This week is very busy for us: Thursday to Sunday we’re going to have a stand at the Highlands country show, which is the biggest public event in Scotland, something like 200,000 people go. It’s a big food and drink event and we’ve got a stand there promoting the jam and the new book, so that should be a lot of fun. We’ll be handing out samples and telling people about the products. I will miss the first day as on Thursday evening I’m going to be giving a speech for London Met University on a boat in the River Thames.
I went to university for a year but then once the business took off it was impossible to do both, but I still get to spend lots of time at colleges and universities because of my speaking engagements. I really enjoy telling my story and I get asked to speak all over the world. I’ve spoken in Beijing, Puerto Rico, Columbia University in New York, everywhere. People ask me if I get nervous but it’s easy to tell my story. It’s important to speak in small schools in villages in Scotland where they maybe don’t have the widest imagination for what they can achieve and there’s not always a huge amount of opportunity. Starting up my own business changed my life and I like the idea and I like the idea of sharing that message with young people.
Aside from the core business of making jam, we also run tea parties for older people. It’s now a registered charity and I think in the last year we have held more than 120. They’re completely free and they’re usually attended by people who are over 70, who come along to from their care homes or their homes where they are often living alone. We have live music and dancing and everybody has jam and scones and chats. Up to 600 people come along to each event.
The tea parties are entirely funded by SuperJam and it’s completely free for those who attend – we don’t solicit donations from anybody. Thankfully the local councils where we run the events have been quite helpful and they’ve let us use venues for free or they’ve provided bits and pieces. It costs some money but the impact on the community is incredible and we get lots of letters from people who come along and have had a really nice afternoon. The biggest ones are in Scotland but we’ve had them everywhere: from tiny little villages in Wales to boroughs in London. At the moment we’re working on trying to open it up so school kids or students or even office workers can hold a tea party in their office we’ll provide jam and a bit of money. We’re hoping it’ll inspire people to engage with the elderly people in their area. Something like 1 million elderly people spend Christmas Day on their own every year. It’s a huge problem and it’s something I want to help tackle.
A lot of my time is also taken up with trying to get into new supermarkets. The next step of my plan is to get SuperJam stocked in America and Europe. I still remember the day I got into the first supermarket, Waitrose. I went to their ‘meet the buyer’ day, which is described as The X Factor of selling groceries to supermarkets. Hundreds of people turn up and pitch their products to the buyers and they loved SuperJam. Fast forward two years and my product was on its shelves. That really was one of the highlights of my life – being able to walk into Waitrose and buy a jar of my own jam.
Fraser Doherty is the founder of jam company SuperJam, which he set up after his granny taught him to make the sticky stuff at the age of 14.