The growth of an oyster is similar to growing a business: an oyster starts life small and then gradually grows complex layers as the years go by and hopefully gets bigger, gets stronger and matures. Many tiny oysters perish along the way, and few survive and succeed to longevity. It’s the same with businesses.
It seems like a distant memory when Ben asked me the pivotal question, “Do you like oysters”? I was nervous about going into the unknown and meeting Ben’s French mates but undertook the journey to Jerome’s oyster farm to see what all the fuss was about.
I had no need to worry: I was welcomed into Jerome’s family and business and saw the passion he had for producing his incredible oysters. It was inspirational and presented us with an opportunity to rekindle something that had been a huge part of culture in this country in days gone by, to take oysters back to the people and then grow and expand from that foundation.
Those early days were hard and filled with uncertainty, but we were learning so much and trusted our instincts: that we were onto something and Wright Brother’s wholesale started to grow and expand.
Firstly, a new base for the business: Borough and our entrance into the restaurant world. It was a steep learning curve but exciting and many predicted we would fail. Borough Market was beginning its’ reinvention as the most iconic foodie location in the UK and we were riding that wave with The Oyster and Porter House. Passion and inspiration drove us forward. It was like making a first album and having a hit (by the way, they always say the second and subsequent albums are harder for a new artist – you may know I used to be in the music business!).
Secondly, to take over one of the most historic and iconic oyster farms in the UK on the Helford River and bring it back to life. A courageous labour of love, pioneered by Ben, that re-established a huge marine environment area that, at the time was perhaps not recognised as being a ground-breaking undertaking as it would be today - as well as producing some of the finest oysters in the UK.
During these exciting early days for the business, Ben and I learned the most important lessons in building Wright Brothers: that we couldn’t do it all ourselves and that we would need great people to join our WB family. Also, the slightly glaringly obvious fact that there is a world of talented people out there who can do things infinitely better than either of us could.
Employing our first experienced GM and head chef at Borough transformed that business and was the tipping point for success: GREAT PEOPLE – that’s all of you!
The rest is the history that you all know: Billingsgate, Brixham, more restaurants, D2C and transforming from good to great!
If anyone asks me for advice about starting a business and what to expect, I always think of the rollercoaster ride we have been on and tell them that there will inevitably be ups and downs and that to succeed you need to expect and deal with both.
We are all fortunate to be part of this great seafood adventure and with adventure comes these ups and downs but in a way the successes and failures both contribute to our DNA, our “Why”. It’s easy, in hindsight, to want to change history but you can only learn from the past and endeavour to steer the best course for the future.
I have been blessed to share the journey with many great people and continue to do so every day. The hard work that goes into keeping the WB wheels in motion gives Ben and myself so much pride and although I would love to name-check every single one of you I want to mention two special people in my Wright Brother journey.
Susie, my wife, who since the day we started, has stood by my side through all those up and downs and been a pillar of strength and support and believed in what we set out to achieve and never doubted the we would get there.
Ben, my brother and partner. We immediately became great mates after I met Susie (Susie and Ben are siblings). I wasn’t sure what I was going to do next in my life and Ben grabbed me by the arm and encouraged me to come on this great journey.
I feel blessed that through meeting Susie, Ben came into my life with all his strength and qualities that created Wright Brothers: courage, intuition and vision, leadership, single-mindedness, passion, and desire to succeed.
Finally, thank you to each and every brother and sister who make every day for me at Wright Brothers a great day and for great seafood and good times. To celebrate the 20-year anniversary of WB, I had a tattoo done and proudly wear the badge.