Five minutes with Cally Russell
Spotlight

Five minutes with Cally Russell

Open the app and choose what’s hot with a flick of your finger.

This isn’t modern dating – it’s modern shopping. Founded by Sally Russel in 2013, Mallzee lets you shop from hundreds of top fashion brands in one app.

His business ethos is one of collaboration, both within his own team and in the wider business landscape. As a result, Mallzee is committed to working with, and not against, other young start-ups: “We might only be a couple of years into our journey,” he says, “but we should be willing to share the mistakes and lessons we’ve had along the way.”

“With any business, it comes down to the team you create”

I had no coding or tech background before I started Mallzee, and I still don’t have that background. With Mallzee we brought together a really wide base of skill sets, from design to development, sales to finance. It’s all about putting the building blocks together to create the perfect outcome.

“It’s important to keep close to your ideals”

When you build a business, you are creating a culture and a mindset. You have to try and embed everyone who comes and joins the organisation with that mindset and it’s something that we’ve done from the very start. When you’re interviewing people, that’s what you’re looking for as well as their skill set – do they fit your mindset? Do they fit your culture? It’s when you fit together with your team that you have the greatest possible chance of success. We have a set of brand values that we instil in everyone as they join, and we do refresher sessions every couple of months where the team comes together and we show that the actions we’re taking are aligned with those values.

“A vibrant economy creates services that benefit the wider world”

I think it’s really vital that a vibrant economy showcases innovation to the world. Something that we should remember is that we are a relatively small island nation and we need to be looking at creating services that benefit not just these shores but the wider world. In reality, we’ve got so much right so far, and I think it’s just the next step that we need to take. We have to foster a mindset that prizes innovation and forward thinking. We need to think that we are going to build something global, not just a smaller version of something someone’s built in the US.

“If you have learned lessons from business, you should be open enough to share those with the people around you”

Sharing of knowledge and sharing of support is so important. There’s been so many people that have helped us along the way and it’s not benefitted them in the slightest – but it really helped us in understanding something in more depth or in developing our offering. At the end of the day, sharing our knowledge benefits us as a community. The more great companies that are being built in Edinburgh, the more attention that it receives as a city, the more the people who work in those companies learn, which then benefits again the wider community.

“Scaling-up is the responsibility of the company, not a support agency”

Support for scale-ups is an area that is well served. I actually think it’s up to the companies themselves to say, ‘well how do we advance ourselves; how do we grow and learn?’ That’s part of being a scale-up. The support agencies that work in the field are focused on that and do a great job of enabling those conversations and enabling those companies to grow. But they can’t grow for them.

“Business should be about pulling people up”

More and more of a spotlight has been shown on entrepreneurship and we have moved away from this idea that business is cut-throat and you have to be an awful person to succeed. We have seen the rise of the concept that business should be about pulling people up, about developing each other to make business successful. When you do that as a business, you really shine through. I’ve set up a monthly dinner for start-ups of a certain stage in Edinburgh, and at each dinner I invite a VC from London or an entrepreneur who’s been there and done it before. It gets everyone together to chat through ideas under the Chatham House Rule and really helps everyone. I think that sharing of knowledge and support is a great approach to take.

“It’s important to teach people that there are other paths you can take”

If you get people thinking outside of the box, it benefits communities and society in general. We do a lot of outreach to schools in the community, because if you can talk to people at that age, you open up paths to them that they didn’t think existed for them. I think that as a result, you see the local community treat entrepreneurship as more of a career path. You see more young people trying to start their own businesses, and initiatives like Young Enterprise Scotland are keeping the focus on that. You’ll start to see the real benefit of that not in the next two to three years, but in the next five to ten.

“We need to tell the stories of great businesses more widely”

Telling stories of great businesses far and wide, of people doing interesting things, helps create that mind-set of innovation. If you can see examples of people doing those things in your local community, from people who are not dissimilar to yourself, then over time you learn that that is a path you can take.