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18 March 2016

You can make something extraordinary from something as ordinary as jam

That’s the message from Fraser Doherty, the 27-year old founder of SuperJam as he addressed the Federation of Small Businesses’ (FSB) UK conference at Glasgow’s SECC.

Fraser’s first foray into business began when he visited a chicken farm at the age of 10. He convinced the farmer to give him some eggs and returned home to tell his parents he wanted to keep them warm until they hatched so he could start a chicken farm. In a few weeks, they hatched and soon laid some eggs in the back garden. But the endeavour was short-lived as Fraser explained to the audience that the “first lesson in business, at the very least, is that your business idea shouldn’t have any natural predators”. 

Not one to be discouraged, Fraser went on to learn his grandmother's secret jam recipe at age of 14 and turned her recipe into a company selling millions of jars of jam around the world. He started off small, taking his jam around the neighbourhood and selling to neighbours. The local press caught on and the media attention led Fraser to leave school and start working full-time to “make my jam making hobby into my full time career”.

Fraser quickly realised he would need to move from his parent’s kitchen to his own site but was scaling-up at a time when jam sales around the world was falling. He knew he’d have to create a more modern, healthier, fun brand of jam and came up with a recipe that was 100% fruit. 

“I took it to meet the buyer day, which I like to describe as the X-factor of selling products to the local supermarket”.

The jam buyer at Waitrose explained there was a long way to go. He’d need to find a factory and design a label for his jam.

“It became my dream to one-day, to get my product on his shelves”.

Fraser’s first attempt to team up with an established factory and produce jam that would make it to the Waitrose shelves didn’t work out so he threw it all away and started again. He asked advice from jam factories across the country and realised that his 100% fruit recipe was his selling point. Fraser needed to make it look different and with a brand new, modern design, SuperJam was born.

It was a huge success, hit the Waitrose shelves and resulted in a huge amount of media interest.

I went away to try and figure out how  to produce hundreds of thousands pounds of jam. I’d need an established jam factory to help me to large scale. Found a factory that was prepared to give my idea a shot. And I felt I was ready.

SuperJam went from strength to strength with the company throwing a big party when the millionth jar was sold. Fraser was invited to Downing Street to meet with Prime Minister David Cameron and went, with his Grandma, to Buckingham Palace where they received a medal from Prince Charles.

Fraser has since launched a recipe app and a range of jams for children. He has gone to extend the business into coffee and beer. He was also inspired by ice-cream makers Ben & Jerry’s to try and run a company that made money but also did some good. Fraser now holds free tea parties in care homes and sheltered housing to give people a chance to have a little fun and make some friends.

He ended his address by reminding the audience that “a good idea doesn’t necessarily need be high-tech or reinvent the wheel. You can make something extraordinary from something as ordinary as jam.”

“With a bit of love and imagination, you can go on to do something that changes your life.”