SUPERJAM: The Classic Entrepreneurial Story

Growing up in Scotland,  Fraser Doherty spent his childhood  coming up with ideas for new products. Not all his money-making ideas were a success— indeed his fledgling egg-selling enterprise ended abruptly when a fox ate all his chickens-but he had a hunger to set up a business.

At the age of 14, Doherty gave jam-making a try. He had always enjoyed the jam his grandmother made and thought there might be an opportunity here. After making a batch and selling it door-to-door, he discovered people really liked it, and Doherty’s jam enterprise gradually spread into local shops and farmers’ markets. A feature in the Edinburgh Evening News brought in even more orders from fur- ther afield.

After resolving to expand the business, Doherty did some research and found that sales of jam had been in decline for the past few de- cades. Jam had acquired an old-fashioned image and people preferred healthier alternatives on their toast.

The solution the young Scottish entrepreneur came up with was a jam for the modern world. Doherty’s SuperJam would be made using traditional recipes, completely from fruit juice. The jars would contain no sugar and no artificial flavorings. He also boldly resolved to target supermarkets to sell his products.

Fraser faced a number of challenges. At this point, he was mak- ing hundreds of jars of jam every week in his parents’ kitchen. Apart from the fact his parents were struggling to get in there to cook their dinner, the business clearly couldn’t grow any further.

At the age of 17, he was in no position to start a factory and he did not have any money to pay a design agency to create a brand either. He also did not have a clue how to approach supermarkets. In fact, all he had was a passion about his product and a great recipe.

The first supermarket Fraser approached was Waitrose on a “meet the buyer” day. Fraser pitched his idea to the senior jam buyer who liked it, but said it had a long way to go. He advised Fraser that he had to set up a production facility and create a brand before coming back with a well-priced product.

Fraser set off around the United Kingdom trying to convince food manufacturers to believe in his 100 percent fruit jam. He told them that he didn’t have any money to  invest, but if they took the long-term view, then they too would reap the benefit. He did the same with a string of advertising agencies to persuade them to help him create a brand. Eventually, after two years of persistence, Doherty finally convinced a factory and an advertising agency to work with him.

SuperJam is exhibited in the National museum of Scotland as an “Iconic Scottish Brand”  alongside  Irn-Bru  and  Tunnock’s  and Baxters,  two  other  brands  synony- mous with Scotland. In 2010, Fraser shared his jam making secrets with the world in the SuperJam Cook, following this in 2011 with his autobiography and jam story, SuperBusiness. Since 2010, Fraser has been the entrepreneur-in-residence at the London metropolitan University where he delivers presentations and lecturers on aspects of entrepreneurship.

Doherty has kept close to his customers throughout SuperJam’s meteoric rise and is conscious of the part technology and, in particular, social networks play in his busi- ness and in retaining a meaningful conversation with his customers.

Against a backdrop of digital social networking, SuperJam Tea Parties are about as far removed  from  the virtual world  as you could  imagine. The company  runs these events for elderly people who live alone, primarily in care homes or sheltered accommodation. To date, they have run over 125 events across the UK. The mix of live music, dancing, a heavy dose of scones, and SuperJam attract up to 600 people to each event.

From humble beginnings working at his kitchen table to grow his entrepreneur- ial venture, Fraser now supplies over 2,000 supermarkets around the world with SuperJam and has won a variety of awards for the range. Fraser has now scooped over 20 prestigious awards, including Bighearted Scotland Business Person of The Year (2009), Smarta 100 Award (2010), and Inc magazine 30 under 30 Award (2010). He made the finals for “Times Young Power List” (2011), NatWest Enterprise Awards Finalist (2012) and Ben & Jerry’s “Join our Core” Finalist (2012).1

Source: Barringer Bruce R, Ireland R Duane (2015), Entrepreneurship: successfully launching new ventures, Pearson; 5th edition.


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