NAME: David Polson
WHERE YOU'RE FROM: Shetland
JOB TITLE: Owner
COMPANY NAME: Thule Ventus
HOW LONG YOU'VE WORKED THERE: Since 2016. I run the business part-time while also working for Johnson Marine.
COMPANY WEBSITE: https://saltcod.co.uk/
CAN YOU TELL ME A BIT ABOUT THULE VENTUS AND THE PRODUCTS YOU SELL? We sell salt cod, also known as bacalhau or bacalao. I use my lifelong understanding of traditional salting techniques to skin, fillet and portion sustainably caught cod landed by boat at Lerwick and Scalloway fish markets. The process takes up to two months and the resulting Thule Ventus salted cod packs provide the names and MMSI numbers of the vessels that caught the fish in each box. The product is MSC accredited. We are also looking to launch to fish cakes, croquettes and brandade de morue pâté this year.
WHAT HAS THE BUSINESS'S JOURNEY BEEN LIKE SO FAR? It’s been a lot of hard work and getting to this point wouldn’t have been possible without funding from the Maritime Fisheries Fund who gave me 50% funding (£37k) to design a website, source packaging, and brand my product before taking the salted cod to market in June last year. Thanks to that work, we are stocked by 19 retailers across the UK, including award-winning Walter Purkis & Sons in London, and our taster packs are on the shelves of Whole Foods seven UK stores.
WHERE DID THE IDEA COME FROM? I’d dipped my toe into the market 10 years ago but the internet wasn’t what it is now and the market wasn’t ready. Now, with the explosion of the foodie phenomenon, and the fact people are more willing to try different foods, particularly ones with provenance, I decided to really give it a go.
WHAT'S IT LIKE JUGGLING YOUR OWN BUSINESS WITH ANOTHER JOB? Difficult, long hours, rewarding, complimentary – the emotions and pressures vary from day to day.
WHAT SORT OF TRAINING/QUALIFICATIONS DID YOU NEED FOR THE BUSINESS? I’d grown up salting fish with my father. He would take me out to sea in a traditional 17-foot wooden vessel that we rowed with just four oars; I worked the hand lines and set lines for pollock, skate, mackerel, haddock and cod. From our catch we’d then set some fresh fish aside for tea, salting the remainder and I’ve carried on the tradition while working for the Island Ferries for 20 years, salting fish on board for meals.
CAN YOU DESCRIBE WHAT A TYPICAL DAY IS LIKE? The business is still part time so after tea, I usually spend an hour or so working with promotion, sales, and emails. I then put my little girls to bed, then head back to box fish late into the evening. The weekends tend to revolve around family and fish. As a fledgeling business, no two days are the same.
WHAT'S YOUR FAVOURITE PART OF THE JOB? Discovering new ways of working with the fish, developing the product and doing things the way they would have been done 100s of years ago.
HIGHS AND LOWS OF HAVING YOUR OWN BUSINESS? The highs and lows are greater than I expected. However, the general direction of travel is good and the lows are fewer than the highs. The freedom and ability to decide your own direction is fantastic.
WHAT HELP AND ADVICE DID YOU RECEIVE FROM BUSINESS GATEWAY? I went to Business Gateway reasonably early on, as it seemed the logical thing to do. Their general advice and connections linked me to the fisheries fund which provided the additional finance I needed to produce packaging and tell my story in a way that would appeal to my target market. Once that was all in place I took to Twitter and secured many of my stockists, and caught the attention of Whole Foods, through my persistence on social media.
WHAT ARE YOUR FUTURE PLANS? Our fish should be viewed as the finest single malt whisky of the salt cod world, and the Holy Grail for my company is to crack the Portuguese, Spanish, Brazilian and American markets where lots of salt cod is consumed. If I could capture just a 10th of one percent of the Portuguese market I’d be laughing. That will take time so, for now, I’m concentrating on spreading the word throughout the UK, and I hope to be at the stage whereby I abandon the three containers and build my own manufacturing unit, which would allow me to create jobs, within the next three years.
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