Since buying his own boat and setting up the business two years ago, Magnus Houston of Coast & Glen has made a big splash in the Scottish seafood industry.
By engaging with Enterprise Europe Network, Magnus has been able to expand his business and net valuable new business all over the continent.
Based in the North-east of Scotland close to the picturesque Cromarty Firth, Coast & Glen has access to some of Scotland’s best seafood bounty and associated fishing ports.
Coast & Glen initially sold its catch to an external buyer – a Scottish firm exporting to Spain – but this involved an 80-mile daily round trip for deliveries, cutting deep into Magnus’s profit margins.
After around six months, he began selling his seafood directly to the restaurant trade around the north east, which meant he gained valuable intelligence on local demand and seasonal preferences.
Fortunately, it also led the fisherman to Enterprise Europe Network’s Highland offices, located above one of his restaurant clients.
Ross Thomson from the Enterprise Europe Network Highland team recalls his first meeting with Magnus. He said: “The day Magnus first came to speak to us coincided with the start of the European Seafood Exposition (ESE) in Brussels. “
“ESE was one of the first things we discussed and Magnus was really keen to travel over and get involved with the event. “
“He immediately packed a bag and organised a Eurostar ticket, which proved how keen he was to improve his knowledge of the wider industry and move Coast & Glen forward beyond UK shores.”
Having heard about the event too late to create an online profile for Coast & Glen prior to ESE, Magnus sought contacts from the EEN team and hooked up with a representative from Seafood Scotland during the show. This signalled the dawn of new opportunities for Coast & Glen and opened up a new network of European contacts.
This first experience of the European Seafood Exposition spurred Magnus on with his ambitions to export shellfish directly to Europe but also made him realise the importance of creating a clear business plan. Working with Ross ,and also his colleague Michelle Wemyss, he received support with Coast & Glen’s strategic planning and was given help to set up the company website.
He was also given the guidance he needed to obtain the necessary funding from the Princes’ Scottish Youth Business Trust to buy a forklift truck and refrigerated van, while an introduction to a local seafood distributor led to Magnus being able to rent vital cold store premises with a specialised wet room facility.
Magnus said: “Things have moved really quickly since I met the Enterprise Europe Network team:
“They’ve been really understanding and easy to deal with throughout the whole process – if they don’t know the answer, they always find out.
“I’m an incredibly determined person and working with the Network teams in Scotland and Spain as well as a local French sales agent has given me access to new markets and allowed me to find some great contacts.
“I dispatched my first export to France two weeks before Christmas and will be exporting regularly as of next month.
“It’s quite exciting to think that about 50 restaurants in France were serving up fresh Scottish shellfish caught by me during the busy festive season.”
With this year’s ESE fast approaching, Michelle and the team are hard at work to help Magnus make the most of his opportunities to connect with potential wholesalers and agents to make 2012 another profitable year for Coast & Glen.
Find out more about Coast and Glen via their website: www.coastandglen.com