No fishy business for Lancashire's premier family-run seafood supplier, just high-quality produce and a personal touch
Founded in 2015, My Fish Company was established by Gary Apps in order to give Lancashire a proper, independent, family-run seafood supplier and, six years into the rollercoaster of a venture, it’s safe to say he’s delivered.
Providing the North West’s hotels and restaurants with the very best imported products from around the world, Fleetwood-based My Fish Company approaches business with an MO centred on the product and an invaluable personal touch.
After all, those are the very values which inspired Gary, who has over 20 years’ experience in the seafood industry, to start the company in the first place.
“I’d previously worked for two of the biggest national seafood suppliers in the UK and you get to the stage where they’re just multinational corporate businesses which are more about the balance sheet than the product and the people,” says Gary, 49, My Fish Company’s MD. “So, I felt there was a gap in the North West for an independent fish and seafood company.
“It was a big leap but you’ve got to follow your gut instinct,” he adds. “I’ve always been a big believer in the importance of people in an organisation and I wanted somewhere which felt more than just a place of work. I wanted it to be part of people’s lives which was good fun and where they could work alongside people they respected and trusted.”
With a highly-skilled workforce consisting of 44 members of staff, My Fish Company’s in-house production team prepare products to specific requirements, from filleting and portioning, to pin boning and packaging, with the company also boasting its own smoking room which gives them the ability to prepare freshly-smoked fish on-site.
“As the new boys on the block, we had to be disciplined and focused on raising the bar and, initially, the competition didn’t take kindly to us and made it difficult, but we wanted to overcome that challenge,” Gary says. “We felt others were losing their edge because they were less about the product and the people, whereas that’s our USP: quality blended with a personal touch.
“People’s passion for what they do is the heartbeat of the business without a doubt and I’ve got huge pride in the company and the team,” he continues. “We’ve established ourselves in terms of quality and reputation and I’m hoping that the past 12 months have refocused people’s minds in terms of what’s important because we’ve looked after our customers right through Covid.”
With an estimated 75-80% of their supply going to hotels and restaurants, Covid has proved to be a uniquely challenging time for My Fish Company.
“It was horrendous, everything pretty much collapsed overnight,” says Gary, who is originally from Oldham and who now lives Over Wyre. “We were forgotten; there was no support from the government - no acknowledgement or awareness in any way, shape, or form - so we just had to shut up overnight and get on with it, basically.
“Thankfully, we were able to continue to supply Booths, so we put a rota system in place to try and give everybody part-time work to top up their furlough and keep a routine going for their own mental head space,” he adds. “We felt that was as important as anything and, while it’s all very uncertain, all we can do is react to our customers as best we can.”
Away from Covid, another slightly different challenge is also on the horizon for Gary. In memory of former colleague Dave Towne, who died last November, Gary will be cycling the Tour de France route as part of ‘Tour 21’ led by former England footballer and charity patron, Geoff Thomas. Already deep into his training schedule, he hopes to raise £30,000 for Cure Leukemia.
On the business side of matters, things are starting to look a bit brighter, too.
“There are places beginning to open up,” Gary says. “It’s fantastic to see.”