Winning a place on Unlocking Ambition proved transformational. Not only did I benefit from high quality training and expertise, I also became part of a vibrant cohort of entrepreneurs. Suddenly, I wasn’t a lone eco madman in a workshop, I was part of a community, which made all the difference.
What was your worst moment?
When it became clear that I’d left my well-paid, stable job, with two young kids and a large mortgage just in time for a global pandemic.
What do you most enjoy about running the business?
The satisfaction of making a difference to the environment and to people’s heating bills and home comfort, all while preserving our historic buildings.
What is your biggest bugbear?
Brexit meant that we missed out on EU financial support, and some suppliers aren’t interested in sending materials due to the extra costs and red tape. Expansion will be that much harder. Even Northern Ireland and Ireland, which should be great markets for us, will be more difficult to access.
What are your ambitions for the firm?
Within three years, we want turnover to exceed £600,000, to create 20 living wage jobs and to be cutting greenhouse gas emissions from buildings by over five thousand tonnes per year, contributing to net-zero targets across the UK.
Before the end of 2022, we also hope to start exporting, with the United States a potentially huge market and opportunity for scale up
We’re currently considering our first major investment round. We’ve demonstrated that our product works well and that there’s strong demand for it, so we’re confident that we can grow the business. But significant investment would be the difference between a ten-year grind and a three-year sprint.
What could the Westminster and/or Scottish governments do that would help?
The Scottish Government does a decent job of supporting start-ups, especially innovative and green ones. Business Gateway, Scottish Enterprise and related organisations provide a strong support system.
However, my sector still needs a better strategy to promote insulating our homes. Ambitious targets have been set, but we won’t achieve them without a clearer plan.
What was the most valuable lesson that you learned?
You can’t do it all yourself but there’s help there. Organisations like Business Gateway either have the answers or can point you in the right direction, and it’s all free.
How do you relax?
I try to get a little exercise first thing every day though I’m recovering from an ill-considered half marathon. I read probably too much, and I make time to spend with my family, preferably outdoors. My kids are eight and six, great fun, and slightly crazy, which, I suspect, they just might get from me.