At 14, Doherty started making jams from his grandmother’s recipes in Edinburgh, Scotland. Originally, his customer base was limited to neighbors and friends from his church, but business picked up quickly, and by age 16, he left school to work on his jams full time.
He tweaked his recipes and came up with a name for his product: SuperJam. Orders picked up faster than he could produce the jam—made from only fruit and fruit juice—in his parents’ kitchen, so Doherty started renting out a factory a few days each month.
In early 2007, Waitrose, a high-end supermarket in the U.K., approached Doherty hoping to sell his SuperJam products in their stores. Within months there were SuperJam jars on the shelves of 184 Waitrose stores, hoisting Doherty and his business to new heights.
Doherty borrowed 5,000 pounds (about $9,000) from a bank to cover general expenses and more factory time to produce three flavors: Blueberry & Blackcurrant, Rhubarb & Ginger and Cranberry & Raspberry. (He has since added an Orange & Passion Fruit flavor.) Tesco followed, adding Doherty’s products to 300 stores across the U.K.
Last year, SuperJam hit $1.2 million in sales, a 60% jump from 2007. Doherty’s roster of retailers now includes Asda Wal-Mart in the U.K., Morrisons and Tesco in Ireland. Doherty also launched a charitable project 2008 called the SuperJam Tea Parties. Since the program’s inception, SuperJam has hosted over 100 tea parties in Scotland, England and Wales for elderly people who live alone or in nursing homes. «Guests often cry at the end of the afternoon since they’ve had so much fun,» says Doherty. The events—including live music, dancing and drinks—have attracted as many as 500 guests.
This year, Doherty says SuperJam will hit the shelves of Sainsbury, one of the largest food retailers in the U.K. Based on a reasonable valuation multiple of one times revenue—jelly-maker J.M. Smucker trades between 1.0 and 1.4 times sales—Doherty’s 100% stake (now debt-free) is worth in the neighborhood of $1 million to $2 million. «I can’t be preoccupied with the money,» says Doherty. «I make jam because it’s what I love to do.» Success is pretty sweet too.