Pensioner who started Ullapool Smokehouse as a side-hustle now so successful he’s been asked to set one up in Hong Kong

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Ian Boyd, the owner of Ullapool Smokehouse, in Ullapool, north-west Scotland, tells of his shock at the offer and said to the man: “January, February, March next year would be fine. I could come out for a month no problem.”

When Ian Boyd set-up the Ullapool Smokehouse at the age of 65 he never imagined it would grow into what it is today.

“We’re averaging half a ton of salmon a week, smolt, produced and out the door,” he told Salmon Business. “Three old guys are doing this with a combined age of about 210 or something.”

Ian Boyd of Ullapool Smokehouse Photo: Ullapool Smokehouse

Growth
Originally starting as just a side-hustle to complement his pension, Mr Boyd bought one building to begin the process then waited for a few more to come up. He now has three members of staff, two who are part-time and one who is full-time.

He said: “I used to make kippers and smoked haddock. I had a small smoker at the back of the house.”

“That was back in the days when we could get haddock that didn’t cost an arm and a leg. I learned my smoking through that and then graduated to salmon.”

“I got my first unit after I contacted the council and they said you can have it. And I built a stone, breeze block kiln. We don’t use automatic kilns, we used the old-fashioned. I’m quite convinced it gives the fish a distinctive flavour.”

“We just poddled along quite happily. It was supplementing my pension. But the orders started increasing. We got more customers.”

“We got the unit next door to us because they’re quite small units. The April before last, we got the bakery just across the road. We grabbed that building and built a shop in it for the retail because we need the retail. We can’t survive on the wholesale business.”

Ullapool Smokehouse shop Photo: Ullapool Smokehouse

Mr Boyd, who’s now 78, said the word spread and the business became overloaded.

“It’s a bit of a stressor for an old man but I’m fairly active and fairly fit,” he told Salmon Business. “I worked in the oil business for 30 odd years. I used to be a diver and then got back to the tools.”

Hong Kong offer
“We’re serving restaurants in our area and we have mail orders. I had a guy from Hong Kong in yesterday, wanting me to go to Hong Kong in January wanting to start one up for him.”

Mr Boyd said the man contacted Wester Ross Fisheries, a small, local salmon farm which supplies the salmon to Ullapool Smokehouse.

“They said, do you mind if he comes and looks at your smokehouse. I said ‘yeah, no bother’,” he told Salmon Business.

“I was just about to finish work for the day. He came in and I showed him round. I gave him a taster. I told him what we do. And he said I want you to come out to Hong Kong because we’re starting a smokehouse in Hong Kong.”

“That’s when I said January, February or March next year would be fine. I wasn’t sure if it was just a dream or what.”

Ullapool Smokehouse salmon skin Photo: Ullapool Smokehouse

If it materialises, Mr Boyd says he’ll go out to Hong Kong, but doesn’t plan to take a permanent job with the company or any other as he’s totally committed to the smokehouse he owns.

“Nothing has tempted me away from the business,” he said.

“I had a job offer at 72, but I’ve decided this is what I want to do because I’ve raised my two kids, paid for their upbringing and education and I’m delighted with them.”