Startups

Published: May 8, 2020 | Updated: May 8, 2020

Fin-tastic! Fish business born out of lockdown takes on staff and secures grant for expansion

By Andrew Diprose, editor

Jon Morgan and Rob Milton are living proof that triumph can come from adversity.

Like many, the Poole businessmen were facing a bleak future with the start of the lockdown.

In Jon’s case, it was the enforced closure of his company, Dorset Cruises.

The timing could not have been worse.

It was at the beginning of a busy season and after an expensive winter of maintenance and improvement work on his vintage motor vessel, Dorset Queen.

Meanwhile Rob, Farm Manager of Othniel Oysters, the UK’s biggest oyster farm, was seeing a collapse in retail and wholesale business as a result of the pandemic crisis.

Jon, 39, said: “I’ve known Rob for years and we’re good mates.

“It was soon after the lockdown and we were just talking about what we could do – and that’s where the idea came from.”

And the idea?

To create a venture which would support local fishermen and also encourage people to cook freshly caught fish.

As first reported on Dorset Biz News, the newly formed BH Fish was launched last month.

Fish is wild caught in Poole Bay and Poole Harbour using sustainable, low impact fishing methods.

Lobster and crab are caught in Poole Bay and the oysters, cockles and clams from inside the harbour.

Each day the fishermen return to Poole Quay with their daily catch.

The details are then uploaded to www.bhfish.co.uk as well as Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn pages.

The ‘Catch of the Day’ can be seen at the top right of the home page and shows daily availability.

Fresh fish and shellfish can be ordered and delivered straight to the door.

Collections can also be made from The Crown Hotel in Market Street, Poole seven days a week.

Just a month after the launch of BH Fish and deliveries have now doubled to six days a week with up to 75 a day and more than 300 every week.

Jon Morgan (centre) with (left) Sean Cooper and Rob Milton.

Deliveries are within a 25 km radius of Poole Quay but plans are afoot to extend nationwide using a courier service.

Two full-time members of staff, a delivery driver and a chef, for pre-filleting fish and pre-cooking lobsters and crabs prior to delivery, have been taken on.

A government backed grant, sanctioned by The Fishmongers’ Company, has also been secured.

The money from the grant will be used to renovate and convert a large backroom at The Crown Hotel for storage and food preparation and also to house a walk-in fridge.

Meanwhile Sean Cooper, owner of The Crown Hotel, has formally joined the business as a partner, having played a key role in the launch and growth of BH Fish.

Jon, who is Poole born and bred, said: “Things have just taken off and it makes you wonder why we didn’t do this before.

“The fishermen are loving it because they’re selling to us six or seven days a week while our customers are getting fresh fish caught on the day and delivered straight to their door.

“We’re also talking to local restaurants and businesses about supplying them once they re-start.

“It’s opened all our eyes.

“Sean, at The Crown Hotel, is even thinking of changing his business model post-lockdown, to include a seafood tapas bar in their courtyard.

“The idea is that people can sit and enjoy oysters, clams, monkfish tails and the like with a chilled glass of Dorset sparkling wine in the sun, before collecting their orders from BH Fish’s new HQ to take home.

“Above all, though, we’re just loving the community buzz and feel.

“It’s always been a major part of our mission to help the local community.

“The feedback is fantastic and, once things start going back to some sort of normality, we feel we’ve got a business that’s here for the long-term.

“It just shows what can be done when you put your mind to things.”