Business Focus with founder and owner of West Vale Fisheries

Mark Kosanovic, Tanya OMalley and Ewelina Salamon
Mark Kosanovic, Tanya OMalley and Ewelina Salamon

Mark Kosanovic is the founder and owner of West Vale Fisheries and Brackenbed Fisheries. Previously an owner of hotels and bars, Mark’s fisheries have gone on to win ‘Halifax’s Best Fish & Chip Shop’ three times.

Why did you start your business in the first place?

I’ve always been an entrepreneur, and when I was younger I owned a hotel and two bars. After I sold them, I saw an opportunity to create a great fish and chip shop in Brackenbed, which focused on providing great food and great service. After that, I was looking for somewhere to expand to and fell in love with West Vale. The area and site were amazing, so we opened there shortly after.

What is your business motto?

As much as I’d say it’s all about working hard, there’s an element of luck with every business no matter how hard you prepare, so work hard and get lucky. There’s a great quote that says, ‘The harder I work the luckier I get’ and that’s definitely true!

What advice would you give to anyone starting their own business?

You’ve got to do all your homework before you start a business. Find out everything you can about the industry, what is it missing? If you’re doing research on your competitors, what are they not doing that you can improve on? Understand your customers, understand your product and your pricing. Once you’ve done all that, sometimes you’ve just got to go with what your gut tells you.

What was the biggest challenge you faced starting your business?

I’m very hands on with my business, so for me the hardest part was learning everything that I had to do from scratch. I started my fisheries with zero knowledge about the industry and the processes, so everything I picked up had to be learned on the job. I went around to different fish shops around the country and picked up advice from them, which was incredibly helpful.

What do you enjoy most about being self-employed?

Being self-employed, I’m the one who gets to make the decisions. Sometimes you’ve got to make a decision that could have a big affect on the entire company, and I enjoy being the one who gets to make that call. On the other side of that, while you can give yourself credit if things go right, you’ve also got to accept the blame if things go wrong.

What do you enjoy least about being self-employed?

I think the thing I enjoy least is just the everyday problems of running a business. Sometimes it can feel like you’re swimming upstream and there’s always something that needs doing or fixing! You never get a moment to sit back and think that you’re finished, but I accept that that’s my role and it comes with the position.

Which business figure do you most admire and why?

He’s not a business figure as such, but the one man I most admire is Nelson Mandela. I have a huge amount of respect for him and everything he stood for. He believed in something so much that he sacrificed everything for it. His book ‘Long Walk to Freedom’ is my favourite to read, and I would suggest everybody gives it a look.

What achievement in your career are you most proud of?

I think the fact that I’ve been self-employed for the last 35 years is my greatest career achievement. As is natural there have been ups and there have been downs, but I’m still here and hope to keep going for many more years!

Where do you see your business going in the next five years?

Our plan is to go up and up! Particularly in West Vale, we’re seeing a huge amount of development and the area is becoming incredibly popular and attracting a lot of investment. We want to become a cornerstone of the community there and help the area flourish and become the local place to be. West Vale is a textbook example of the potential Yorkshire has, and we want to be part of attracting great people and giving it a great future.

If you could invent one new product, what would it be?

If I could, I’d invent some kind of machine where I could go back and give all of the knowledge I have now to my younger self. You learn more from your mistakes than your failures, but it would be great to give everything I’ve learned now to younger me so that he didn’t have go through those failures himself.

If you could work for one company, who would it be and why?

I don’t think I could work for anybody else, having been self-employed for so long. If I had to choose I’d like to work in the boxing industry, as that’s something I’m passionate about. The team at Sky Sports and people like Eddie Hearn do amazing work, and I’d find it fascinating. Boxing is a big part of our work at the fisheries, as we attract some of the best talent in the world to come try our food! We’ve had boxers Floyd Mayweather and Frank Bruno come for a meal and if that’s not a great testimonial I don’t know what is.