Many people walk around with some great ideas in their head – “wouldn’t it be great if someone produced this,” or “wouldn’t this service be much more useful,” are often just fleeting ideas that come and go. However, some people keep hold of some truly great ideas – solutions that would really bring something to the market that would help customers and fill a gap. Those people may not feel like they are business minded, or may not even know how to go about developing their idea into anything more than just an idea. Here, we speak to Vasco de Castro, Business Development Director at office fruit delivery company Fruitful Office, to learn a little more about their company – how they grew from just a small idea into an internationally successful company.
Choosing people you trust
When you first have an idea, you should choose people you trust to speak it through with. Then, if you’re still confident it could do well, get people on board you know. Vasco de Castro and Daniel Ernst, for instance, were flatmates and friends who wanted to start a business. They saw a gap in the market because although both their workplaces had started getting fruit deliveries, the quality of the fruit was not always consistent. They knew they could do better. With the Government’s 5-a-day campaign in action, de Castro and Ernst felt the time was right to try and do something themselves.
Get the right contacts
The next thing to do is develop your address and telephone book. You need to know what else is out there and who can help you. You need to do your market research. This is going to take a long time, more than just a few hours on the computer. You need to get out there at industry events, inviting people to focus groups and finding out everything you need to know to support your business idea. This pair spent their first month preparing by emailing business contacts, friends and family. They started by offering free fruit baskets to 25 companies to see who they could get on board. This allowed them to see if anyone would be interested in their service in the long term – could it work or would the idea fall flat? Luckily, of those 25 initial companies, 5 became regular customers for the team.
Get the right tech
It’s important to have a website in this day and age. Many people will ask you for your web address and they will expect to find something that works well and represents your brand. Word of mouth and search engine optimisation will help to bring more customers in. Get the right tech on board – develop the right email addresses and have everything set up to receive post or mail.
Learn from mistakes
An early company just starting out is bound to make mistakes. For instance, de Castro and Ernst bought an old van from a farmer that kept breaking down, making their deliveries unreliable. They also had trouble finding trustworthy packers to work the unsocial shift which ran from 4.30am to 8.30am. You can learn from these mistakes and don’t let them set you back too much. Continue to look forward.
Adapt to change
Industries and markets can change. It is important to be flexible. For Fruitful Office, de Castro and Ernst had to adapt to the fact that they could no longer inspect every basket on a personal level which was something they had always done. They learned they needed a trustworthy team and so they recruited candidates who shared their vision.
Stay who you are
It is important to flex to the changes in the industry, but also to stay true to yourself. For Fruitful Office, this meant maintaining a local feel despite rapid growth and operating on a national level. The team did this by employing local workers and they also used a well-established and reputable supplier. This meant they could maintain their personal touch despite the business growing.
Continue to look to the future
Business development never stops. Your idea will grow and grow into a business that will continue to need care. Your vision for the company will change over the years. It has been ten years since de Castro and Ernst started Fruitful Office – now, the team hopes to keep growing in the countries they already operate in and set up in other countries, too. They have also started local charity projects which they wish to develop further. This includes a reforestation programme in Malawi.