The success story of “Jam Boy” Fraser Doherty, founder of SuperJam, has almost become legend.
At the age of 10 he was a door-to-door sausage salesman. By the time he turned 14, he had become a jam maker after learning his grandmother’s secret recipe that replaced sugar with highly reduced fruit juice.
In 2013, more than 1 million jars of SuperJam were sold in 20 countries grossing 3.4 billion won ($3.3 million) in sales. In Korea, more than 30,000 jars of SuperJam have been sold here since its Korean launch in July 2013.
The jams come in three flavors ― raspberry and cranberry, blueberry and black currant, and strawberry ― and they are far less sweet than others on the market. At the same time, however, the richness and density of the fruit flavors bring a unique experience.
The 26-year-old Scottish entrepreneur came to Korea this month, and on April 4, he gave a speech at The K-Style Design Festival held at The-K Hotel Seoul, co-hosted by the Herald Corp. and Seoul Design Foundation to promote design products that combine practicality, aesthetics and environmental values. Doherty related the story of SuperJam’s success and how graphically designing the jars and labels helped earn him a coveted supply contract with the British retailer Waitrose and ultimately helped his career take off.
Fraser Doherty, CEO of SuperJam, speaks in an interview with The Korea Herald. (Park Hyun-koo/The Korea Herald)
“Young entrepreneurs, anywhere I go, even from different cultures, find something in common and we know that. They see the world differently. While most people see the world with little opportunities, there is a sense of optimism among us,” Doherty told The Korea Herald after the lecture.
“People put barriers between what should happen and what should not, but I say, say more yes than no,” Doherty said.
Following his heart, Doherty is about to embark on new projects including the release of SuperJam Junior for children, which comes without seeds and fruit bits, the development of tailored jams for Koreans with Korean fruits, and diversified sales routes here including TV home shopping.
“I find that Korean people like my brand and my story. I find great opportunity here,” he said.
But for Doherty, a strict vegetarian who does not drink or smoke, satisfaction goes beyond money. He does not own a house or a car but feels happy with small things such as buying a new outfit at the Dongdaemun fashion market in eastern Seoul.
What he cares about are the environment, animal rights and issues such as the aging society.
In order to raise environmental awareness, SuperJam released a small amount of Super Honey in the U.K. that had been made on farms that did not use pesticides. Doherty is planning to team up with Urban Bee Seoul, which keeps about 50 beehives in the city for another project.
SuperJam’s signature tea party has brought hundreds of elderly people in care homes or hospitals to chat, dance and laugh over tea and scones. The events are to be held in Seoul, too.
“The elderly are an underestimated people. I don’t focus on the problems they face and I don’t try to solve them. But if I could just give them a comfortable afternoon, that’s still great,” he said.
These activities are strictly not for profit, but have inspired many people around the world to follow suit. His Facebook and Twitter accounts are filled with people offering to help. “Most of the people that I work with like the fact that they are part of a story that is going somewhere,” he said.
Citing Gandhi as his inspiration, the young entrepreneur encouraged people to do what they believe in.
“If you think something is wrong about the world, just do what you can do to change it and don’t become part of the problem,” he said.
“The story of a ‘jam boy’ is evolving and in 10 years’ time you may see something different. I just look one step forward and focus on what I do and can do,” he said with a smile.
By Bae Ji-sook (firstname.lastname@example.org