You Don’t Have to be a Geek to Create a Successful Start-up

October 10, 2013 — 3 Comments

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Fraser Doherty’s simple recipe for success? Do what you love. Photo courtesy of SuperJam.

Living in Silicon Valley, I’m used to being blown away by the technical genius of entrepreneurs and the sheer determination the best of them have to use technology to make the world a better place. Earlier this week, however, I was reminded that being a geek isn’t a prerequisite for starting a business that makes a dent on the planet.

I’m in Seoul, South Korea, currently, speaking at the Herald Design Forum. At the opening event, Fraser Doherty, a young Scottish entrepreneur, gave an inspiring talk about his fast-growing business, SuperJam. No, it’s not the latest Spotify. SuperJam makes something tastier and more lo-fi: sugar-free, 100-percent-fruit preserves.

Fraser got his start in the food business as a kid, raising chickens. (He shuttered the business after a hostile takeover by a local fox.) Undeterred, Fraser went on to learn how to make jam from his “gran” in her Edinburgh kitchen at age 14. The customer base for his first line of preserves was confined to neighbors and friends from church, but news spread quickly, and by 16, Fraser left school to make fruit jams full-time.

A decade later, SuperJam has sold millions of jars and can be found in thousands of supermarkets worldwide. Launching a healthy, successful product would have been enough for most entrepreneurs, but “Jam Boy,” as Fraser calls himself, also wanted to give back in a meaningful way. So, he conceived SuperJam Tea Parties, a nonprofit that organizes free socials for elderly people who live alone or in nursing homes. Since 2008, the charity has thrown hundreds of events across Scotland, England, and Wales, with live music, good conversations, and of course, delicious jam and scones.

Shortly after his company made its first million in 2008, Forbes interviewed Fraser, asking how he felt about being so wealthy so young. “I can’t be preoccupied with the money,” Doherty said. “I make jam because it’s what I love to do.” Proof that even in the digital age, simple ideas, pursued with passion, can result in sweetly successful businesses.

Have you ever turned a personal pursuit into a business?

(Posted also on my LinkedIn Thought Leader blog) 

Tim Brown

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3 responses to You Don’t Have to be a Geek to Create a Successful Start-up

  1. TIm,

    Thanks for a thought provoking read.
    Yes, simple things done repeatedly makes a lot of difference.

    http:// concurrentmusingsofahumanbeing.blogspot . com/2012/08/automation-or-jugaad-or-innovation-or.html

  2. Maryalice Leister October 15, 2013 at 2:43 pm

    This resonates for me. Time is slipping away and life and its pitfalls haven’t yet provided me with the means to pursue my dream. Someday, perhaps I will do what I love.

  3. I was an operating room nurse for 32 years at a teaching institution in Little Rock, Ar. While employed in this environment, I was the service manager for Otolaryngology, Plastic Surgery, and Neurosurgery .Many of my patients required surgery that would last 22-26 hours. Within these surgical procedures several teams of surgeons were required as were several teams of nurses. Of course, the patient was under anesthesia and obviously lying in one position during all these lengthy procedures. This presents several problems. There is the problem of pooling of fluids. There is the problem of venous stasis . There is the problem of boney prominences receiving no blood flow,ergo skin breakdown. I have thought for many years, there has to be a solution to these possibly devastating problems. I have come up with a bed addition that could be revolutionary for these patients. I have thought it through due to the remarkable devastation that the original illness has brought upon these patients and then THIS added insult attributed to the lengthy surgical procedure . I gladly would share my ideas ,but will need your help. Thank you for your consideration.

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