For International Women’s Day I’d like to share with you how fish and physio come together.
I’d always loved the sea, from going caravan holidays in Hopeman on the Moray Firth with my family as a child. I would snorkel, surf, kneeboard and go out fishing on my dad’s little boat where we had 6 creels. Here I learned the very basics of creel fishing. Little did I know I would be putting these amateur fishing skills to good use at some point!
I qualified as a physiotherapist from Robert Gordon University in 2005 and had ambitions of working within a sporting environment. After graduating I was recruited by Inverness Caledonian Thistle Football Club as their first full-time team physiotherapist. At the time I was the only first team female physiotherapist in the Scottish Premier League.
I remember my first game was an away against Hearts. There were 40,000 fans and I had to run onto the pitch for a blood injury in the centre of the park, I was petrified! I had never had abuse like it! I even got a mention on Radio Scotland for the uproar it caused! All because I was a woman. I sprinted back to the safety of the dugout after doing my duties.
However, I was not perturbed and continued to work as the physio for the club for 4 years. People often asked how I coped in a ‘male dominated environment’, but having a female in the team only added to the team dynamic and often we felt like a travelling school team with a really strong bond. There were many moments when the manager, Terry Butcher, would be providing constructive ‘feedback’ to the players in rather colourful language and he would turn and quietly say, “sorry Fi, my apologies”, then continue with the players dressing down. This always brought a bit of humour to what was normally not particularly pleasant situation!
Whilst working at ICTFC, my boyfriend at the time and now husband, Magnus had quit his job and had bought a creel boat. We knew it would be really tough in the beginning and we would struggle to make ends meet, but we would be able to get by on my wage until the boat was up to speed. In the beginning my very basic fishing skills from my childhood were put to use and I would help him out on a Sunday – which was my only day off from the football job. So I’d spend the day out fishing the boat, helping lift and re-bait over 80 creels. Then on Mondays I would help to sort and pack over a tonne of crab and lobster ready for it to be exported to Europe, before making my way to work at the football club to assess any new injuries from the game at the weekend. I think the players thought I was insane!
I set up my own business in 2011 – “Physio Inverness” – private, sports injury clinic. had help from Magnus who was already owning and operating his own business, and my good friend Anna MacArthur, a Chartered Accountant. Without them I wouldn’t have had the confidence, belief and support to start out on my own and to them I am eternally grateful. I started by seeing one patient every few weeks in a tiny little physio room in the depths of a boxing academy- the room had no window and a low ceiling, not high enough to assess shoulder injuries when standing. There was no waiting area and patients would sit and wait in their cars. It was not exactly a high performance, elite environment, but it was enough to get me started and learn about running my own business.
As the clinic got busier I was finding it more and more difficult to juggle the football physio job with the clinic, so I decided to go feet first into the physio business, leaving ICTFC in 2013.Magnus had now stopped fishing and had started his fish merchant business Coast & Glen, selling fresh fish to top hotels and restaurants all across the Highlands and to Michelin star restaurants in London.
Alongside running my physio business I was helping Magnus with admin and accounting for C&G. I soon realised I wasn’t particularly good at the accounting side of things- mainly because I didn’t find it very interesting! But what I did love doing was coming up with ideas – particularly working out how we could possibly produce a ‘fishbox’. This had been our dream since Magnus had been fishing – allowing the general public to access straight from the boat seafood. In the beginning we only used Facebook to advertise and google calendar as our scheduling system! But quickly we gained loyal customers and we have been able to develop Fishbox into what it is today. We now have over 1000 subscribed Fishbox customers from all over the UK, which is growing daily. We have 14 staff at our base in Inverness and have some exciting expansion plans for this year, looking to create many more jobs and expand our Fishbox customer reach.
I’m now doing over 70 hours work – split somehow between Physio Inverness and Marketing Director at Fishbox. But it really doesn’t feel like work when you love it! The physio business is now settled in the Inverness ice centre – where I have just advertised my first full time physiotherapist post. I am really excited at the prospect of having a team of physios working in my clinic, which grew from a dusty little room to what it is today – treating many top amateur and elite athletes.
Magnus and I got married in November last year and our lives are now about to move into a new chapter as I am expecting twins in the summer! No doubt we will have one filleting fish and one mobilising knees before they can walk.
What I do know is that growing up in an entrepreneurial environment will be a really positive one, where anything is possible if you put your mind to it.