GLASGOW’S most successful female restaurant boss says not being “academically driven” didn’t stand in her way.

Louise Rusk, 37, who owns four flourishing restaurants with husband James, says she knew from an early age she wanted to go straight into business, despite doing well at school.

However, she says it was a “real eye opener” how few women there were in the industry, when the couple launched their first venture, The Butcher Shop and Grill eight years ago in the city’s West End.

Louise told how investors, “thought we were crazy” for choosing Finnieston as the location, years before the area was named the UK's 'hippest district' with a proliferation of trendy bars and restaurants.

Louise and James have just celebrated the opening of their fourth restaurant, the Californian-themed, So La! which continues the brand’s laid-back but stylish vibe, with a huge emphasis on customer service.

In the space of a few years, the couple have also opened Hutchesons and The Spanish Butcher and hope to take their restaurant empire “global” in the future.

Louise says: “Although I did well in school, with maths and English, I wasn’t academically driven.

“I was creative and very project driven. I was also sporty and always had loads of energy. My mind was always going 20 to the dozen.

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“In my teenage years I knew I wanted to work in business. Nothing else seemed to fit.

“I grew up in Armagh, Northern Ireland, and was very competitive, maybe more so against boys, so it’s not really a surprise I went into business.

From the age of 18-22, Louise, who has two children, Savannah, 7 and James, 4, travelled the world as an Irish dancer, in Dance Of Desire, which was developed by two of the stars of Michael Flatley’s Lord Of The Dance.

She says: “I started when I was five and was lucky enough to travel the world from 18 to 22.

“That was a really exciting time but I knew I wanted to put down roots somewhere. I ended up in Glasgow, which actually wasn’t that far.”

Louise was looking for an opportunity to bring the American female targeted gym chain Curves to the West of Scotland and opened Scotland’s second franchise in Motherwell.

“That started my career in business,” she says, “But it wasn’t where I wanted to be.”

Meeting James, who had worked in top restaurants in New York, allowed Louise to combine her creative and business talents with his restaurant know-how.

“We met in a bar in the Merchant City on a Sunday afternoon, “ she says.

“James hadn’t long come back from New York. He was working in bars including Balthazar. He knew everything about the industry and had that American training.

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“Curves is an American franchise too, so I learned a lot as well, exactly how to train staff.

“We just really wanted to open a restaurant.”

The couple spotted an opportunity for their first venture, in Finnieston, but faced a few hurdles to get investors on board.

She says: “Finnieston was a bit risky, there was nothing there. We thought it was a great location.

“We were knocking on doors, saying we can do this, we are really good at what we do but they wanted to see our credentials. We really had to sell it to them.”

“We had never opened a restaurant before and we were really trying to sell our business skills.

“At that stage more things were shutting than opening. We knew what we wanted to achieved, which was a steakhouse with a New York, rock ‘n’ roll theme, something that had not been done before.

“Even when you go in now, it’s just got a nice feel. It’s gone from strength to strength.”

Two years later the couple were driving along Ingram Street and spotted a ‘To Let’sign, outside the A-listed, 19th century, former hospital, Hutcheson’s Hall.

She said: “James said ‘No way’, so I had to do a bit of persuading. I love architecture and it’s such a famous building.

“It was a massive project, the building had suffered a lot of damage. That particular project tested us.

“We were either going to go down and never open another restaurant or we could handle anything. We were very excited to bring life back into it.”

Louise says it has always been an equal business partnership with James, even although some of the early media coverage focussed on him. In terms of juggling family responsibilities with working life, she says the couple share parental duties at their home in Helensburgh, but adds: “We are all just figuring it out as a society.”Just don’t mention the phrase, “husband and wife team.”

She says: “It drives me crazy. That’s my personal life. During the day we are business partners, so the husband and wife doesn’t exist. When we go home it’s husband and wife.

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“The whole (working together thing) wasn’t part of the conversation. We were just excited about what we could do, with our combined skills.

“ I’m naturally an introvert so getting out in front of people wasn’t easy for me so in some ways I was happy for James to be out front.

She is convinced there will be more women in the restaurant industy in the years ahead.

“In the hospitality industry it was very male-driven. “There’s still not a lot of women.

“I think now there are more women in the workplace and that will eventually lead to more women opening restaurants.”

“It was an eye-opener for me. I remember thinking, where are all the females? “It’s going to take time and it’s not going to change overnight, but hopefully I can inspire more females.”