Rising Star: Paul Kelly

Championed by the likes of Delia Smith and Jamie Oliver, Paul Kelly started KellyBronze turkeys more than 20 years ago with his dad Derek Kelly.

The company is now supplying House of Fraser with its Christmas turkey hamper.

How did you start the company?
We got started in 1981 with a £20,000 loan. In order to try and compete with supermarkets, we bought up the last of the bronze turkeys, a breed that had all but disappeared because the black stubble on them was seen as unsightly. There were only 350 left in the country at that time that were of a good quality. This was before free-range farming had taken off, and at the beginning everyone in the industry saw us as a laughing stock.

How did you market the turkeys?
The problem is that people shop with their eyes, so we turned the visible difference of the turkeys to our advantage. We called the marks ‘designer stubble’ to distinguish us from our competitors.

Has the media helped?
Delia Smith heard about us when she was doing research for her Christmas book. Before that it was very difficult, and we had only just started to make a small profit by stocking independent butchers in London. Delia really helped us to develop a name.

What would you have done differently?
I wish we had borrowed more money and had marketed the turkeys more professionally using images of them in fields and woods. I now realise the advice we were given, not to show pictures of live turkeys because it would upset people, was wrong.

Where next?
I’m really pleased with the House of Fraser account, and I’d like to take on two or three more similar sized contracts each year. However, what we’re selling is a premium product, not a commodity, so we’re not looking to vastly expand the company.

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