The First 10 Years: One SME’s Growth Story


The First 10 Years: One SME’s Growth Story

A business’s first decade is full of challenges, achievements and big decisions.In the UK, statistics on business survival rates vary. Some interpretations suggest that 80% of startups fail within their first year. Other numbers indicate that 44.1% of UK businesses survive for 4 years or more. In today’s uncertain economic landscape – complicated by issues including politics, economics and the environment –  there are even more hurdles for new businesses to leap over in order to establish longer term viability and stability.

In this article, we’ll be examining one SME which recently celebrated its tenth year in business. Office fruit delivery company Fruitful Office was launched in the midst of equally uncertain financial times: the heyday of 2008’s global financial crash. Despite the odds, this office fruit delivery business weathered difficult market conditions and has entered 2019 as a successful sustainable business.  Read how one small company navigated the path from big idea to established company below.

The “spark”

The origin story of Fruitful Office starts with two flatmates who dreamed of launching their own business. Vasco de Castro, an investment banker, and Daniel Ernst, an accountant, had long been searching for a viable business idea to turn into a startup of their own.

After their respective employers both attempted to launch health initiatives using fresh fruit deliveries, the pair identified a gap in the market for high quality, reliable fruit delivery service for businesses. With competitors in the marketplace often delivering sub-par products, with unpredictable levels of freshness, de Castro and Ernst began building a business which could do things better.

Early doors

For most young businesses, building a customer base is a crucial first challenge. To get the ball rolling, de Castro and Ernst poured their first months into contacting friends, family, contacts, and networking connections to build up their books.

Once demand began to rise, the business began to fight its first fires as problems and processes required fine-tuning.

A key early mistake made by the entrepreneurs was cutting costs instead of making investments. Choosing unreliable second hand delivery vehicles rather than investing in transport which would benefit the business over the long term was a key hiccough. So too was failing to invest in staff who would commit to the company’s anti-social packing hours (4.30am-8.30am). Ensuring all team members felt valued and saw opportunities for progress within the company proved to be the solution to this tricky staffing issue.

Growing pains

Once teething problems had been negotiated, the central challenge of logistics came to the fore of Fruitful Office. Making sure that customers and suppliers are close enough geographically to ensure delivery of the freshest produce has always been at the core of the business.

This has become ever-more important to the company as the business has expanded to new regions and countries. As this expansion has taken place, Fruitful Office has invested in setting up local distribution hubs and sourcing from local markets in each new location. This choice – although less cost-effective – has allowed Fruitful Office to stay true to its original vision: delivering top quality fruit which is ripe and ready to eat.

Today Fruitful Office supplies over 5,000 businesses across the UK, Ireland, Germany, Belgium and Holland.