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Meet the north entrepreneur behind Skye Scrubbers

Maggie MacAskill, founder of Skye Scrubbers.
Maggie MacAskill, founder of Skye Scrubbers.

Every Monday, we ask small businesses key questions. Here we speak to Maggie MacAskill, who runs Skye Scrubbers in Portree.

How and why did you start in business?

I was born in Dunvegan, on Skye, and from a young age worked in hospitality.

This was both at home on Skye and in Edinburgh, while studying tourism and hospitality at Telford College.

After graduating I spent a year seeing the world, or part of it, travelling in Thailand and Australia before returning home skint.

I then joined a cruise line on a contract before setting off for New Zealand to work as a hotel receptionist in Queenstown.

I was in a real predicament.”

Returning home again after a year, I went back to sea, working first on oil rigs and then on local CalMac ferries as a stewardess.

During the first Covid lockdown, CalMac didn’t furlough me and there was no other work available – I was in a real predicament.

Fortunately, my family asked me to help clean their self-catering property and I really enjoyed it.

It got me thinking – I could see there was a demand for a cleaning service on Skye but I wasn’t sure how strong it was.

In August 2020 I decided to give it a go, setting myself up professionally as Skye Scrubbers and testing the water to see what other local, year-round business I could pick up.

How did you get to where you are today?

It’s all worked out really well. Business has come flooding in, all through word-of-mouth, and I’ve taken on a business partner, Sarah MacPherson.

Together we employ one excellent member of staff, Shannon MacDonald, and family and friends who help out as and when required.

Skye Scrubbers cleans offices, with our work covering after-builds, deep-cleans, end-of-tenancies, and self-catering and domestic properties.

Who helped you?

My friends have been great. Rachel launched my Facebook page, Jen helped with the original logo – the current one is by Sona Design – and my sister-in-law, Gillian, thought of the business’ name.

An accountant advised us to join the Federation of Small Businesses to allow us take advantage of the help and advice it provides on things like setting up new contracts.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever had?

My brother, Ewen, told me not to spread myself too thinly – I can see how easy it would be to do that – and how important it is to stay focused on what really matters.

What is your biggest mistake?

Not becoming self-employed sooner. I’ve really enjoyed the different jobs I’ve had, but self-employment makes me master of my own destiny.

I love the sense of freedom, and the job satisfaction is amazing. Why did I wait?

What is your greatest achievement?

Managing to bag my fantastic business partner, Sarah. She brings so much energy and enthusiasm to the business and is a real grafter. Her family is always willing to lend a hand.

If you were in power in government, what would you change?

I’d create more affordable housing on Skye to allow young people to stay here.

Tourism is booming and there are some great business opportunities for the taking – genuine reasons for young people to stay and build self-employed careers for themselves.

And if they don’t want to work for themselves, many businesses are crying out for staff.

That’s all very well, but locals and young families wanting to move here for work have to have nice, affordable places to live, and there simply are not enough.

What do you still hope to achieve?

I’m not greedy and not trying to get rich quick. Sarah and I want to build a strong, sustainable and respected business – and to have a van in every corner of Skye.

Maggie MacAskill wants to see her vans in “every corner” of Skye.
What do you do to relax?

Hang out with my loved ones, walk the family dog, adventure any way possible and relax with a dram.

What are you currently reading, listening to or glued to on TV?

I have been listening to local legends Niteworks to get in the spirit for Skye Live Festival, while I always love to binge on the late Anthony Bourdain’s travel documentaries.

What do you waste your money on?

Cleaning equipment that doesn’t work – there’s a lot of it about.

What’s the first thing you do when you get up in the morning?

Check the weather and have a hot cup of coffee.

What do you drive and dream of driving?

Currently, it’s a white Berlingo van – but I go to bed at night dreaming of a brand new Suzuki Jimny SUV.