Caroline Haxton is the co-founder of Scotia Cabins, supplying businesses and residential clients with a wide range of quality BBQ cabins and garden studios.
Based on the family’s third-generation working farm in Abernethy, it was a chance meeting with Nottingham-based Arctic Cabins that led to the launch of their unusual farm diversification business in 2015.
Since then, the business has gone from strength to strength; the initial team of three is now fifteen strong, and the company boasts a Scotland-wide customer base. Caroline, who started her career as a primary school teacher, moved to Perthshire from Orkney and is now one of a group of senior business leaders collectively working as Perth Ambassadors.
What influenced your farm diversification?
We were looking for an idea that would work well on the farm, with two small children and several hundred animals, and that would allow us to build a successful, independent business.
We had a chance meeting with Arctic Cabins who had a similar partnership agreement with chicken farmers in Cornwall so they knew the model worked, and had sorted out the initial teething problems.
Once we started researching the size of the opportunity, it made real sense. We could see other farms adding cabins for holiday lets, but decided we’d rather supply them. And in terms of a skills base, it suited us perfectly; I had worked as a primary school teacher for many years and so I’m ruthlessly organised!
We also really liked the idea of supplying a great quality, UK-made product to people. Comfort, longevity, style and fun is what we are aiming to achieve for our customers, which is a happy business to be in.
How has the business grown in the seven years since you launched?
Generally speaking, the demand overall for the type of products we sell has increased. A garden cabin is an easy, cost-efficient way to expand the space in your home without having to move. We saw steady growth over the first four years but over 2019, sales had taken a dip.
“Since the end of 2020, sales have shown no signs of stopping!”
However, it was lockdown that really saw a shift in business. From the day following the announcement, our phone didn’t stop. We couldn’t get out and build, but we booked in orders and we were incredibly busy once we started to install again. And since the end of 2020, there have been no signs of stopping!
As you’d expect, garden studios have been extremely popular as more people have switched to a hybrid model of working from home, but it was the BBQ cabins that really took off. If you’re stuck at home in Scotland, you want to be able to BBQ regardless of the weather!
We’re now a team of 15, made up of a pool of installers to help us deliver the best possible service. It allows us to remain flexible for our customers and works really well for everyone involved.
How has being based in Perthshire helped your business growth?
Craig always said that with a Scottish base in Perth we were never far from anywhere. That was also a big selling point for Gareth from Arctic, who could see we were no more than two hours from much of the Scottish population.
People think nothing of coming to the farm to view our range – in fact many make a daytrip to visit, and we’re constantly hearing how lucky we are to live in the beautiful Perthshire countryside. The result is increased sales; when customers can see the product up close, they’re more likely to buy.
Why did you choose Perth?
I was working in Denmark when I met Craig, and I met him on a night out in Perth – and farms don’t move! And so I’m here by default really, but it has become my home. I’m originally from Orkney and a sense of community is really important to me. When we had the kids I wanted them to be proud of where they’re from, to know the people around them and to feel part of something. You can do that here.
So while the business thrives, and connects us to the whole of Scotland, the kids can grow up connected to their community.