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April 21, 2014

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You Don't Have to be a Geek to Create a Successful Start-up - (Tim Brown's blog, CEO of IDEO)

Fraser Doherty's simple recipe for success? Do what you love. Photo courtesy of SuperJam.

Living in Silicon Valley, I’m used to being blown away by the technical genius of entrepreneurs and the sheer determination the best of them have to use technology to make the world a better place. Earlier this week, however, I was reminded that being a geek isn’t a prerequisite for starting a business that makes a dent on the planet.

I'm in Seoul, South Korea, currently, speaking at the Herald Design Forum. At the opening event, Fraser Doherty, a young Scottish entrepreneur, gave an inspiring talk about his fast-growing business, SuperJam. No, it’s not the latest Spotify. SuperJam makes something tastier and more lo-fi: sugar-free, 100-percent-fruit preserves.

Fraser got his start in the food business as a kid, raising chickens. (He shuttered the business after a hostile takeover by a local fox.) Undeterred, Fraser went on to learn how to make jam from his “gran” in her Edinburgh kitchen at age 14. The customer base for his first line of preserves was confined to neighbors and friends from church, but news spread quickly, and by 16, Fraser left school to make fruit jams full-time.

A decade later, SuperJam has sold millions of jars and can be found in thousands of supermarkets worldwide. Launching a healthy, successful product would have been enough for most entrepreneurs, but “Jam Boy,” as Fraser calls himself, also wanted to give back in a meaningful way. So, he conceived SuperJam Tea Parties, a nonprofit that organizes free socials for elderly people who live alone or in nursing homes. Since 2008, the charity has thrown hundreds of events across Scotland, England, and Wales, with live music, good conversations, and of course, delicious jam and scones.

Shortly after his company made its first million in 2008, Forbes interviewed Fraser, asking how he felt about being so wealthy so young. “I can’t be preoccupied with the money,” Doherty said. “I make jam because it’s what I love to do.” Proof that even in the digital age, simple ideas, pursued with passion, can result in sweetly successful businesses.

Have you ever turned a personal pursuit into a business?

April 21, 2014

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Fraser Doherty - King of Jam! (Zefyr Magazine interview)

A ZEFYR LIFE:Hi Fraser, so how are things today, we heard that you were in Australia ?

FRASER DOHERTY : Things are great thanks, that’s right, we’ve just launched SuperJam in Australia so I’m in Sydney - this morning I was on Australia’s biggest TV show, “Sunrise”, which got things off to a great start!

A ZEFYR LIFE: Could you please introduce yourself to our readers?

FRASER DOHERTY : I’m the founder of SuperJam, a 100% fruit jam company based in Scotland that supplies about 2,500 supermarkets around the world.  I started making jam with my Gran in her tiny kitchen in Glasgow at the age of 14 and her recipes have since gone on to sell millions of jars.

 A ZEFYR LIFE : Our magazine is interested in « Talented » people. What is your definition of « Talent » ?

FRASER DOHERTY : If someone is doing what they were born to do and they make it seem simple and effortless.

A ZEFYR LIFE: Where would you say lies your biggest talent ?

FRASER DOHERTY: I guess I do a good job of coming up with new ideas for products and of communicating SuperJam’s story.

A ZEFYR LIFE : Who are the three persons, entrepreneurs, artists, sportsmen, writers, directors…That are inspiring you most ?

FRASER DOHERTY : Anita Roddick, Ben & Jerry, My Gran.

A ZEFYR LIFE : What are the TOP 3 Values or Principles guiding your personal life ?

FRASER DOHERTY: The most important thing is to have fun and to be happy. Only do things that you’ll be truly proud of. Remind yourself every day that one day you’ll die: every minute matters but at the same time nothing matters at all.

A ZEFYR LIFE: What are the TOP 3 Values or Principles guiding your business decisions ?

FRASER DOHERTY: Create products that I can feel truly proud of. Invest in doing good in our community. Never be afraid.

A ZEFYR LIFE: Can you tell us a bit about SuperJam your company, how you started it and how many people are working with you today?

FRASER DOHERTY : SuperJam has grown from my Gran’s kitchen to a company that now employs eight people and sells millions of jars of jam all around the world. After making jam at home and selling at farmers’ markets and to small shops for years, I came up with a way of making jam 100% from fruit.  After finding a factory to work with to make SuperJam on a big scale and creating a brand, Waitrose agreed to launch my products in all of their stores in 2007 (when I was 18).  Since then, we’ve launched in Tesco, Asda, Morrisons, Sainsburys and other supermarkets around the world. SuperJam has been entered into the National Museum of Scotland as an example of an ‘Iconic Scottish Brand’, we’ve won over 20 awards and I was even invited to Downing Street to have dinner with the Prime Minister when he heard about my story!

A ZEFYR LIFE: What has been your key motivation for embracing Entrepreneurship?

FRASER DOHERTY: For me, starting a business has never been about trying to get rich. I love the idea that I created a product that hundreds of thousands of people put on their toast every morning. I also love the idea that we use some of the profits from doing that to run hundreds of free tea parties for elderly people who live alone or in care.  

A ZEFYR LIFE: In how many markets is SuperJam now distributed ? What are your next expansion plans ?

FRASER DOHERTY: SuperJam sells about a million jars of jam a year but sales are growing really fast - we’ve just launched in Australia and later this year will be launching in Ireland, Denmark, Finland and even Russia!  Next year is the really exciting launch of SuperJam in the US and Canada!

A ZEFYR LIFE: You are a pretty young CEO, what has it been like receiving so much media attention so fast, and were you prepared to this ? How important is dealing with the media for you as a CEO ?

FRASER DOHERTY : I definitely didn’t imagine when I was making jam with my Gran at 14 that my tiny jam business would grow into what it has become!  I’ve definitely learned a huge amount and had an amazing experience along the way.  My story has attracted a huge amount of media coverage - when SuperJam launched in Waitrose I was invited on GMTV, This Morning, BBC Breakfast and all kinds of major TV shows - which definitely helped to get my story out there!

                                   

A ZEFYR LIFE : As the CEO what do you consider to be your most important mission?

FRASER DOHERTY : I see my job as getting other people as excited about SuperJam as I am - customers, partners and our team.

A ZEFYR LIFE : How often are you traveling abroad on business ? Are you using regular airliners ?

FRASER DOHERTY : I’m traveling all the time, I think SuperJam has taken me to almost 30 countries - speaking at events, visiting companies that inspire me and looking for retailers and distributors.  I love visiting other countries and I am always wondering where my adventure will take me next.  I’m not loyal to any particular airline - I think they’re all about the same!

A ZEFYR LIFE : When selecting your team of Advisors to run the business, what essential qualities are you looking for? Who do you consider being your single most important business advisor today ?

FRASER DOHERTY : I’m always excited to meet people who have a different perspective on business and life than my own - people who aren’t afraid to challenge my ways of thinking.  I have a couple of mentors, people who have been there and done it before. One of them used to be marketing director at a very large food company and so he has an amazing range of contacts and ideas that are really helping to take SuperJam to the next level.

A ZEFYR LIFE : What’s your biggest challenge in managing growth for SuperJam ?

FRASER DOHERTY : We’re launching in lots of countries around the world so there’s definitely a challenge around spinning so many plates all at once!

A ZEFYR LIFE : Are you planning to take SuperJam Public ?

FRASER DOHERTY : I know some guys who run a brewery called Brewdog in Scotland - they recently sold shares in their business to the people who drink their beer.  They’ve raised about £1.6m to build a new brewery - and signed up a whole army of people who’re going to do a great job of coming up with ideas and telling people about the brand. I’d love to do something like that one day!

A ZEFYR LIFE : What are your views on our Capitalist system ? Optimist about the Economy ?

FRASER DOHERTY : I think entrepreneurs have the opportunity to change the world - by coming up with new ways of doing things they can create products that people love, create jobs and hopefully do some good in their community through charity work.  

A ZEFYR LIFE : You wrote a book called « Super Business » - How I started SuperJam from my Gran’s kitchen – We found it not just funny but packed with myriads of incredibly enlightning tips for anyone willing to take the plunge, start their venture and chase their Dreams. What prompted you to write that book ?

FRASER DOHERTY : Glad you liked it!  Ever since SuperJam took off, people have been emailing me from all over the world to ask for advice on how to get their ideas off the ground.  I realised that I’ve learned a huge amount from taking SuperJam from my Gran’s kitchen to the supermarket shelves and I wanted to share everything I’ve learned. 

 A ZEFYR LIFE : Who has been the single most important person in your life? Why ?

FRASER DOHERTY : It would have to be my Gran!  Not only did she inspire me to start making jam in the first place but she inspired the work that I do with the elderly.  When I was a kid, she would make jam and scones and drag my little brother and I around all of the retirement homes in Glasgow - she would have afternoon tea with the elderly people, my brother would play his guitar and I would tell them stories.  I was something that my Gran felt strongly about and I wanted to do something like that on a bigger scale.

A ZEFYR LIFE : Where did you last go on holiday ? Your Dream place to go on holiday ?

FRASER DOHERTY : I just got back from a sunshine holiday in Ibiza with some friends. I’d love to travel all around South America at some point - Brazil especially.

A ZEFYR LIFE : Your favorite Museum ?

FRASER DOHERTY : The Packaging Museum in Notting Hill.  A must-see for anyone interested in vintage packaging!

A ZEFYR LIFE : What music are you listening to right now ?

FRASER DOHERTY : Mostly electronic music, like Azari & III, but at the moment I also like Jamie Woon and The Whitest Boy Alive.

A ZEFYR LIFE : The must read book you’d recommend to our readers ?

FRASER DOHERTY : Just finished « How To Be Free » by Tom Hodgkinson - he’s an anarchist and the book is about the absurdity of modern life and the idea of freeing ourselves from it by living a simpler, less stressful life.

A ZEFYR LIFE : Your favorite Hobby ? The one crazy thing you’d like to try that you have never done ?

FRASER DOHERTY : I’ve got a 40-year old VW camper van that I love driving round the countryside.  I’ve also just bought a beehive because i’ve always wanted to keep bees.

A ZEFYR LIFE : The ONE thing you will NEVER do ?

FRASER DOHERTY : Get a 9-5 job!

A ZEFYR LIFE: The favorite quote that’s sitting on your desk ?

FRASER DOHERTY : If you can dream it - you can do it, by Walt Disney.

A ZEFYR LIFE : The last time you got angry ?

FRASER DOHERTY: I always get angry trying to use online banking - I think you have to be a robot to remember all the passwords!

A ZEFYR LIFE : Your Best Childhood memory ?

FRASER DOHERTY : My Gran taking us to the Scottish seaside on the train for the first time, we had chips and 99’s.

A ZEFYR LIFE : What are you dreaming to achieve next ?

FRASER DOHERTY: Success for SuperJam and The SuperJam Tea Parties in the USA!

Interview Florian David, Editor-In-Chief @ A ZEFYR LIFE

April 21, 2014

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From SuperGran to SuperJam

With humble beginnings in his grandmother’s kitchen, young entrepreneur Fraser Doherty’s jam business is taking over the world… 

 

SuperJam-Fraser Doherty

 

Jam. Fraser Doherty loves jam. The fascination started in his grandmother’s kitchen in Edinburgh. Aged 14, the young Fraser discovered her making jam one day. She shared her secret family recipe and his love for the fruity preserve grew from there.

Entrepreneurial from a young age, Fraser took his jam-making hobby to the next level by selling it to neighbours, local shops and farmers’ markets. But to go even further, Fraser needed something special to make his jam stand out. “People at farmers’ markets were always telling me they didn’t eat jam because it has too much sugar in it. So, I came up with a natural, ultra jam, made 100% from fruit – that’s how SuperJam was born.”

With a helping hand from the Prince’s Trust and a dedicated mentor, it wasn’t long before SuperJam was filling the shelves of some of the UK’s biggest supermarkets. “SuperJam launched nationally in Waitrose in 2007, selling over 1,500 jars in one store on day one,” says a justly proud Fraser. Other leading supermarkets soon caught on. You can now find SuperJam in Waitrose, Sainsbury’s, Asda, Morrisons and Booths stores up and down the UK.

Perhaps most impressive is SuperJam’s international success. “Once we got to the point where we were selling to the biggest markets in the UK, I figured people eat jam all over the world so there are bound to be opportunities elsewhere,” explains the young entrepreneur.

But where do you even begin with selling jam worldwide? “Markets like Ireland and Scandinavia are a good place to start as you know that they speak good English and are receptive to British products,” enlightens Fraser. SuperJam is now enjoying success in Ireland, Denmark, Finland, Russia and Australia.

That said, there’s one major market currently missing from SuperJam’s export list – the United States. “It’s a market I’ve been patient with. The key is to figure out how to get the products there and on the shelf at a price that is competitive with American brands,” says Fraser. He remains resilient and determined. After planning for a couple of years, SuperJam is getting ready to export its first load of jam to the United States.

So what tips does Fraser have for other young entrepreneurs thinking of taking their idea global? “Start small. People think they need to jump in at the deep end and expand immediately. But SuperJam is proof that you can start something on a small scale, just at weekends. I’d suggest finding a mentor. Someone who’s been there, done it before and can give you sound advice.”

After making so much jam, isn’t Fraser sick of the stuff? “Not at all. I still eat a lot of jam and I like experimenting with new flavours. My favourite is the blueberry and blackberry jam. I love cooking and baking with it.”

In fact, Fraser has written The SuperJam Cookbook, which is full of ideas for jam-filled puddings. But the budding writer hasn’t stopped there, with a second title to his name: SuperBusiness. “SuperBusiness explains the journey I’ve been on, the advice I’ve received, the things I’ve learned and the ups and downs of getting SuperJam off the ground.”

And at the age of 23, the future for Fraser and his jam business looks, well, super…

Find out more about Fraser Doherty and SuperJam here.

April 21, 2014

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Fraser Doherty conquers the world with healthy jams

Fraser Doherty, a 24-year-old Scot, is one of the leading jam makers in the United Kingdom (U.K.).He learned the art of jam making from his grandmother in Edinburgh when he was 14. Passionate about making jam, he decided to create his own company, SuperJam, and started selling his products door to door, at farmers’ markets and to delicatessens.

Fraser-Doherty

Fraser analyzed the jam market in the U.K. and realized that sales were declining, because the existing products were unhealthy and no new brands had appeared for a long time. He was determined to change that. So, he started playing around with his grandmother’s recipes, trying to eliminate adding sugar and to avoid anything artificial, until he ended up developing  a method of producing jam 100 percent from fruit and fruit juices.

After that, orders picked up fast, with shops contacting him for the jam, so he decided to leave school at the age of 16 and focus full time on developing SuperJam.  Seeing his success in local shops, he decided to pitch his products to big supermarkets in the U.K., so he went to a Waitrose ‘meet the buyer day.’ Fraser was told his idea was great, but that he would need first to set up production, create a brand and return with a right price for the jams.

Eager to respond to Waitrose’s demands, Fraser started reaching out to factories, as he could not produce the jam needed by a supermarket in his parents’ kitchen. Convincing a factory proved to be a rather difficult task for a teen with no financial resources and no experience. He eventually found a jam factory willing to work with him and mass produce the jams he developed in his kitchen. He also hired an ad agency to create a brand identity for his products.

The Waitrose officials were not too enthusiastic with the results. Apart from not liking the flavors, they thought the labels were silly and the factory costs too high. Fraser was determined to convince them. So, he reduced the production costs, by signing on with a new factory and had his ad agency re-envision his brand. In order to cover his expenses and gain more factory time to produce three flavors, Blueberry & Blackcurrant, Rhubarb & Ginger and Cranberry & Raspberry, Fraser used his saving and got a loan for £5,000. He went back to Waitrose and, in March 2007, he became the youngest ever supplier to a key supermarket chain in the U.K., when Waitrose decided to launch his product range in their stores. In the first day, one of the Waitrose in Edinburgh sold 1,500 jars, more jam than they would normally sell in a month.

The media coverage surrounding the Waitrose event was incredible. Among other media commitments, Fraser was a guest on BBC Breakfast. More supermarkets, including Tesco, started calling to get the SuperJam. The company currently supplies over 2,000 supermarkets around the world, including Tesco, Wal-Mart and Asda, in countries, such as Australia, Russia and Denmark. In the future, the young entrepreneur wants to continue expanding his market into more supermarkets from across the world and to continue todiversify the jams’ flavors.

Apart from running his business, in 2008, Fraser established a charitable project called ‘SuperJam Tea Parties’ for elderly people living alone, in care homes or sheltered housing. It has hosted hundreds of events with live music, dancing, scones and SuperJam, where up to 600 people can participate. The young Scot has also written two best-selling books, The SuperJam Cookbook and SuperBusiness,containing jam recipes and, respectively, his story and the lessons he has learned in creating his company.

Fraser has received numerous accolades for his work. Among other distinctions, in 2007, he was named ‘Global Student Entrepreneur of the Year,’ the first ever winner from outside North America and has been ‘Entrepreneur in Residence’ at the London Metropolitan University since 2010, holding lectures on entrepreneurship.

When advising other young people to start their own business, Fraser emphasized: ‘Go out and give things a shot. Don’t be afraid to try things and see what you learn. On a practical level the best help that I’ve had has been from mentors. Entrepreneurs should look to anyone that has run a business or a charity, someone who has been there and done it, and can provide you with a great opportunity to learn.’
April 21, 2014

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Self-proclaimed ‘JamBoy’ shares secrets to success (Korea Herald)

Fraser Doherty, founder of Super Jam and The Super Jam Tea Parties. (Park Hae-mook/The Korea Herald)

With his whole life still ahead of him, the 24-year-old founder and CEO of the international fruit jam company “SuperJam” Fraser Doherty shared the stories behind the success of his childhood business during a keynote speech presented during a ceremony marking the 60th anniversary of Herald Corp. held at the Blue Square in Hannam-dong on Monday night. 

Scottish-raised Doherty’s first venture into business was an attempt at starting a chicken farm with his friend at the age of 10. Although his dreams were cut short after his chicks fell victim to a fox, a mere two years later, the young boy stumbled upon a simple homemade product while in his grandmother’s kitchen, a product that would change the rest of his life.

After tasting his grandmother’s jam one afternoon, Doherty asked his grandmother if she would teach him her recipe for jam. This gave birth to the young entrepreneur’s new dream of sharing his grandmother’s recipe to the masses. 

“I started making around 1,000 jars of jam a week in my parents’ small kitchen and selling them door to door,” he said. “Later I decided to leave school to try and make my jam-making hobby into a career.”

The teen went to a string of local markets and realized that the jams stacked on the shelves of those stores were unhealthy and made of about 70 to 80 percent sugar. Doherty then decided that he would differentiate himself from other products by making preservative-free jams made from 100 percent fruit. At the age of 14, Doherty started SuperJam.

“After a while I got my big break I guess with the chance of being able to pitch my ideas to Waitrose,” he explained. “Waitrose is basically the X Factor or Superstar K of selling groceries to supermarkets.”

The young teen wearing his dad’s suit that was two sizes too large, pitched his business proposal to some of the most influential businessmen in the U.K. Although his proposal was ultimately rejected, Waitrose figures said that they did in fact love his idea and asked that he continue to develop his business, encouraging him that in a couple of years, he’d be ready to make it to the big leagues. 

Doherty spent the following years travelling around trying to find buyers who were willing to take his product into mass production. All his hard work finally paid off and after steadily developing his business, Waitrose finally said yes to SuperJam. 

The jam that was once handmade in a small home kitchen and sold door to door has grown to supply more than 2,000 supermarkets across the globe including Australia, Russia, Denmark, Finland, Ireland and Korea.

“Perhaps what my story shows is that a bit of love, imagination and hard work can grow into something amazing,” he concluded.
April 21, 2014

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My Week: Fraser Doherty Of SuperJam (Management Today)

The jammy entrepreneur on his new book, speaking all over the world and making a difference to older people.

At the moment I’m spending a lot of time working on the launch of my first book, The SuperJam Cookbook, which includes recipes on how to make jam and things with jam, like roly-poly. It’s been a long time in the making – I’ve been working on it for about two years. What the book does really well is highlight that SuperJam is healthy – it’s 100% fruit, sweetened with grape juice and made using ‘super fruits’, such as blueberries and cranberries, whereas normal jam is packed full of sugar. And my friends have been only too willing to try out the new recipes…


This week is very busy for us: Thursday to Sunday we’re going to have a stand at the Highlands country show, which is the biggest public event in Scotland, something like 200,000 people go. It’s a big food and drink event and we’ve got a stand there promoting the jam and the new book, so that should be a lot of fun. We’ll be handing out samples and telling people about the products. I will miss the first day as on Thursday evening I’m going to be giving a speech for London Met University on a boat in the River Thames. 

I went to university for a year but then once the business took off it was impossible to do both, but I still get to spend lots of time at colleges and universities because of my speaking engagements. I really enjoy telling my story and I get asked to speak all over the world. I’ve spoken in Beijing, Puerto Rico, Columbia University in New York, everywhere. People ask me if I get nervous but it’s easy to tell my story. It’s important to speak in small schools in villages in Scotland where they maybe don’t have the widest imagination for what they can achieve and there’s not always a huge amount of opportunity. Starting up my own business changed my life and I like the idea and I like the idea of sharing that message with young people. 

Aside from the core business of making jam, we also run tea parties for older people. It’s now a registered charity and I think in the last year we have held more than 120. They’re completely free and they’re usually attended by people who are over 70, who come along to from their care homes or their homes where they are often living alone. We have live music and dancing and everybody has jam and scones and chats. Up to 600 people come along to each event. 

The tea parties are entirely funded by SuperJam and it’s completely free for those who attend – we don’t solicit donations from anybody. Thankfully the local councils where we run the events have been quite helpful and they’ve let us use venues for free or they’ve provided bits and pieces. It costs some money but the impact on the community is incredible and we get lots of letters from people who come along and have had a really nice afternoon. The biggest ones are in Scotland but we’ve had them everywhere: from tiny little villages in Wales to boroughs in London. At the moment we’re working on trying to open it up so school kids or students or even office workers can hold a tea party in their office we’ll provide jam and a bit of money. We’re hoping it’ll inspire people to engage with the elderly people in their area. Something like 1 million elderly people spend Christmas Day on their own every year. It’s a huge problem and it’s something I want to help tackle. 


A lot of my time is also taken up with trying to get into new supermarkets. The next step of my plan is to get SuperJam stocked in America and Europe. I still remember the day I got into the first supermarket, Waitrose. I went to their ‘meet the buyer’ day, which is described as The X Factor of selling groceries to supermarkets. Hundreds of people turn up and pitch their products to the buyers and they loved SuperJam. Fast forward two years and my product was on its shelves. That really was one of the highlights of my life – being able to walk into Waitrose and buy a jar of my own jam. 

Fraser Doherty is the founder of jam company SuperJam, which he set up after his granny taught him to make the sticky stuff at the age of 14.

April 21, 2014

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BBC Worldwide interview about starring in Million Dollar Intern

Q&A - Fraser Doherty

Million Dollar Intern

What are your top three business achievements so far?

  • Selling millions of jars of SuperJam.
  • Being the youngest ever supplier to a major UK supermarket.
  • Hosting hundreds of free tea parties for elderly people.

How did you get into business?

My Gran taught me to make jam at the age of 14. After making it from my parents’ kitchen and selling it at farmers’ markets, I came up with a way of making jam from 100% fruit. I pitched my idea to Waitrose when I was 17 and, in 2007, they launched SuperJam in all of their 260 stores.

How old were you when you started your first business?

My first business idea involved hatching chicken eggs on top of the TV and raising the chicks that hatched. Once they started laying eggs, I sold those to neighbours. Unfortunately, my chicken-farming career was sadly ended when the local fox ate my chickens for dinner!

What is your business style?

I see starting a business as an adventure; for me, the most amazing feeling is seeing something that I created sitting on the shelves of a supermarket store. I also love the idea that the success of my business can benefit other people, by using its profit to support community projects, such as the hundreds of tea parties we run for elderly people.

How do you know if an idea is going to work or not?

My approach is to find the simplest way to test your idea, risking as little money as possible, and finding out if it is something that people want to buy. Sure, people will tell you it’s a nice idea, but until they put their hand in their pocket you don’t really know.

What’s the best piece of business advice you’ve been offered?

Dan Germain – who created the Innocent brand – told me that any brand should just have one message, and that it should put all of its effort into trying to get that one message across. Too many people say ‘here are ten reasons why you should buy my product’.

Who do you admire in business?

My heroes are the late Anita Roddick (founder of The Body Shop), Ben and Jerry and other entrepreneurs who showed that business can be a form of protest. By sourcing ingredients responsibly, being vocal about poor ethics that were the norm in their industries (like animal testing, for example) and using their packaging to shout about issues they cared about, their businesses were a force for positive change in the world, and not just a money making machine.

Have you encountered any obstacles in business due to your age?

Of course. When I was pitching my ideas to supermarkets and 100-year-old factories at the age of 16, many of them didn’t take me seriously. I guess that was partly down to my age, but actually mostly because I didn’t have any experience or money behind me. I’ve actually been amazed by how willing other entrepreneurs are to support a young person with an idea. There’s a huge amount of support available and, in my case, Waitrose were willing to hear an idea from anybody – even a 17-year-old kid!

What does it take to build and maintain a successful business?

In my case, I learned that absolutely everything had to be right. If my marketing wasn’t great, nobody would hear about SuperJam. If the packaging didn’t look great, people wouldn’t take it off the shelves. And if it didn’t taste great, they wouldn’t come back!

What’s the biggest headache when running a business?

Everything always takes longer than you first think!

What one piece of advice would you give to anyone trying to start a business?

The first step is to try. I meet so many people with an idea for a business who are just afraid of giving it a shot, and that is a real shame.

What is your motto?

Try, have fun and be nice.

What are your top five business tips for success?

  • Ask for help – other people are usually more than happy to help.
  • Invest in design – people judge your product almost entirely by how it looks.
  • Be patient – grow organically, without debt and stay independent.
  • Give back – business should be about so much more than just making money.
  • Don’t sell yourself short – I see a lot of businesses that are too modest to charge a high price, that don’t shout about the quality of their products or proudly tell their story.

How did it feel going from being the boss to being an intern?

What was strange for me was that being the intern was actually my first time working in a real job. Having started my business at 14, I have never worked for anyone else.

What was it like being undercover?

I hate lying to people, so I felt terrible making up stories! Everyone at Jane’s Pantry were very welcoming though, despite thinking I was just there for work experience.

What’s the funniest thing someone said to you while being an Intern?

The team at Jane’s are hilarious, so it’s hard to pick just one. Mark, the bakery manager, told me after the reveal that he had thought it was weird that I had such an interest in the jam in their doughnuts!

What’s been your most memorable moment while taking part in Million Dollar Intern?

When I walked onto the factory floor after Neville, the owner, had given a teary speech to his staff, I realised how much all of this means to everyone in the business. I have never had an audience look at me with such focus, hanging on my every word, worrying that I was there to deliver bad news about the future of the company and their jobs.

April 21, 2014

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SuperJams: Fraser Doherty (Startups.co.uk Article)

The SuperJams founder describes just how simple it is to start a business at the age of 14

 Updated: Oct 3, 2013 Published: Mar 23, 2007

 

How many 18-year-olds do you know that have managed to bag a deal with a major supermarket to sell their product? Not many? Well that’s Fraser Doherty’s point exactly.

At the age of 14, Edinburgh-born Doherty went out to the supermarket with a couple of pounds in his pocket. He bought some fruit and sugar and made a few jars of jam. Four years later his SuperJams brand is on the shelves of 130 Waitrose stores.

Doherty owes a lot to his Gran, who first taught him how to make it. Once he had the idea he started spending all his evenings and weekends cooking it up. His neighbours were his first customers but he soon moved on to selling it at farmers’ markets and local delicatessens.

“By the time I started selling at the farmers’ markets I’d been in the press quite a lot,” says Doherty, who is currently in his first year of university in Glasgow, studying business and accountancy. “People knew the story and were familiar with it, but I don’t think that was the only reason it sold well. Publicity isn’t a reason for people to keep coming back for it again and again. I had a genuinely good product.”

Doherty’s operation grew rapidly. His parents were driving him to the trade fairs and markets to sell the jam which he was making at a rate of a thousand jars a week. “It was getting a bit ridiculous to be spending 16 hours a day, seven days a week making the jam,” he recalls. “So I decided I had to come up with a big idea to get production up to the next level.”

Doherty did some research, and armed with the knowledge that jam sales were in decline, he decided to create a healthy range, using so-called super fruits such as blueberries and cranberries. He also came up with the idea of using grape juice instead of sugar to sweeten it.

The big break came with the opening of some new Waitrose stores in Edinburgh. Doherty went along to a buyer’s fair and got talking to the supermarket’s jam buyer. Impressed with the jam, the Waitrose buyer told Doherty to get his labels designed and find somewhere to produce it on a large scale – so, having left school, that’s what he spent his gap year doing.

He found a factory where he could oversee production, and got a local ad agency to design the jars for free. The whole process was filmed for a Channel 4 documentary, which of course helped get the brand out there.

Doherty now works out of an office at university where he does what he describes as ‘enterprise evangelism’, promoting entrepreneurship to young people through speeches and radio and tv appearances.

The future? Well, Doherty says he might have to give uni a few years off if the Waitrose sales do well. “Once my time gets ‘jam-packed’ I’d probably end up making a bad job of uni and the business if I tried to do them both.”

April 21, 2014

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The Herald Profile: Fraser Doherty, jam boy

Fraser Doherty was just fourteen when he started selling jam made from his gran's recipes. Less than a decade later his range of naturally-sweetened products have become a fixture on supermarket shelves.

Fraser Doherty
Fraser Doherty

What is the name of your business and where is it based?

SuperJam, Edinburgh

What does your business do?
We supply 100% fruit jam to over 2,000 supermarkets in five countries.

Can you describe your typical day?
Most of my time is spent developing new products, launching in new countries, meeting with supermarkets and doing fun things like giving talks at entrepreneurship conferences and selling SuperJam live on QVC!

How did your career begin?
I started making jam at the age of fourteen when my Gran taught me to make jam in her kitchen in Glasgow. My big break came when I developed a way of making jam 100% from fruit, which launched in Waitrose about five years ago.

What was your worst mistake and how did you recover from it?
When we were developing SuperJam for Waitrose, we created a brand around a SuperMan comic book theme.  It was really funny and looked amazing but unfortunately the supermarket buyers thought it was a bit silly.  I had to throw it in the bin and start all over again.

Do you have a business role model or guru?
All the way through I've been given advice by a number of Scottish entrepreneurs, such as Kevin Dorren, who now runs a successful business called DietChef.  He taught me how supermarkets work.

What piece of advice would you give those starting out in business today?
Start small. You don't have to remortgage your house and jump in at the deep end!

What would you say are the biggest challenges for Scottish employers?
I feel very proud to be manufacturing in Britain, creating work for people at a time when things are as tough as they are.  Thankfully sales are growing like crazy at SuperJam but for companies that are struggling there is no doubt a challenge of keeping their workforce motivated about the future, especially if there are job cuts going on.
We're a really small team but I want SuperJam to be a great place to work. I encourage everyone to be independent, to come up with their own ideas and try things out.  For me, the most amazing feeling of my life was when I first saw SuperJam on the shelf: that is a feeling that I want everyone working with me to share.

What shape do you think the Scottish economy will be in this time next year?
I'm really hopeful for Scotland's future. There are some amazing companies in Scotland that are exporting their products all over the world!  Entrepreneurial companies will reinvigorate the economy.

April 21, 2014

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Future Leaders Interview

Fraser Doherty started selling jams to his neighbours aged 14. Ten years on, he’s one of the UK’s most successful entrepreneurs. His company SuperJam now supplies Waitrose, Tesco and ASDA and he is the first non-American to win the Global Student Entrepreneur of the Year award. As part of our new series on Future Leaders, I met with Fraser in London for a chat about leadership, social purpose and jam.

What motivated you to set up SuperJam?

For me, starting a business isn’t about trying to get personally wealthy. But thankfully SuperJam is profitable, which gives me a lot of freedom in how I chose to live my life and run my business! We’ve sold many millions of jars of SuperJam around the world and that has given me funds to develop new products. It’s also allowed me to invest in other young entrepreneurs’ companies, giving me a chance to share what I’ve learned with other people trying to get their ideas off the ground.

What’s your plan for the near future?

We are launching new flavours of SuperJam! We’re also exploring new international markets and creating new products, such as peanut butter, honey and chocolate, with great stories behind them.

You set up the SuperJam Tea Parties foundation alongside SuperJam. What does it do?

As my business started to make money, a number of years ago I decided to register a charity so that I could run projects that would give something back to the community.  When my grandmother originally made jam, she would make jam and scones and visit all of the elderly people in local care homes.  I figured that it would be fitting to do something like that, but on a big scale.  We’ve since hosted hundreds of free tea parties for elderly people in care homes, community centres and hospitals across six or seven countries.

Have the SuperJam Tea Parties had any impact on your business?

Although I don’t run the tea parties with any commercial expectations, I have found that the business has benefited from media coverage and also generally from people buying our products because they believe in what we stand for.

What qualities does a business need in order to grow in a changing world?

I think it’s really important to know what your message is – why should anyone want to buy your product?  The world is so noisy and, frankly speaking, nobody cares about you or your idea.  So, you’re going to have to be very clear about what your message is and put all your energy into trying to get that one simple message across to people. Maybe they’ll get it – and maybe if they get it they’ll buy your product.

What qualities do you think a business leader needs in order to deliver positive impact on the world?

It’s really important to define your ‘holy cows’. What are the things that, ethically, you would never do. What are the things that you are choosing to make a stand on? If you try to fight every battle, you end up with a little organic health food store with handwritten signs and no customers. It might be ethically ‘pure’, but it doesn’t make an impact.

Given the opportunity, would you change the strategy for SuperJam’s growth at all?

I’ve got plenty of things wrong over the past ten years! Thankfully I’ve learned enough so that when I help other people or start new things myself, it’s a lot easier than it was first time around. When I do it all again, I’ll chose to be braver and more extreme in what I’m standing for.

How do you balance social impact and growth?

It’s really important to define your ‘holy cows’. What are the things that, ethically, you would never do? What are the things you are willing to compromise on?  And what are the things you’re choosing to make a stand on?  If you try to fight every battle, you end up with a little organic health food store with handwritten signs and no customers – it might be ethically ‘pure’ but it doesn’t make an impact.

How do you see your career developing?

I’m currently sitting on a couple of advisory boards, and would love to continue to help businesses by sharing my experience with them.

How would you sum up your approach to leadership?

I think it’s been important for me to accept that there is no perfect model – for life or for business – you can just try to stand up for some of the things you believe in.  By giving it your best shot, you can hopefully make some kind of difference, and you shouldn’t underestimate how important that might be for someone, but you can’t expect to change everything.