Tuesday 25 March 2014 7:00
BQ Scotland is preparing for its inaugural Export Awards in May, with over 25 brilliant Scottish businesses shortlisted and featured in our sister publication BQ2. The awards, in the Glasgow Science Centre, are supported by Scottish Enterprise.
So it seemed a smart idea to catch up with Fraser Doherty, the young Scot who we featured in our first BQ Scotland, and hear about his exporting adventures. He has visited over 50 countries in the past three years, spreading the message about his business and learning about entrepreneurship in different areas around the world.
Doherty travels light. The Scottish entrepreneur is trying to prove that to be successful in business, you don’t require a boardroom and vast office space. Instead, Fraser has his
laptop, smartphone and a few essential items of clothing.
“It’s a little bit of an experiment really, I don’t have a house or a car or anything like that. I’m travelling 365 days a year, constantly on the move. I want to prove that you can live and work anywhere. Technology today makes it possible to run your company from wherever you are,” he says.
“I love going to other countries and going into supermarkets there and finding out what the food trends are like, what the packaging is like. It’s just finding ideas which I can bring back home.”
Doherty’s SuperJam business, which he created in the kitchen of his Edinburgh home from his grandmother’s jam recipes, has come a long way since its launch in Waitrose in 2007. Doherty’s Jam products are now stacked on shelves around the world.
The product is in over 200 stores in Australia, over 100 in South Korea and will launch in the United States and Japan in 2014. The 25-year-old Scot has taken his jam from the family kitchen in Edinburgh to South Korea, a country in which bread and scones are a foreign concept.
“There are three people working on SuperJam Korea and they’re taking the brand and changing it a little bit to appeal to the South Korean consumer. Bread is a new thing over there and it’s growing really fast so we’re concentrating on bakeries over there at the moment as a luxury gift, selling at around £6 per jar.”
As well as his various jam products, Doherty has plans to expand his range of condiments into chocolate spreads and peanut butter products in 2014. He also sells SuperHoney, a project involving local communities across the UK, donating hives to local community groups who then teach local kids how to make honey.
“The whole philosophy is to create a great product which does really well, makes money but also to give something back and do good. We’re teaching kids how to make honey. We are promoting bee-keeping as bees are having a bit of a hard time at the moment. The bee population in the UK has declined by 50% in recent years due to intensive farming, yet we need bees to pollenate our flowers. So we sell honey with money going back into apiary conservation and development.”
Visiting over 50 countries, Doherty’s story has been well told to budding entrepreneurs around the world and the 25-year-old believes that being a Scot helps in selling his product around the world.
“When I was in China I did some school visits in eight different cities, half of which I hadn’t heard of, but when I told people I’m from Scotland the majority of them could relate to that. When you’re trying to sell a food product, being from Scotland immediately has a value.”
Doherty’s inbox fills up with emails and questions and ideas from other budding entrepreneurs, seeking advice on starting up new businesses. He remembers being in their position only a few years ago and endeavours to answer all questions and provide any advice he can.
“The problem with entrepreneurs is you come up with hundreds of ideas every week and the hard part is trying not to be a magpie and trying to focus on hundreds of things,” says Doherty. “There’s a lot to be said for focus. If I can be the best person in the world at putting sweet things in jars then that’s great. The world is so noisy and people struggle to focus on one thing but if you can, I believe you can make a success out of anything.”
What’s the young SuperJam man’s advice to Scottish budding entrepreneurs? “Think big. Come up with something which you think will appeal to people all over the world, or you can adapt to appeal to everyone, that’s the world we live in now.”
He left school at 16 to make jam full time (“thankfully my parents didn’t try and stop me!”) and found himself pitching, X Factor-style, to Waitrose (a large UK supermarket chain) - wearing his dad’s suit! “They explained that there was a long way to go until a kid could ever supply a supermarket. I'd have to set up production in a factory and create a brand and do a lot more work on my recipes. But he explained if I could do all that then, he would think about giving it a shot. He probably never imagined he would see me again.”
Interested? We thought so! If you'd like to hear more, listen to Fraser's podcast below:
SuperJam's Fraser Doherty on his first job selling bacon, driving a camper van, and being Scottish.
Name: Fraser Doherty
Company turnover: £1m+
First job: Selling bacon door to door for an eccentric bacon entrepreneur who taught me all about customer care, selling and running a small business.
Dream job: One day I will open an ice cream shop – what's happier than ice cream?
Car: 1971 VW Camper Van
Economy, business or first class: Economy, I'm Scottish...
Most extravagant purchase: The camper van!
Most-played song on your iPod: Keep A Secret, by Whitest Boy Alive
Best business book: Business as Unusual by Anita Roddick. I love the idea that business can also be protest.
Worst business moment: Being turned down by Waitrose at 17.
Proudest business moment: Buying the first jar of my own jam from Waitrose.
Your business mentor: Kevin Dorren, Dietchef.com. He's been giving me advice about supermarkets and building a brand since I was about sixteen.Next big thing: We just launched on QVC so have big hopes for that, as well as launching in North America and Australia later this year.X
Ever since I was a little kid, I have always loved jam. Especially my gran's jam, which she's been making in her wee kitchen in Glasgow for as long as I can remember.
One afternoon, when I was 14, I took an interest in jam making and asked my gran to share her secrets with me. After a few hours of learning about fruit, pectin, the setting point and how to put jam into jars, I was ready to have a shot at making it myself.
That same day, I ran around to the supermarket and bought some fruit and sugar and made a batch of my own. Before it had even cooled down, I went round to the neighbours to ask what they thought. Thankfully, they liked the first few jars and began buying my homemade jams and marmalades every couple of weeks. I was in business!
That tiny enterprise grew and grew and I was soon supplying delicatessens all over Scotland. I later came up with a method for making jam entirely from fruit which I called SuperJam. We have since launched into Waitrose and other major supermarkets and I've written a recipe book, The SuperJam Cookbook, sharing some of my gran's and my own jam making secrets.
Everyone seems to have a story about jam. It brings back memories of childhood, of grandparents, maybe of a time when things were simpler. Making your own is a hugely satisfying and rewarding process, especially if you pick the fruit yourself. For those who have never made preserves before, it might be a daunting endeavour but there are a few basic tips that should guarantee success.
The reason jam sets is down to pectin, which occurs naturally in fruits. Some fruits are high in pectin, such as raspberries, apples, plums and oranges. These are easy to make jam from. For fruits that don't contain much pectin, like strawberries, you can add extra pectin (available in wee bottles in the supermarkets).
The basic method of jam making involves cooking fruit on a low heat until it has the consistency of porridge, then adding sugar (or fruit juice, if you're making SuperJam) and bringing it up to the setting point (105C).
There is a wee trick that my Gran taught me to test whether your jam is going to set. You put a spoonful of the hot jam onto a cold plate, wait a couple of minutes and then run your finger across it. If the jam wrinkles, you're onto a winner.
The most important thing in jam making is being sure everything is clean and sterile, especially the jars. You can heat up the jars in the oven before pouring in the jam to be sure that they are safe and sound.
You can't go far wrong if you stick to those few simple rules. Once you start making jams, you'll soon be experimenting with all kinds of fruits and maybe you'll even try your hand at marmalades, curds, chutneys and nut butters …. All just as fun!
Whether you've never tried making jam before and need a little encouragement, want to know whether a crazy idea you've had for a recipe will actually work, or are an experienced jam maker and have questions about the finer points of the process this is the place to be. Post your questions below.
When he was 17, Fraser Doherty's jam-making business was doing so well he dropped out of university for a year to work on it full-time. Two years on and his company, SuperJam, supplies a range of healthy jams to Tesco, Waitrose, Morrisons and Budgens, and his degree in accounting and marketing has been delayed. "I think maybe 10 to 20 years down the line I might study something, but for now I'm learning a lot," says Doherty.
Taught to make jam by his grandmother at the age of 14, Doherty "really loved it" and started making jam to sell at farmers' markets and fetes. "I was making 1,000 jars a week in my parents' kitchen [in Edinburgh], which was when I realised I'd have to move to a factory," he says.
But the supermarket deals didn't happen overnight. "The biggest challenge was convincing the first supermarket to take the jams," says Doherty. "It was a lengthy process and a challenge to motivate myself as an entrepreneur to keep trying. Many people give up at the first hurdle."
The first time Doherty attended a "meet the buyers" day at Waitrose—which he refers to as the X Factor of selling groceries to supermarkets—he came away empty-handed. "I hadn't set up production, I had no brand, no concept of the product, but they gave me good advice and I went away and spent a year putting that all together."
He did some research and found that sales of jam had fallen for the past couple of decades because of its old-fashioned and unhealthy image (jam often contains lots of sugar). "There had been no innovation in jam-making for years so I looked into making a healthy jam with no additives and that was sweetened only with fruit juice," says Doherty. He used an advertising agency to come up with modern branding, found a factory he could hire a few days each month and the contract to supply Waitrose with his SuperJam range followed shortly afterwards.
Doherty knows that he owes a lot to his grandmother without whose recipes he wouldn't be running a successful business. "All too often we forget the contribution older people make to our society," he says. Last April, Doherty launched the SuperJam Tea Parties charity to give isolated or housebound older people the chance to socialise at community centres over tea and scones. During Older People's Week last October more than 100 parties took place across the UK.
Around half a million jars of SuperJam are sold a year—equating to sales of £400,000—which Doherty hopes to double over the next year. "I am ambitious for SuperJam and the charitable projects. There has been interest overseas so we will probably expand internationally," he says.
The success story of “Jam Boy” Fraser Doherty, founder of SuperJam, has almost become legend.
At the age of 10 he was a door-to-door sausage salesman. By the time he turned 14, he had become a jam maker after learning his grandmother’s secret recipe that replaced sugar with highly reduced fruit juice.
In 2013, more than 1 million jars of SuperJam were sold in 20 countries grossing 3.4 billion won ($3.3 million) in sales. In Korea, more than 30,000 jars of SuperJam have been sold here since its Korean launch in July 2013.
The jams come in three flavors ― raspberry and cranberry, blueberry and black currant, and strawberry ― and they are far less sweet than others on the market. At the same time, however, the richness and density of the fruit flavors bring a unique experience.
The 26-year-old Scottish entrepreneur came to Korea this month, and on April 4, he gave a speech at The K-Style Design Festival held at The-K Hotel Seoul, co-hosted by the Herald Corp. and Seoul Design Foundation to promote design products that combine practicality, aesthetics and environmental values. Doherty related the story of SuperJam’s success and how graphically designing the jars and labels helped earn him a coveted supply contract with the British retailer Waitrose and ultimately helped his career take off.
|Fraser Doherty, CEO of SuperJam, speaks in an interview with The Korea Herald. (Park Hyun-koo/The Korea Herald)|
“Young entrepreneurs, anywhere I go, even from different cultures, find something in common and we know that. They see the world differently. While most people see the world with little opportunities, there is a sense of optimism among us,” Doherty told The Korea Herald after the lecture.
“People put barriers between what should happen and what should not, but I say, say more yes than no,” Doherty said.
Following his heart, Doherty is about to embark on new projects including the release of SuperJam Junior for children, which comes without seeds and fruit bits, the development of tailored jams for Koreans with Korean fruits, and diversified sales routes here including TV home shopping.
“I find that Korean people like my brand and my story. I find great opportunity here,” he said.
But for Doherty, a strict vegetarian who does not drink or smoke, satisfaction goes beyond money. He does not own a house or a car but feels happy with small things such as buying a new outfit at the Dongdaemun fashion market in eastern Seoul.
What he cares about are the environment, animal rights and issues such as the aging society.
In order to raise environmental awareness, SuperJam released a small amount of Super Honey in the U.K. that had been made on farms that did not use pesticides. Doherty is planning to team up with Urban Bee Seoul, which keeps about 50 beehives in the city for another project.
SuperJam’s signature tea party has brought hundreds of elderly people in care homes or hospitals to chat, dance and laugh over tea and scones. The events are to be held in Seoul, too.
“The elderly are an underestimated people. I don’t focus on the problems they face and I don’t try to solve them. But if I could just give them a comfortable afternoon, that’s still great,” he said.
These activities are strictly not for profit, but have inspired many people around the world to follow suit. His Facebook and Twitter accounts are filled with people offering to help. “Most of the people that I work with like the fact that they are part of a story that is going somewhere,” he said.
Citing Gandhi as his inspiration, the young entrepreneur encouraged people to do what they believe in.
“If you think something is wrong about the world, just do what you can do to change it and don’t become part of the problem,” he said.
“The story of a ‘jam boy’ is evolving and in 10 years’ time you may see something different. I just look one step forward and focus on what I do and can do,” he said with a smile.