Day in the Life: Mara Seaweed chief executive, Fiona Houston, shares her daily diary
The boss of Scottish seaweed processing firm shares her routine
This year, we moved back into the old family home in Elie, Fife, after being based in Edinburgh and, before that, Washington DC for almost 30 years. We live by the sea and it’s transformative. I’m a member of a wild swimming group. Depending on tide times, I’ll get out first thing for a dip in the sea. If the swim is scheduled for the afternoon, I’ll exercise the dog and do an online yoga class.
Breakfast is toast and scrambled eggs cooked with a teaspoon of our Shony seaweed blend, and a smoothie, which also has seaweed flakes in it. We started this company because of a genuine belief that Scottish seaweed has incredible health benefits.
I start the work day with a sales, production and marketing meeting. As a team, we’ve become closer and stronger than ever, despite many of us working remotely. That’s been because of openness, transparency and a lack of egos, keeping a sense of humour and looking out for each other. I am very grateful to them.
As a member of the Tesco Incubator, we’re in constant communication both with Tesco and with the other incubator brands. We bounce ideas off each other regularly, as well as take weekly meetings with our buyer.
Our company mission is to ‘nourish body and soul’ so I try to live by that. I think it’s vital to take a proper lunch break so I can return to work with a clear head. This involves a walk on the beach with Zack, my dog, a bike ride or some wild swimming. I always make sure to enjoy a healthy, tasty lunch.
When I return to my desk, I settle into some deep, strategy work. It’s far too easy to become immersed in the firefighting elements of the business, but I need to try to take time to be a chief executive and take a satellite view. This time planning has resulted in a strategy that will take our company in a completely new direction.
One positive from the pandemic has been having our young adult ‘children’ home for extended periods of time. They’re great company. We are still unpacking boxes, taking trips to the dump and the charity shops after our move, so that is taking up far too much of our time. As a family, we love trying new recipes, so our evenings revolve around cooking, eating, chatting, listening to music and debating the issues of the day.
After dinner, I try to catch up with friends and family (sadly, remotely). I am also currently binge watching Schitt’s Creek on Netflix, but I also read the New Yorker from cover to cover. When we lived in Edinburgh, I’d go to Golden Hare books in Stockbridge almost every weekend. When I have time off, I devour a book in a couple of days, but at the moment I usually fall asleep by 10pm with a book in my hand.