Each week, we ask small businesses key questions. Here we speak to Eilidh Marshall, director and co-founder of Inverness firms Whale-like-fish and A Whale of a Time
Q. How and why did you start in business?
A. Helen Ross and I started Whale-like-fish in Inverness in February 2019, having worked together at another PR agency for a few years. We saw a gap in the market to help more businesses access PR services by using a new business model that moved away from day rates. Instead, we created a price list for each of our services and applied a more consumer-friendly model, which includes a loyalty scheme. Our clients are rewarded for repeat business and know exactly what they’re paying for each service in advance.
When Covid-19 hit and many businesses were struggling, we wanted to do something to help and that would also give us another arm to our business. Just a couple of weeks ago we launched A Whale of a Time, an online gift box service showcasing products from across the Highlands and islands. Each box has a different theme, from gin, whisky and cocktails to tea, coffee, family and self-care.
Q. How did you get to where you are today?
A. A lot of hard work and determination. Helen and I have always worked well together so although starting our own business was daunting, I knew I had the best possible partner.
The business has grown steadily, thanks to the many referrals and recommendations that we receive and for which we’re very grateful. Our first client, Ian Roberts at Mowi, has continually supported us, challenged us, kept us busy and made us smile.
Q. Who helped you?
A. In the Highlands and islands there are so many opportunities for collaboration, so we’ve been lucky enough to work with some great businesses and organisations. Jim Aitken and David Richardson at the Federation of Small Business have always been brilliant. Whale-like-fish is also a member of Lochaber Chamber of Commerce and the team there is always happy to help.
And, of course, we wouldn’t be where we are without our clients, so a big thank you to all of them.
Q. What has been your biggest mistake?
A. Not starting our businesses sooner.
Q. What is your greatest achievement?
A. Working in PR – there’s nothing better than seeing your client get results or great media coverage.
For as long as I can remember, I’ve always wanted to have my own business. Now we’ve got two and I can honestly say that I love going to work every day.
Q. If you were in power in government, what would you change?
A. I would like to see more support given to new businesses. A lot of us fell through the gaps to receive support during the Covid-19 pandemic. We were able to survive and started A Whale of a Time in response, but others have not been so lucky.
Q. What do you still hope to achieve?
A. I want to continue to grow the businesses, looking after our PR clients at Whale-like-fish and helping small businesses get their products to consumers around the UK through A Whale of a Time. Initial feedback from customers on the A Whale of a Time gift boxes has been very positive, so I’d like to build on this and expand our range.
Q. How do you relax?
A. Some won’t think this is very relaxing – I love doing CrossFit and weightlifting. If I’m not at work, you’ll usually find me in the gym. I also love travelling and getting outdoors.
Q. What are you currently reading, listening to or glued to on the TV?
A. I’ve not had much time for any of that recently, but I’m a fan of any true crime or forensic investigator programmes. I also like listening to podcasts about fitness and nutrition, as well as business.
Q. What do you waste your money on?
A. My boyfriend, Chris, answered this one for me – “everything”. But I mainly waste it on fitness equipment and gym clothes, or food.
Q. How would your friends describe you?
A. I asked a couple of friends to answer this for me. Vicky said: “A very talented perfectionist who is driven and loyal.” Louise said: “Determined, motivated, caring, cultured and always keen for an adventure.”
Q. What would your enemies say about you?
A. I’d like to think I don’t have any, unless they’ve caught me when I’m hungry/hangry.
Q. What do you drive and dream of driving?
A. I would love an Audi Q3 but would also like an electric car, so maybe the Audi e-tron.