Travels with a jam jar

Travels with a jam jar

The entrepreneur Fraser Doherty featured in our first edition of BQ Scotland. Iain Clark caught up with the 24-year-old to see how life has progressed for the SuperJam man

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.”