Introducing myself – Fiona Houston, owner of Physio Inverness. Here is a little bit about life as a modern female entrepreneur.
Life is an interesting juggle… being a new mum to twins, owning and running ‘Physio Inverness’ and my husband and I’s seafood business ‘Coast & Glen’ and ‘Fishbox’. (Picture me on my phone booking patient appointments, feeding baby twins and having the laptop fired up answering emails all at the same time!) I knew maternity leave wasn’t something I would be very good at – and wanting to keep the businesses running and developing the physio service with my babies fitting around what I do. I could not imagine taking a whole year off from business and filling my days with coffees and baby pilates, although I do manage to fit these in as well for good measure! Running a business, isn’t like having a job, it’s a way of life is how I see it.
I qualified as a physiotherapist from Robert Gordon University in 2005 and had ambitions of working within a sporting environment. After graduating I was recruited by Inverness Caledonian Thistle Football Club as their first full-time team physiotherapist. At the time I was the only first team female physiotherapist in the Scottish Premier League.
Fiona celebrating winning the First Division with ICTFC – a brilliant season that I will never forget!
I remember my first game was away against Hearts. There were 40,000 fans and I had to run onto the pitch for a blood injury in the centre of the park, I was petrified! I had never had abuse like it! I even got a mention on Radio Scotland for the uproar it caused! All because I was a woman. I sprinted back to the safety of the dugout after doing my duties.
Working at Caley – pictured with defender Chris Hogg
However, I was not perturbed and continued to work as the physio for the club for 4 years. People often asked how I coped in a ‘male dominated environment’, but having a female in the team only added to the team dynamic and often we felt like a travelling school team with a really strong bond. There were many moments when the manager, Terry Butcher, would be providing constructive ‘feedback’ to the players in rather colourful language and he would turn and quietly say, “sorry Fi, my apologies”, then continue with the players dressing down. This always brought a bit of humour to what was normally not particularly pleasant situation!
Fi multi-tasking and helping fix Richie Foran’s boot before a match! Nothing a bit of physio tape won’t sort out!
Whilst working at ICTFC, my boyfriend at the time and now husband, Magnus had quit his job and had bought a creel boat. We knew it would be really tough in the beginning and we would struggle to make ends meet, but we would be able to get by on my wage until the boat was up to speed. I would help Magnus on the boat on a Sunday – which was my only day off from the football job. So I’d spend the day out fishing the boat, helping lift and re-bait over 80 creels. Then on Mondays I would help to sort and pack over a tonne of crab and lobster ready for it to be exported to Europe, before making my way to work at the football club to assess any new injuries from the game at the weekend. I think the players thought I was insane!
Fiona misbehaving in the Fishbox factory
I set up my own business in 2011 – “Physio Inverness” – private, sports injury clinic. had help from Magnus who was already owning and operating his own business, and my good friend Anna MacArthur, a Chartered Accountant. Without them I wouldn’t have had the confidence, belief and support to start out on my own and to them I am eternally grateful. I started by seeing one patient every few weeks in a tiny little physio room in the depths of a boxing academy- the room had no window and a low ceiling, not high enough to assess shoulder injuries when standing. There was no waiting area and patients would sit and wait in their cars. It was not exactly a high performance, elite environment, but it was enough to get me started and learn about running my own business.
As the clinic got busier I was finding it more and more difficult to juggle the football physio job with the clinic, so I decided to go feet first into the physio business, leaving ICTFC in 2013. Magnus had now stopped fishing and had started his fish merchant business Coast & Glen, selling fresh fish to top hotels and restaurants all across the Highlands and to Michelin star restaurants in London.
Alongside running my physio business I was helping Magnus with admin and accounting for C&G. I soon realised I wasn’t particularly good at the accounting side of things- mainly because I didn’t find it very interesting! But what I did love doing was coming up with ideas – particularly working out how we could possibly produce a ‘fishbox’. This had been our dream since Magnus had been fishing – allowing the general public to access straight from the boat seafood. In the beginning we only used Facebook to advertise and google calendar as our scheduling system! But quickly we gained loyal customers and we have been able to develop Fishbox into what it is today – a multi-award winning start up business! We have scooped local and national awards and are very proud of what we have achieved so far! We now have over 1300 subscribed Fishboxcustomers from all over the UK, which is growing daily. We have 21 staff at our base in Inverness and have some exciting expansion plans for this year, looking to create many more jobs and expand our Fishbox customer reach.
At the Moy Games on the Fishbox stand with Magnus
The physio business is now settled in the Inverness ice centre – where I now have a small team of physiotherapists working at the clinic. I’m so proud of how far the clinic has come, growing it from a dusty little room to what it is today – treating many top amateur and elite athletes from local clubs and Sport Scotland supported athletes.
I also became a Mum in June this year – to my adorable little twins, Arran and Florence! They are keeping me on my toes, but they have probably been to more business meetings than any other 4 month old babies I know! Hopefully they will be future little entrepreneurs too! So my role in the clinic has changed to more business development than ‘hands on’ clinical work, but I am thankful to my team of Nicola, Lynn and Jenny for their hard work in the shop front treating our physio patients and keeping up the standards of the clinic.
Fiona, Magnus, Arran and Florence at home
So we have no doubt that we will have our twins filleting fish and one mobilising knees before they can walk.
What I do know is that growing up in an entrepreneurial environment will be a really positive one, where anything is possible if you put your mind to it.
To book a physiotherapy appointment at Physio Inverness click here
To order a Fishbox click here