Meet the founder of The Pished Fish
Thank you for this interview James. Let’s jump straight in and talk about inspiration. What was the inspiration behind The Pished Fish?
Salmon seem so humble and understated. They rock up to all the major friends & family gatherings and yet never quite seem to muster the same levels of gastronomic ripples that might be afforded to a hog roast, a perfectly primed slab of beef or some succulent lamb.
Perhaps in the past salmon has been deemed a tad too dainty or demure, the warm-up act for something altogether more indulgent AND YET the simple foodie truth is that the mighty Scottish salmon provides the perfect ‘healthier for you’ canvas for all manner of fantastical flavours to truly express themselves.
Call me a ‘salmon subversive’ but I suspect that the guarded salmon has been too often typecast as mild-mannered, softly spoken fish and YET it’s brimming with fine flavour intentions and beneficial nutrients, minerals & vits (omega-3 fatty acids, potassium, B vitamins…..) that would honour any friends or family gathering.
My vision was to shine a light on salmon’s more audacious, heroic and booze-infused side, showcasing the mighty salmon’s unrivalled capacity to pair majestically with best-in-class botanicals and alcoholic beverages before being thoughtfully smoked in small batches. In these more food/health conscious times I felt the moment was ripe to showcase salmon’s more mischievous side.
You’ve been on the market for a little while now, but what has been the early door reactions to The Pished Fish?
Farmer’s markets are a fantastic foodie forum for sampling your fayre and receiving honest, between-the-eyes feedback. My ‘stick in the head’ moment was one such reconnoitring mission where I was greeted by an excitable female shopper who took a single glance at my ‘booze-infused smoked salmon banner and boldly declared, ‘What’s not to like!’
When booze-infused fish is your game it’s hard to look beyond The Pished Fish - Humour and a light touch play their part in our longer-term goal to extend the noble salmon’s fan base within a well-informed/clean living younger audience.
What did you do pre-Pished Fish?
It’s fair to say that Pished Fish is something of a left-field career change from my original career path within the pharmaceuticals and ‘medical devices’ sector where I passed my time as a ‘finger-twiddling’ export manager who spent a lot of time wondering whether I might have made a few wrong turns along the way.
Still, they say you learn from every situation and to succeed within the pro-fish fraternity, you have to be a sociable ‘sole’ with a positive outlook and a finely-tuned sense of humour. These three traits that have served me very well as a goodwill, Pished Fish ambassador.
Entrepreneurs are always working on balance. How are you balancing business and personal life?
Life got a lot more complicated 7 months ago as a new arrival to The Eagle clan sprang into my life, kicking and screaming. The days of not thinking anything of working 7 days a week are now avoided as much as possible, and quality family time makes more of an appearance. I now have an altogether different outlook on the importance of work, and also a different reason to get up and go in the morning. It wasn’t made any easier by the fact that my wife was the other partner in the business helping with production, food safety and sales, so I’ve had to pick up a few extra batons along the way.
Wouldn’t change a thing though!
Do you think powerful & long-lasting branding comes from building a lean, organic business?
I certainly think that you need to have a fairly clear idea on what you do and don’t stand for, where you can’t afford to skimp and where you might be prepared to lower your sights (ever so slightly) in the short-term until the bank balance is a little healthier.
We decided that the quality ingredients, simple but premium packaging as well as quirky, fun, branding are where The Pished Fish can really maximize our chances of success, so these are the three fields where we actively punch well above our weight.
Of course our fish is the real hero of the hour, which is why I dedicate so much of my time tracking down the very best available although I’ve increasingly come to the conclusion that it’s very hard to look beyond our sustainable salmon friends at Loch Duart.
That isn’t to say we do other things badly, we simply have to prioritise, ensuring that our young brand gets off to the best possible start -which touch wood appears very much to be the case!
What is the number one advice would you give a fellow entrepreneur?
While taking advice from people “in the know” is of course very important, you are the only person who truly understands your vision for your product and the brand so stick to your ideas, and follow your own thoughts on what should happen next. If I’d latched on to what some people had told me the business would have a very boring name, be smoking salmon the same way as many other smokehouses do and be swimming in an overcrowded sea.
Plans for the coming year or two?
We’re making positive strides in London’s high end retailers, and the UK’s independent deli scene but it would be nice to take a first tentative step into one of the more foodie supermarket chains, be that Waitrose, Booths or Ocado. Hospitality, hampers and export (think Scandinavia, Germany, Hong Kong….) also provide exciting opportunities looking forwards, but we certainly won’t race before we can swim.
Any future plans afoot to diversify The Pished Fish portfolio?
We’re shelf life testing a range of exciting new smoked fish products as we speak, and when the time is right we’re looking to diversify into other products that deserve to be Pished as well!