CB Technology in the community: Supporting The Ootsider’s journey with an old friend

Written by John Keogh

18 December 2023

This article is written by John Keogh, founder of The Ootsider, who worked with CB Technology as an Engineering Manager. Keogh was in the latter years of his career and joined CB Technology to help put some critical systems and processes in place following which he retired in 2021. However, as fate would have it, a remarkable moment in December 2021 changed his life for good. In his own words, here’s John Keogh’s summary of how his new business venture came about. 

By John Keogh

In the pursuit of happiness, some people travel, some seek the thrill of danger, and some just hit the high street. But I can testify that happiness can be found in doing simple things for other people.

Just after leaving CB Technology in December of 2021 to enjoy retirement, I had an epiphany. I was walking down Glasgow’s Buchanan Street doing my Christmas shopping with icy rain coming down in torrents when I spotted a poor soul begging in the middle of the street, soaked through to the skin with a sleeping bag as his only protection. 

It instantly dawned on me that these were possibly his only clothes, with no place to have a warm shower, change into something dry and sit with a hot plate of food. 

It was a lot to take in, and to make matters worse I was fully kitted out for the elements with the best possible gear and accessories.

This didn’t sit well with me and I wanted to do something about it immediately. 


John Keogh testing out The Ootsider
1. John Keogh testing out The Ootsider.
John Keogh handing out The Ootsider sleeping bags.
2 John Keogh handing out The Ootsider sleeping bags.
More than 100 rough sleepers have been handed out Ootsider sleeping bags.
3 More than 100 rough sleepers have been handed out Ootsider sleeping bags, with another 100 more planned to be distributed by January 2024.
The Ootsider sleeping bag
4 More than 100 rough sleepers have been handed out Ootsider sleeping bags, with another 100 more planned to be distributed by January 2024.
The Ootsider
5 The Ootsider was set up as a Community Interest Company (CIC) that allows it to donate all profits towards making sleeping bags for rough sleepers. 

A cloak of protection

I gave it some thought and decided to create a multifunctional sleeping coat that doubles up as a thick jacket to help those who sleep rough. I got the idea from changing robes used by wild swimmers, which is one of my passions. 

I conceptualised the coat, taking inspiration from gear that’s available on the market, and modified it to double up as a well-sealed sleeping bag. But as with most business ideas, I soon ran into challenges. 

That’s when I picked up the phone and rang John Cameron, my former boss, for some much-needed advice. 

The rest, as they say, is history. 

John mentored me with strategic business direction and helped me with planning, pricing, costing, company formation, and organisational excellence.

And just like that, The Ootsider was born. 

The name is a play on a local Scottish term that’s often used to describe the outermost slices on a loaf of bread.

Initially, the plan was to set up a charity, but on John’s suggestion, I set The Ootsider up as a Community Interest Company (CIC) instead. This enables us to sell products while putting net profits back into making modified sleeping robes which we hand out to rough sleepers in and around Scotland for free. To date, we have handed out more than 100 sleeping coats and we are only getting started. 

Business mentorship is a must
I was in the twilight of my career when I joined CB Technology having spent more than 40 years in the world of manufacturing working for some of the largest firms in the world. 

While I was at CB Technology, I witnessed John’s management skills firsthand with the company growing as he, along with the rest of the senior management team, empowered staff that enabled them to scale new heights. 

John’s advice has been crucial almost working as an external consultant, helping a small team at The Ootsider do what we are most passionate about. We haven’t managed to solve homelessness but The Ootsider has taken baby steps to help address the plight of rough sleepers on our streets.

If you have got this far I urge you to help someone. Share your expertise and mentor others. Who knows we may as well cross paths on the ootside and help one another make this world a better place.