Ideas are great. Pursuing a dream is exhilarating. So why is it that almost one in three businesses fail within the first two years, with the figure rising to one in two within the first five years? With such high rates of failure, it stands to reason that the causes behind business failures are multifaceted and complex. So there is nothing more powerful than learning from those who have gone before.
With this in mind we are speaking today with the team at ‘Fruitful Office’ who run a thriving business that delivers fresh fruit baskets to over 5,000 offices across the UK and mainland Europe. How did they manage to buck the trend and make it through those treacherous early years? Listen to these top tips from their founder and learn the top mistakes to avoid for a stronger chance at business growth and success.
Over fifteen years ago, founders Vasco de Castro and Daniel Ernst had finally reached the end of line. After yet another poor-quality delivery of fresh fruit for the office, Vasco and Daniel had had enough. Their intention had been to boost staff morale, productivity and wellbeing with a weekly delivery of fresh fruit for the office. The fruit would be sourced from local grocers to maximise freshness and an easy to use online subscription service would make the service accessible to anyone in an office.
The idea, however, was proving much harder to execute than they had thought. Time after time, each fruit box that they received fell far beyond their expectations. Armed with little more than a desire to do better, the motivation to improve workforce wellbeing and a long-held dream to finally run their own business, Daniel and Vasco decided to do what no-one else could seem to, they would establish a reliable fruit delivery business of their own. This was the birth of the Fruitful Office brand.
Fifteen years later, Vasco and Daniel are proud to say that Fruitful Office is a successful business that is still growing. With weekly baskets of nutritious fresh fruit delivered to thousands of offices they would never have imagined that they would end up running a global fruit delivery business. Today, demand is such that Fruitful Office’s reach has expanded far beyond the U.K., to include office delivery to companies in five other countries across the E.U. each with their own dedicated local teams.
How did two disgruntled customers manage to achieve such a feat? Here are their top mistakes to avoid as you build your business:
Tip 1: Customers do not grow on (fruit) trees
The founders quickly learned that finding paying customers is the first and biggest hurdle. When you are starting out, don’t be afraid to operate at a loss, because eventually, losses can lead to profit.
To build their fledgling business Daniel and Vasco used the resources that they had. To drum up business, they spent many long days and nights sending emails to everyone they knew, from business contacts to family and friends – the duo ensured that no lead was left unturned. There is no harm either, in having the faith that freebies in the form of trial baskets can turn into paying clients.
To begin with, don’t be afraid to take tough financial knocks as the team made the decision to give away fruit baskets for free. However, this soon turned to profit, as free customers began to convert into long-term, paying customers. It’s wise to factor in this negative running cost into your initial start-up costs.
Tip 2: Remember that essential purchases are an investment
Turning a profit is a serious challenge for any new company, so any cost is going to hurt. However, after a number of cost-cutting spends, including some old delivery vehicles that looked like a bargain buy, the fruitful office team soon learnt that in the long-run, cost-cutting on core equipment is a bad idea. Indeed, it is worth spending a decent amount of money on crucial resources, so that they do the job properly and last. Otherwise, you can end up spending double or triple the original amount.
Tip 3: Take the time to recruit the best
Time is money and business growth has a mind of its own, so when the business found it difficult to find drivers for the early shift, hiring policy became focused on filling the delivery gap ASAP rather than finding the absolute best fit for the job. Recruiting the best staff is critical to the health of your business, so allow plenty of time to search for high-quality employees and foster an environment that encourages staff retention and satisfaction.
With great staff in place who share their passion and vision, you’ll know that you can trust your staff to ensure that product and service meet your exacting standards. With a workforce that they could trust, Daniel and Vasco have been able to concentrate on running the business and securing its continuous growth.
Tip 4: Be the unicorn
Think outside the box. What is the one thing that no-one else is bothering to do that will set you apart from the rest? The Fruitful founders had experienced many lacklustre fruit delivery services before, but knew that they could go the extra mile and do things better.
With commitment and passion their team has been able to stand out and thrive in an increasingly cut-throat industry. Despite the many challenges the business has faced from Brexit red tape, to a pandemic shutting off their main sources of income for nearly two years the core of the business model never wavered. Quality and a desire to do things better was never compromised.
This ethos is galvanised in the corporate responsibility agenda of the business. From sourcing seasonal fruit from local farmers to ensuring their delivery routes actively aim to cut down on delivery miles. They support local communities like schools and hospitals and they partner with a charity to plant fruit trees across Malawi for each fruit basket sold, a campaign that was started over five years ago and has been running successfully ever since.
Fruitful Office have taken the desire to improve wellbeing and the concept of fruit delivery, to a whole new level. As the business continues to strive to deliver the best customer experience possible and contribute to the wellbeing of others across the world, they are sure to remember their challenges and mistakes to help their onward journey. We hope at least one of these tips helps you on your own start-up journey.