Scottish entrepreneur Fraser Doherty built his business out of a passion for making jam and years of hard work. It’s a recipe others should look to follow
For me, the definition of success is getting up every morning and doing what you believe you were born to do. Life is too short to devote yourself to anything less. In my case, I enjoy being an entrepreneur so much that there’s nothing I’d rather do.
I sometimes imagine what I might say if I were to meet the 14-year-old me. If I were to tell him that the tiny jam-making enterprise he had just started would grow into what it has since become, he simply wouldn’t believe me.
There’s no way he’d imagine that what started with a few jars of homemade jam sold to neighbours would grow into a company that has since sold millions of jars through thousands of stores around the world. He’d have no idea that SuperJam would end up winning more than 20 innovation awards and be on display in the National Museum of Scotland, or that his story would be made into a television drama in Japan.
This adventure that I have been on has been all about doing what I love – making jam. Its success hasn’t been down to experience or planning, but rather to years of continuous improvement: tweaking of recipes, improving of packaging and crafting of brand stories. I was happy to put years of work into this project only because I thought it was fun. If it hadn’t been, I’d have done something else.
Starting a business is hard work. You will have to make sacrifices in your family life, your social life and, most likely, your health. You’re going to make these sacrifices only if you feel this idea is what you should be devoting your life to. Otherwise, it’s likely you will quit at the first hurdle.
So, if I have any advice for someone starting out on the entrepreneurial journey it is this: start small. So many people imagine that to start their business, they’ll need to jump in at the deep end – quit school or their job, remortgage their house or sell their car. In fact, you can test your idea on a tiny scale with very little money to prove to yourself that there’s a market for it.
I’d also recommend finding a mentor, someone who has been there and done it before, who can maybe give you some advice. By sharing some of the lessons that they have learnt and mistakes they have made in their own careers, you can avoid making the same mistakes yourself.
Sometimes people wonder how they can come up with a business idea when many have been done before. Most things have been done, but done badly. My story shows that it is possible to make something extraordinary out of something as ‘ordinary’ as jam.
The one thing that you can have is a unique story. If you can figure out what your story is and tell it in a compelling way, it can be the most powerful form of advertising. Your story can help you build a brand that competitors can’t beat.
But, above all, find the thing that you feel you were born to do. Because if you work on something you love, you won’t mind putting in the pain and years of hard work. And, if you do that, your idea might just succeed.
Fraser Doherty MBE is the founder of SuperJam, a 100 per cent fruit jam company he started in Scotland at the age of 14, using his grandmother’s recipes. fraserdoherty.com