A world-class yachtsman turned fish entrepreneur, Garry Bainbridge has Grimsby running through his veins. Sitting down in the Ish Fish offices, what you see is what you get from the proud Grimbarian.
Upbeat and positive, the desire for success is clear and Ish Fish is a brand that holds his values; on a mission to get the UK eating more fish and a push to be green and sustainable that comes from seeing the destruction of the ocean as he races.
Garry’s story is one of attitude and consistency, where the foundations he laid for himself were set within the framework of “Discipline Equals Freedom”. This ambitious father-of-two has big ideas.
KW: How did you find yourself as a yachtsman?
Garry: It’s a bit random really. I was about 24/25 and had moved to Miami, America. I’ve always been sporty, big on training and interested in keeping fit, so one day I was in a bar and happened to get speaking to a boat captain.
He needed someone to work on a boat for a couple of weeks, moving sails and other things. But then he told me that they needed some help getting the boat from Miami to San Tropez, so I said I’d do it.
KW: That was your first sailing experience?
Garry: Yeah, that was the first time I’d sailed and it was a three week journey. I only took a pair of shorts and a t-shirt – nearly froze to death on the first night!
Then, I was stuck straight on the wheel. The kid who was first mate said he needed help and that I needed to do it but he’d talk me through it.
It was a proper baptism of fire, I was just looking at a wave or a star to keep us going straight.
KW: How did it snowball from there?
Garry: I helped them get ready for the race and then I met the owner who said he was going to buy a race boat and needed some grinders if I was interested. I didn’t even know what a grinder was!
So I got offered a job on the race boat and went back to live in America. They had two grinders: me and an Olympic gold medal rower. At one point it was either me or him because they needed an experienced grinder with us. For some reason they took me and the rest is history!
KW: What was your difference? Why did they pick you?
Garry: Attitude, I think. The gold medallist was stronger than I was but they saw something in my attitude that made the difference. This is something I’m trying instil on my kids.
I got that job because it was me who stayed behind at night, me who stayed and helped to clean up, me who cleaned the top of the rig and fixed the ropes. Those extra bits that you put in early make all the difference.
KW: Where does that attitude come from?
Garry: I’ve always loved training, and there’s a famous quote of “discipline equals freedom”. I had the right attitude to get stuck in but then having the consistency that backs this up was really the key to it all.
Mostly it’s down to my mum. She’s about four foot, six stone and fearless. She instilled into me and my sister that we could do anything and to not take no for an answer.
She worked five jobs and we didn’t have any money growing up so I think she was a real driving force. She was tough and never accepted no for an answer; that’s the winning mentality.
KW: How did you build those relationships with the key people and build so much out of so little?
Garry: Authenticity. Attitude is a big thing but you don’t want to change. I see how people change around certain people, but I’ve always been Garry from Grimsby.
If somebody doesn’t like it then they don’t come back, but I’ve been fortunate that that hasn’t happened to me. I’m positive and upbeat, I don’t treat the yacht owners any differently to anyone else.
You have to set your stall out and be able to dine with paupers and princes.
KW: Moving to business, where did Ish Fish come from?
Garry: This time last year, we went out to Vietnam because Joel (Garry’s Ish Fish Co-founder) had a contract out there. Someone had asked me a couple of months before about getting a box of fish every week.
I didn’t really do that then but we were sat in a bar having a drink and started chatting about it. Within about half an hour we had all the plans down and were ready to start.
I think Ish Fish came from the Grimsby Town chant “FISH” but we got back, took an office, designed boxes and cracked on.
KW: What’s your motivation for Ish Fish?
Garry: We saw what other people were doing and thought our full approach was different to the market. We want people to eat more fresh fish, do something to support Grimsby and also make things sustainable.
When I’ve been sailing, I’ve seen first-hand the destruction of the oceans and having recyclable packaging was a huge thing for us.
KW: What’s your biggest takeaway as a business owner?
Garry: To be positive. I’ve not had as many negative thoughts in my life as I’ve had with Ish Fish. We’re putting our own money in and if you’re not positive and can’t see where the project is going than it’s easy to be down.
When you have your own business you have loads and loads of negative thoughts and you almost need to shake your head out of it in a morning.
When it comes to racing, you’re there and you’re in it. It’s important to take positives from everything, and keep the journey moving.
KW: You’ve mentioned Grimsby a few times, why is this home?
Garry: I love the people and the characters. I’m very pro-Grimsby, I could live anywhere in the world really but I live here. A lot of people push the negatives but there’s a lot of charm and a lot of good things going on business-wise here.
When you’ve been all over the world, and lived in different places then you look for the good things but you go around Grimsby sometimes and people will moan. Misery loves misery.
But that’s the thing I push: positivity and motivation. People, friends and family and I think it’s a great place. It is what it is, a rough northern town, but I like it like that.
Garry is Director of Sales & Marketing at Ish Fish now and continues to sail and race. He loves to travel and spends most of his time with his two kids and wife. He’s part of a pro-Grimsby movement – Grimbarians – and can be found over on LinkedIn.
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