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InsideOut Buildings
Lancashire

With the exodus of people from our inner cities to the countryside in search of
a better quality of life it seemed appropriate to take time out to chat with Lynn Fotheringham who not only has made that sort of decision but also provides a means of making teleworking a reality for many people with her business, InsideOut Buildings, which designs and supplies garden buildings.


Teleworking seems to becoming a viable option for some businesses, tell us about how InsideOut Buildings started Lynn...

InsideOut Buildings developed out of our own need for business accommodation. Gordon, my partner is a practising architect as well as a director of InsideOut. He was commuting into Lancaster every day to rented office space in the city centre. Meanwhile, I was working from our spare bedroom as a freelance textile designer. The solution was a garden office, which Gordon designed for us. We then realised that our situation wasn't unique and that lots of other people needed dedicated office space at home.

Garden office - 3kGarden office - 10kGarden office - 9k

How has the business developed during the time you've run it?

InsideOut Buildings is still a young company, but we are developing all the time.
At the moment our customer base is fairly local but we are keen to build garden offices and studios all over the country for our customers. We have developed our customer base by exhibiting at county and agricultural shows. We really enjoy these shows as we get to meet lots of different people who have come out to enjoy themselves for the day. We are also expanding through our own website and the internet.

Garden office - 9k

What are the particular problems or advantages you face as a rural business?

Being based up here in rural north Lancashire could be seen as a problem, since
a lot of our potential customers live in Cheshire, Manchester, Merseyside and the South East of England. We deal with this in two ways. We are happy to visit potential customers wherever they live to advise on the suitability of building a garden office. We also invite customers up to Over Kellet to see our showpiece building. We live in a beautiful area just south of the Lake District and can recommend places to stay so that people can make an enjoyable weekend break out of coming up here.

What are the biggest marketing challenges that face InsideOut?

Our biggest marketing challenge is conveying the quality of our buildings via our website and brochure. In addition, it is important for our customers to get to know us, so they know that they are going to get good service and a top quality building. Planning issues could be seen as a challenge, but government policy does encourage working from home to reduce commuting, so garden offices are usually viewed favourably by the planning authorities.

Garden office - 9k

What sort of successes or failures have you had in marketing your garden offices?

I don't know if this is a failure, but because we are a small, personal business it has taken us a number of years to get to the point where we were ready to start trading. The day when we could say, yes our designs are right, our brochure is right, let's launch the business, was very welcome when it arrived. Our success is our small, simple brochure. Everyone loves it, though they love the actual buildings more!

What plans do you have for the future of the business?

We have lots of plans for additional types of buildings and see the business developing into 'bespoke' offices. Currently we are developing a 34ft. office for a particular client - twice the size of the largest office in our standard range.

Garden office - 11k

What, if any, assistance have you been able to obtain from government, local, or EC bodies?

We received a rural buildings development grant when we built our original office.
Since we started InsideOut we have had assistance from Lanscaster City Council with a marketing grant. We are currently getting assistance, funded by the EC rural development grant, with PR from Lancaster University Business Enterprise Centre.

Are there any government initiatives that you'd like to see for rural businesses and/or community?

I think rural businesses have very special needs. If you are developing a business in a rural area it is highly likely that your customer base is many miles away. So I think that we need particular help with advertising, communications and PR. Basically there are not enough grants available to help businesses with their marketing needs. If we had a government grant for marketing we could advertise nationally. In our village, I would like to see a directory of all the many local businesses. I think villages tend to be promoted as nice places to holiday or retire to and the local businesses don't get enough exposure.

Garden office - 9k

What tips or advice do you have for anyone who is thinking of setting up business in the countryside?

The obvious one is to be sure you can run your business from that location. Otherwise, I would heartily recommend working from home in the countryside. You'll get a lot more work done than you would in a busy city office. But, don't forget to separate your work from the rest of your life by working in a garden office!


For more information about a garden office of your own, contact:
Lynn Fotheringham, End Cottage, The Green, Over Kellet, Lancashire. LA6 1BU
Ph. +44 (0)1524 737999 or Fax +44 (0)1524 735254, E-mail or visit www.iobuild.co.uk.

Many thanks to Lynn for taking time out to speak to us...


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