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BUSINESS PROFILE: Perthshire woman scaling heights of success after opening gym

In Situ Climbing owner Alison Annison with James Coutie and Rockstar the dog.
In Situ Climbing owner Alison Annison with James Coutie and Rockstar the dog.

As nobody had created the right job for Perthshire woman Alison Annison, she made one for herself.

After getting fed up with employment and doing odd jobs, she decided to open her own gym, In Situ Climbing, in Dunkeld.

At In Situ Climbing there’s a climbing wall and gym, and Alison offers classes, coaching and therapy.

How and why did you start in business?

I wanted to earn a living from things I like doing.

Sadly, nobody had created just the right job, so I had to do it myself.

How did you get to where you are today?

By getting fed up with employment.

I went through life doing whatever jobs were around, to earn enough cash to spend most of my time messing about on bikes and snowboards.

I got interested in strength training after rehabbing too many injuries – sustained mostly from overconfidence in my skills.

Alison in the In Situ Climbing gym in Dunkeld
Alison in the In Situ Climbing gym in Dunkeld

We live in Dunkeld, and along with our friends, wished there was a decent gym with a boulder wall or something.

We basically built the whole idea around something we wanted.

A bit like buying your mum a tank for Christmas because you want to drive it.

Who has helped you along the way?

A lot of people such as family, friends and clients.

Organisations like Business Gateway and GrowBiz are great for networking.

The members of the Care and Wellbeing CIC are some of the best people I’ve ever met.

Even encounters with randoms have given me food for thought and occasionally some blinding clarity.

What was your biggest mistake?

I don’t make mistakes; I just do the best I can with the information I have.

The Dunkeld climbing gym has a Moon board, bouldering wall and campus board.
The Dunkeld climbing gym has a Moon board, bouldering wall and campus board.

Sometimes things go well, sometimes they don’t.

I just deal with it and keep learning.

What is your greatest achievement to date?

I have mostly retained my sunny disposition throughout the three years this project has taken.

No mean feat, all things considered.

How has Covid-19 impacted your business?

It gave us the opportunity to spend a lot of time getting our act together, streamlining our operations and putting systems in place that we just hadn’t the time to do before.

We explored a lot of new ideas throughout the lockdowns, we’ve got some exciting stuff in the pipeline.

What do you hope to achieve in the future?

Time off. I’m all about a 4-day working week.

Do you want to recruit in the future?

Sure, how else would I get my 3-day weekend?

What is the hardest thing about running your own business?

Unsolicited advice. Anybody starting a sentence with “Why don’t you…” or “You should…” needs to work on their social etiquette.

Alison wants In Situ Climbing to be a place for indoor training for outdoor sports.

There is a cavernous difference between the searching questions of a critical evaluation and just being patronised by someone who hasn’t read your business plan.

Any advice to wannabe entrepreneurs?

Regardless of what industry you’re in, learn as much as you can about human behaviour.

How do you relax?

Occasionally I drink wine and vegetate on the couch with my husband and dog, and scroll through memes on my phone like a normal person.

I also sleep around nine hours a night, that’s pretty relaxing.

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