Yorkshire-born and bred, Gareth Parkinson speaks his mind.
So when his mother-in-law suggested that he import wooden barbecue huts from her native Finland to the UK he told her there was no way it would work.
“British people don’t barbecue in buildings!” he said firmly.
But 15 years later, he’s the first to admit his conviction has been completely overturned, with his booming business, Arctic Cabins, as proof.
It all began when his wife, Virpi, and her family introduced him to barbecue huts - a feature in almost every Finnish garden.
“I’d like to take the credit for it, but I must say I had my doubts! Wood, fire, people drinking … what could possibly go wrong, I thought!” he said, laughing.
After seeing the huts for himself - with reindeer skins and a fire to keep out the bitter cold of Lapland’s winters - Gareth soon changed his mind.
He said: “I come from Meltham, a village on the very edge of Saddleworth Moor. It’s wet, cold, bleak and windy, but that’s nothing compared with the north of Finland!”
Despite British weather being much less extreme, it turned out that UK residents were very happy at the thought of having a barbecue impossible for the weather to ruin.
When Gareth began selling the huts at events such as the Ideal Home Show, the response was immediate.
“When we started, we were skint!” he remembers. “We had to beg and borrow to do it. I used to build a cabin at a garden show on the Thursday and then sleep in it over the weekend to save paying for accommodation.”
But within two years, sales had increased so much he decided to establish a showroom and build a website, www.arcticcabins.co.uk.
When Gareth’s supplier let him down – ironically because he was selling so many they couldn’t keep up – he went into partnership to manufacture them in the UK, before finally setting up entirely on his own.
Now Arctic Cabins employs 40 people to make and sell the unique, sloping sided barbecue huts, in addition to his other brands, such as Cabin Master which sells bespoke cedar and redwood garden rooms, fully lined and insulated to be used as offices, gyms, quiet retreats or whatever purpose suits.
The firm also supplies hot tubs and builds glamping pods for other businesses – which has taken off hugely in recent years.
Gareth takes satisfaction in having overseen steady growth every single year since those early days as a “one-man band”.
These days customers include celebrities and aristocrats – including gardening royalty Alan Titchmarsh - but the huts fit most gardens and comfortably hold a dozen people.
“I never thought I’d see us get as busy as we have and be able to employ so many local people,” said Gareth.
And if his mother-in-law has any more ideas – he’s sure to listen.Visit the website at www.arcticcabins.co.uk.