Each week, we ask small businesses key questions. Here we speak to Jackie Macleod, who owns West Highlands firm Loche Ewe Salt & Seaweed, with Robbie Fraser.
How and why did you start in business?
Raised in Poolewe in Wester Ross, I left home at 17 and by 18 was running a pub restaurant in Hampshire.
I later worked for NHS Ayrshire and Arran as an administration officer, covering nine health centres.
I married Robbie Fraser when we were both young. The marriage lasted only three years and in my 30s I decided to return home to Poolewe for my son’s schooling.
I then married Sandy Macleod, a local contractor, and was working at Gairloch Primary School when I became seriously ill. I struggled at first, but decided I’d had enough of being ill and that I was going to cure myself.
I got in touch with people from my past to help get rid of any negativity in my life, and Robbie was on the list.
My nana had told me how they used to make salt, so I started making my own. When he heard this Robbie joked that I’d have seaweed hanging over the bath next, and a day or two later Sandy and I were on the shore collecting seaweed.
Robbie, who is now landscape manager at Heriot-Watt University, became increasingly interested in what I was doing, and in 2016 we launched Loch Ewe Salt & Seaweed together.
How did you get to where you are today?
By being 100% committed to health, quality and sustainability, and by selling both locally and online. Our water is taken straight from the sea and evaporated to produce beautiful Loch Ewe sea salt, and the top quality seaweed is hand-harvested to ensure stocks remain healthy.
Today we produce 100% Loch Ewe sea salt, dried ground bladder wrack seaweed, dried ground kelp seaweed, a dried ground kelp and bladder wrack seaweed mix and dried kelp crisps.
Many local shops and businesses stock or use Less products, including Inverewe Gardens.
Who helped you?
Robbie’s family and Sandy’s mum and dad, George and Hannah, have given us their full support.
No question is too silly for the Federation of Small Businesses and I would recommend it to anyone.
Perhaps most of all I must thank a professor in his 70s who is both a conventional doctor and a doctor of alternative medicine.
Sandy and I met him on a bus from Perth to Glasgow and it turned out that his passion is seaweed.
He has travelled the world educating people about its benefits, and he said that if I want to help children through seaweed I must first educate their parents. That is what I try to do.
What has been your biggest mistake?
Not starting sooner.
What is your greatest achievement?
My two boys, Matthew and James, and recording with Runrig when I was with the Glasgow Islay Choir.
In business, it’s having the courage to start this journey and managing to get out of the bed on good days.
If you were in power in government, what would you change?
I would do more to help small businesses and young people, and older people to have safe, hunger-free lives.
I would also ban all processed foods and dangerous sweeteners, bring delivery costs down and stop Scotland being a lapdog.
What do you still hope to achieve?
Better health and to create local employment. We want locals to have a share in the business to help the whole area prosper and keep people in work.
I would love to go round schools speaking to children and parents about the health properties of seaweed in the diet.
What do you do to relax?
Enjoy the breathtaking view of Loch Ewe from my window.
What are you currently reading, listening to or glued to on the TV?
I like to watch Dr Sandra Pimple Popper on YouTube.
What do you waste your money on?
I don’t and I dislike shopping.
How would your friends describe you?
Nuts but loving, I hope.
What would your enemies say about you?
No idea. I try not to think negative thoughts about negative people.
What do you drive and dream of driving?
If I’m able to drive again, I just want a simple car. I can’t be doing with cars talking to me.