From leather to rubber!

You have your best thoughts when you are away from all the normal day-to-day noises and tasks in life and this was no different for Magnus.  A former professional MC racer turns fisherman after a career finishing accident.  At 100 mph Magnus found himself re-thinking his career, he took to the gentle swell of the ocean where he thought more often than not about the fishing industry.  

Five years on and Magnus has set up two seafood businesses and they are not your normal, traditional business model. In fact, his outside view on the fishing industry meant that he didn’t take a conventional approach on things.  It would have been easy to set up a company using a standard structure and business model but Magnus didn’t believe that was the best way…

When I was fishing, I went from someone who knew nothing about fishing, bar what I watched on Deadliest Catch.  I didn’t eat fish either, so I looked at things from 3 angles: what the customer wants, what the fishermen wants and what the environment needs. It has to be said that this is not the easiest or most profitable way of selling fish but it delivers the best product and that keeps every balanced.

Sorry, I have to interrupt you there Magnus! How does a motorcycle racer become a fisherman and then set up to two businesses with no knowledge of the fishing industry, and to make it more extreme you didn’t even eat fish?!

OK, well, first of all, I now eat fish two or three times a day and love it! It can be any kind of fish but it must be fresh!

I started out at 24-years-old back in 2006 racing for Suzuki GB, having had a passion for motorbikes all my life. To get to this point in my racing career, it is not an understatement that I had worked very hard and dedicated every aspect of my life to racing to get to this point. I was signed by Suzuki GB and was racing in a support race called the GSXR-cup. I was travelling round with the world superbike paddock and you might say living the dream! That dream turned into a nightmare when I had a bad crash.  In racing you became accustomed to the bruises and even broken bones now and again, but this one left me in hospital, miles from home, with no end in sight for getting released.  Even when I did get out, I was not optimistic about walking for a very long time. With no contract signed for the following year and my left leg not working, my racing career was over.

Fast forward to 2009, I’m working in a bicycle shop where I met Fiona. We went on our first holiday together up the West Coast of Scotland. After a chance trip on a small lobster fishing boat, I thought ‘this is the life for me’! I went home and bought a small creel boat and quit my job at the bicycle shop to start fishing! I soon realised that maybe I was a bit ambitious to make this my new source of income, considering I was going out in the boat on my own and I was not from a fishing background. However, calling back on my dedication to racing, I persevered on a very steep learning curve and literally watched 1000’s of YouTube videos on how to fish, splice rope, tie knots and fillet fish. What would we do without YouTube?!

I was now learning how the fishing industry worked and I didn’t like some of the things that were happening. I just couldn’t understand why over 90% of the fish landed in Scotland was exported, for us to then import fish into the UK for people to eat! With this in mind, Fiona and I would be sitting down eating something that I caught that day for our dinner and every night we would say “How could everyone enjoy this quality of fish?”

Here is my confession, previously I had only shop bought fish so when I started fishing and I have to say, I thought I didn’t like fish! It takes a wee bit of time to get your head around it, when the fish has the same name but the taste is so different.

So, you can start to see where this is going… First of all, I started approaching the top restaurants in Inverness. It was only when Albert Roux, Executive Chef of Rocpool, told me that this was the best lobsters and fish that he had seen in a long time, that provided me with all the encouragement I needed. Three months later, Coast & Glen started trading, supplying hotels and restaurants with fish bought off the very best boats in Kinlochbervie, Scrabster, Shetland, Peterhead and Fraserburgh.  All the shellfish was coming from creel boats in Cromarty, Balintore and Ullapool. It was another year and a half before Fiona and I started brainstorming and we came up with Fishbox. It was really due to the demand from customers eating in the places that Coast and Glen supplied as the public would get in touch to see if they could buy fish direct from us.  In reality, we couldn’t do this as Coast & Glen was set up to allow hotels and restaurants to purchase bigger deliveries and to stop this production to provide individuals with specific requests for their tea which was just not possible.

Fishbox was then born! The quality was and is, the most important aspect of the fish.  If customers could choose what they get in their fishboxes, then we couldn’t guarantee it would be fresh. When dealing with a wild product, we are at the mercy of the weather as we rely on this when sourcing the fish and seafood. Instead, the customers rate the fish through ‘preferences’ – Love, Like and Dislike.  If a customer ‘loves’ a product and we have it in that day, they will get it in their Fishbox.  If not, then they will get a ‘like’ and they will never receive a dislike. It is better to have fresh plaice rather than 7 day old lemon sole.  The customer will still receive some of their favourites in their box but this depends on what we have in fresh.  Our approach allows people to try new things and, like me, they will find out that fresh fish tastes better! The best bit about this business model is that it reduces pressure on popular species and which is how the traditional way of sourcing fish falls down…

I must say that myself and the ever-growing Fishbox team are so proud and have great fun providing everyone in the UK the chance to eat fresh, sustainable Scottish seafood.

 Some ask how will BREXIT affect the business? John Lennon once said “I’m an artist. You give me a tuba, I’ll get you something out of it”. I often think about this.  I’m not going to say that I don’t care about BREXIT, the US view on the Paris environmental agreement, North Korea, Terrorism or inflation going up or interest rates at a low.  However, it is not within my control and that was something I learned when I was racing – to control what I have control over and make the most of what I have. We have to adapt to our surroundings and evolve accordingly.

We are expanding rapidly! Fishbox is growing in customer numbers very quickly and Coast and Glen is starting to supply nationally to hotels and restaurants in a much bigger scale with a five day delivery service of our amazing Scottish produce. 

No matter what happens in the future I am confident that Coast & Glen and Fishbox will continue to deliver fresh products to happy customers. The way in which we do this will be lead by our customers, what feedback they give to us and what they demand and would like to see… You have two eyes, two ears and one mouth and you should use them in that proportion!