Life After Oil: Former oilman serves up catch of the day

In our Life After Oil series, we talk to those who are moving on after losing their jobs in the downturn. Today, Niamh Burns hears how one oil worker has returned to his roots – and now sells fish to his former colleagues.

When he left the fishing industry, Stephen Bruce had no idea he would return 15 years later to become his own boss.

The 55-year-old decided to switch from North Sea fish to oil in 2000, after completing a business studies course at college.

He landed himself a job with Technip in Westhill as a quality administrator and worked his way up to become a safety advisor.

But the grandfather-of-one was made redundant just a few weeks before Christmas last year.

Mr Bruce, of Peterhead, took a few weeks to get over the shock, and then decided to take the plunge and launch his own business – which involves delivering the catch-of-the-day to his former colleagues.

“I had never been made redundant before so it was a bit of a shock, he said. “I really enjoyed working with Technip and with my colleagues – it was a really nice place to be.

“I had worked in the fishing industry and decided to leave in 1998 and then went and did a college course in business studies, before getting a job with Technip as a quality administrator and worked my way up.

“It was a month long consultation period. When I knew I was going to be made redundant I had it in my mind I would get back into fishing.

“It was a difficult period – just the same as for everyone else facing job losses – but I realised that no-one had registered the Peterhead Fishing Company so in the first few weeks of January I registered the name.

“Then in February I started my own business.”

Mr Bruce used some of the money he had received in his statutory redundancy pay package to invest in his new firm, which lets customers place an order online and decide where and when they want to collect it.

They can choose a number of north-east locations Mr Bruce covers on his rounds, including the stop he now makes at Technip.

Every Thursday lunch time he parks his van up outside the office and former colleagues queue up to purchase some of his products.

He said he is always “delighted” to see them and say hello.

As part of the investment in his new company, Mr Bruce also obtained a £3,200 grant from Business Gateway.

Last night he encouraged others who have lost their job – or are facing redundancy – to consider moving into a different sector.

“I would tell anyone to see what support they can get through the Business Gateway, but if you’ve been thinking about going into a different sector, it’s a good time to do it,” Mr Bruce said.

“I really enjoy the work I do now.”

Offering support in his venture is Mr Bruce’s wife, Roselyn, who has taken on the accounts side of the business as a director.

But becoming his own boss has not come with more attractive hours.

Compared with his previous nine to five, the fisherman is now working an average of 12 to 14 hour days.

While he has less time to see his family and friends, he hailed his new challenge as “fantastic”.

However, he is hoping to recruit more staff members in 2017.

And while last Christmas was overshadowed by the uncertainty of redundancy, Mr Bruce said this year they will be toasting to his new-found business success.

“It is hard being made redundant, but I’ve always been a positive person,” he added.

Tomorrow: The oil worker who was made redundant twice in six months reveals how she turned her fortune round by becoming the best new thing using sliced bread.

This series is in association with Elevator – Scotland’s social enterprise dedicated to supporting entrepreneurship, enterprise and employability – works across Grampian and Tayside to help facilitate the start-up and growth of new and existing businesses.

Delivering Business Gateway, Elevator currently engages with 2,500 start-up businesses and assists around 1,000 organisations to grow annually with advice and support. It aims to help an additional 200 start-ups a year through initiatives such as its hugely successful Accelerator Programme, which aims to fast-track businesses to the next level. Find out more here.