We take a look at UK SME Fruitful Office’s journey from startup to growing international business to identify crucial lessons other entrepreneurs can learn.
Every startup owner who makes their first foray into the world of business will experience a unique range of challenges and stumbling blocks. In the early days, the truth is that it can feel like the universe is against you, but with enough perseverance and the right idea in the first place, it is possible to brush those hurdles aside and set your business on the path to success.
Although every business’s story is unique, entrepreneurs can learn a lot from those who have experienced similar challenges before. In this case study, we’re going to look at one such SME, Fruitful Office, and uncover some of the secrets of its startup success.
How it all began
The story of Vasco de Castro’s introduction to the world of entrepreneurship will doubtless be one that’s familiar to countless business owners across the UK. After working in London’s financial sector for a number of years, De Castro and his flatmate Daniel Ernst decided that they wanted to go it alone and find a project that was not only a viable business but would also give them the chance to make a difference to people’s lives.
The inspiration came from something both de Castro and Ernst experienced independently in their own workplaces. Despite ordering a fresh supply of fruit to the office from a third party provider, the quality of the fruit was inconsistent. That gave the duo the idea to do a better job themselves. With that, Fruitful Office was born.
In the early days, Vasco de Castro is quick to admit that they made some silly mistakes. Startup failure rates in London are higher than anywhere else in the country, but thankfully the ill-advised cost-cutting measures and hiring issues they experienced did not bring about the premature demise of the business. In fact, they learnt a few critical early lessons that have stood them in good stead to this day.
Once the teething problems were resolved and the business found employees it could rely on to perform the crucial 4.30am – 8.30am early fruit packing shift, the next step was to think about how to put scalable processes in place that would allow Fruitful Office to grow. It was decided that the key to the business’s long-term success was to ensure that the quality of the fruit was of the highest possible standard.
To achieve this, the growing team created a number of networks with local wholesale markets in each of the UK locations they operated in. That allowed them to reduce the travelling time that would be necessary if the fruit was purchased from a central location. They also worked hard to identify and hire individuals who were passionate about the project and they could trust to carry out quality control inspections of every basket of fruit.
To new heights…
The business now operates in five countries internationally and delivers fresh fruit to more than 2,500 workplaces every week. The creation of local distribution hubs has allowed the business to maintain a short cycle from buying to delivery despite the growth of the business. This model can now be replicated whenever the business expands into new locations.
Of course, there have been many difficult times over the last few years when de Castro questioned why he gave up the financial security of a job in The City for the risks of entrepreneurship, but like many startup business owners, it’s a decision he doesn’t regret for a second.
What are the biggest challenges you’ve faced in your startup business? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.