Mark Bush.



What is your business called?

Summer Harvest Oils.

Where is it based?

Madderty, Crieff, Perthshire.

What does it produce?

Cold pressed rapeseed oil, dressings and mayonnaise for both consumer retail and the food service industry.

To whom does it sell?

The food service industry, independent shops, farm shops, delis and Waitrose supermarkets in Scotland.

What is its turnover?

More than £170,000.

How many employees?

It’s just me on a full-time basis but my wife Maggie also helps out at events and is the rock I rely on. We have chosen to outsource and work with Scottish manufacturers to produce some of our products. We grow, press and bottle our cold pressed rapeseed oil on our farm in Perthshire, and work with Wilde Thyme who produce our dressings and Mackays who make our mayonnaise. This collaboration helps us reduce the need to build additional premises and to utilise those already built.

When was it formed?

We incorporated Summer Harvest in October 2008 after a six month pilot scheme to assess its viability.

Why did you take the plunge?

I was working as an IT consultant in London on a trading floor but I knew I wanted to move into the food and drink sector, so in 2007 I moved to Scotland with my Scottish wife. She grew up on her family farm, so was going home. While working on the farm I started to sell potatoes to local businesses and at farmers’ markets. I quickly understood that there was a growing desire for people to connect with local producers but we needed another product to fill the gap due to the seasonality of potatoes. My father-in-law had been growing oilseed rape for around 25 years. At the time no one based solely in Scotland was selling cold pressed rapeseed oil, so we took the plunge and started to sell our product to local businesses and at farmers’ markets.

How did you raise the start-up funding?

We took a staggered approach to funding. We started by pressing our seed under contract which helped to start the cash flow. We then applied for Scottish Rural Development Programme (SRDP) funding and used our own savings. Within a year we had the complete production facility on site.

What was your biggest break?

Probably winning two awards at the Scotland Food & Drink Excellence Awards in 2009, this really helped us raise our profile. As a result, we were very quickly taken on by wholesaler The Cress Company for our retail sales. We also received very valuable guidance from the late restaurateur Andrew Fairlie who gave us a lot of his time and advice on how the food service sector worked.

What was your worst moment?

When the first press of our oil came out cloudy when it was supposed to be crystal clear! The issue was down to human error on my part involving a setting on our filter. A simple adjustment and it was all fine but I still remember not sleeping that night!

What do you most enjoy about running the business?

It may be a cliché, but repeat customers. It’s great to know you are producing a product that people enjoy both at home and when they are out dining. There is also something very special about seeing the complete cycle from sowing the seeds, watching it grow and then bottling the finished product.

What do you least enjoy?

It can be lonely running a business on your own, perhaps I should get some staff!

What are your ambitions for the firm?

We have helped create a new product that is now in regular use in kitchens all over Scotland and for that we are immensely proud. Over the next few years we intend to take on a staff member or two to help run the businesses to allow myself to be more involved in other business interests.

What are your five top priorities?

Efficiency - you can’t create time.

Relationships with customers.

Collaboration between businesses and across sectors especially between food, drink, hospitality and tourism.

Prompt payments.

A decent cup of tea on my breaks.

What single thing would most help?

The biggest activity I see over the next couple of years is the implementation of ‘The Food Tourism Strategy’ created by Scotland Food & Drink. This looks to bring the food and tourism sectors closer together to help build on the excellent reputation Scotland already has.

What could the Westminster and/or Scottish governments do that would help?

I supply into the retail sector and I’ve seen many small independent shops close down over the years. The sustainability of the format of high streets and of business rates has to be a priority.

What was the most valuable lesson that you learned?

You can say no, not every project is right for you, not every opportunity is the right one. Define what is right for your business and stayed focused.

How do you relax?

Cooking, time with our young family and trying to restore our VW camper van.