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How ICCC helped a 100-year-old business scale their vision and growth

There’s one thing Jim and Kathy Turner always say about their seafood, “if it were any fresher, it would still be swimming,” and as a fourth generation family business, Turner’s Seafood is now looking for ways to keep their business strategies as fresh as their fish. In October, the Turner’s traveled from Massachusetts to attend the Inner City Capital Connections (ICCC) culminating conference in New York to speak about their business, share what ICCC has helped them do, and learn about other program participants’ success with ICCC.

Nearly 100 years ago, Jim’s grandfather came to Boston from Newfoundland and got his start in the fish industry. In 1954 he moved from Boston to Gloucester and opened his own company called Turner Fisheries, with their first brick and mortar restaurant opening in Melrose 25 years ago, and their second location opening in Salem some time later. Turner’s Seafood consists of a seafood processing business, three restaurants, and online seafood market. Kathy explains their vertical integration was in part because Jim’s father was a, “very hands-on person who loved to cut fish.”

Jim and Kathy both hold degrees in economics, which convinced them to believe there was no feasible way to stay in the fish business, because of regulations and changes that would ultimately hit New England hard. However, after analyzing the numbers and configuring new strategies for boosting revenue, the Turners determined they needed to get their fish to the end user in a more direct way. After three years of strategizing and planning, they opened their first restaurant. They learned that very little money is made from, “the water to the restaurant,” and the real profit margins are found in the restaurant business.

Jim and Kathy are savvy business owners, and jumped at the chance to participate in ICCC when they had the opportunity. Kathy, in relating the story of how they got started, said that she saved three things from college: her senior thesis, The Shakespeare Riverside reader, and Michael Porter’s first edition of Competitive Strategy. Both Jim and Kathy saw the program as a great investment, with Kathy saying, “there’s no way to get access to these materials without paying $40,000 to do a one semester program at a business school, and where you have to turn off your life to do it.”

Not only did Jim and Kathy participate, but they made it as much a family affair as the rest of Turner’s Seafoods: “when I saw this, I said ‘Oh my God, I want do that but I can’t do it alone because there are three families involved, so I needed to involve them all in the process otherwise it’s the world according to Kathy and not the team building that we want.’” True to her word, the family has all participated in varying capacities.

Turner’s Seafood may be 100 years old, but their strategy is current thanks to the programming ICCC offered to them. Kathy’s takeaways from the program speak to what small businesses are capable of and how to leverage these strengths, saying, “it teaches you to understand how much the culture you create within your business resonates over your customer base, community, and the difference your one business makes that you really don’t see on a regular basis. You’re thinking, ‘do we have enough pennies in the drawer,’ without realizing the relationships your employees have made with the community and it lets you take a step back and see the value you’re providing as a small business owner.” Small businesses always make waves beyond economic benefits, and it’s values like these that ICCC helps promote as they assist entrepreneurs like Jim and Kathy Turner scale their vision and maximize their impact.

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