Scotland's Most Precocious Entrepreneur at the Book Festival

Scotland's Most Precocious Entrepreneur at the Book Festival

“When you start a business, you need a story,” Fraser Doherty told the Book Festival. He certainly had one when he set up SuperJam, his line of jams made from 100% fruit: he was a mere 14 years old. By seventeen he was pitching his story to Waitrose; after a few hiccups, that outlet was watching 1500 jars fly off the shelves of one shop in one day.

SuperJam wasn’t even Doherty’s first venture: as a ten-year-old he’d bred his own chickens, hatching them on top of the family television set (“they probably thought Jeremy Kyle was their mum”) and selling eggs to neighbours door-to-door. A fox killed the flock, but not the dream. “I continued to come up with more and more ideas to set up my own business.” His grandmother taught him how to make jam; he decided to excise the sugar; and the resulting product has rolled out not only across the UK but in Australia, Russia, South Korea and Japan. Doherty has won a raft of awards, diversified into honey, coffee and beer, and even found leftover energy to spearhead a charity endeavour setting up free tea parties in old people’s homes and hospitals. This has also gone international, although, he said, “In America, we don’t call them Tea Parties… apparently that means something else over there.”

Now Doherty is promoting a book titled 48 Hour Start-Up, which tests his theory that a good business idea doesn’t have to be chewed over endlessly. “Starting a business doesn’t have to be the decision of a lifetime; it can be the decision of a weekend,” he said. Hang-ups such as originality and cutting-edge novelty can be dispensed with too. “A good idea doesn’t have to be high-tech. It’s possible to do something extraordinary with something as ordinary as beer.” His own beer endeavour is mail-order club whereby subscribers sign up to receive boxes of artisan craft beer from different territories. “We get the impression from Dragon’s Den that to start a business you have to invent something,” he said. “But you just have to come up with something that’s a little better than what’s already there.”

And failure is not to be feared either. “For every idea I’ve had that worked there must have been twelve that didn’t. A lot of people get hung up on the perfect idea. In my experience it’s better just to run with something. Even if it doesn’t work out, you might learn something on the journey.” Doherty’s message is: do it fast, do it instinctively, have fun and don’t be afraid of the downsides. “You can start something for not a lot of money. You can create a brand for next to nothing. The biggest obstacle is in your own mind – telling yourself that you can’t do it or that people are going to laugh.” The rewards, as Doherty’s infectiously happy demeanour indicates, might be tremendous – and not merely financial. “To do something you feel you were born to do – that’s a huge privilege.”

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