Q&A: Cally Russell

Cally Russell, CEO and founder of Edinburgh-based online clothing retailer Mallzee, talks digital inspiration, talent and potential in Scotland.

13th November 2018

1) Digital skills are ever-present in the modern world of business. But how important are traditional business skills?

Both are important. The ideal is to have a team with solid business skills but digitally savvy and willing to push boundaries, testing new ideas and innovations as they come along.

2) Could a business thrive today without basic digital skills?

That depends on the type of business and how widespread the target audience is. I come from the Highlands of Scotland, and there are many thriving business there, some of which have been operating for hundreds of years without digital presences. But if you want your business to have a global audience then you really do need a digital presence.

3) Are you confident that we’re only seeing the top of the iceberg when it comes to digital and the opportunities that lie ahead for business?

Absolutely – the opportunities are now limitless. Mallzee, for example, was designed in Edinburgh, built in Edinburgh and still operates out of Edinburgh, yet we have consumers using the app all over the world.

4) What inspired you to establish a digital business?

I’m not a great shopper. I can’t stand trailing around stores looking for clothing. I was looking for a pair of black jeans, thinking how much easier it would be if I could compare all the different black jeans available on the high street in one handy place. Basically I came up with an app that would make my life easier!

5) Much is made of the current digital skills gap. How do you go about attracting the very best digital talent?

I would debate how wide the so-called skills gap is in Scotland. We’ve found great people here. There are so many fantastic students coming through our universities and colleges. I think the gap is seen by larger companies who don’t create an opportunities or environments in which people want to work.

6) You’ve mentioned before that the success of Mallzee comes down to the team at its heart. Can you tell us more about this belief?

We have a great team here. Everyone is very passionate about what they do and about the product we’ve created. Any start-up journey is a rollercoaster ride, so you need a talented team that believes in the product and possesses a can-do attitude.

7) You’ve said that passion beats skill; that skills can be taught but not necessarily passion. Can this passion extend to digital? Would you say that the employees you surround yourself with are passionate about digital?


8) Given the lure from cities south of the border and elsewhere in Europe, what do businesses need to do in order to retain digital talent here in Scotland?

Scotland is currently benefiting from a burgeoning tech ecosystem. Before, many of our most talented digital graduates were lured south, but now that we have such a buoyant tech scene here it’s much easier to retain and attract talent. Scotland is home to some real tech success stories – not to mention the fact that it’s also the most beautiful place to live and work.

9) What would be your advice for growth businesses in Scotland today?

Take advantage of all the tech-meet-ups and entrepreneurial events that you can. There are so many people out there who can help you on your journey.

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