Shane Jenkins wasn’t ready to start wearing a suit again just yet. He and his wife Monica had sold a successful franchise, and the couple – who both have plenty of experience in the corporate world – wanted to take a break from business for a little while.
It was time to keep things simple, so Shane took up a mates’ offer to go and do some casual work at Melbourne’s Queen Victoria Market.
“That was where he met the original owner of Fruit Addicts, who he started helping out here and there,” Monica Jenkins remembers.
“Then, when the owner got to the stage of wanting to retire and close the business, Shane said ‘no, don’t, I’m going to buy it’.”
That was six years ago. And in those six years, Shane and Monica have doubled a customer base of businesses not just in Melbourne’s CBD, but as far out as Mulgrave, Laverton and Craigieburn.
Businesses who love the quality of Food Addicts’ products and their level of customer service. Businesses who’ve been delighting staff by ordering boxes of delicious fresh fruit for their office kitchens once, twice and sometimes three times a week.
And then COVID-19 hit…
The emails from customers started coming in. Emails saying: ‘We’re now working from home’. They kept coming.
Shane and Monica started keeping track of the percentage of clients who were putting regular orders on hold, or cancelling outright. And those numbers kept going up. 5%. 10%. 20%. 50%.
“We asked ourselves, what’s our break even? How many clients can we lose or put on hold until it becomes a problem?” Monica recalls.
“And then when 70% of our clients were working from home we said ‘OK, this is an issue, what are we going to do?’”
What they did was make a pivot – shifting their model from delivering to offices, to delivering to homes.
Making the first move
Their initial set of home delivery customers were actually many of those existing clients who’d put office orders on hold – including RedZed – but who continued to support Fruit Addicts by ordering ‘thank you boxes’ to be delivered to their teams working from home.
But making all this possible – and making home delivery open to the general public, too – meant Fruit Addicts had to get “agile”.
“We had an outdated website that we’d inherited when we bought the business and the sales were still coming through. We were growing and we didn’t have to change a thing,” says Monica.
“So, we went from that website to a Squarespace site, which we added a ‘cart’ to, so people could start making online purchases.”
A stroke of luck
Monica knew that to make the pivot viable, Fruit Addicts needed to boost their online presence by making the most of social media and using Facebook ads. So, she entered a competition where first prize was an online course about doing just that. And she won.
“Because our revenue was down, any saving we could make was good – and that was a great one,” she beams.
Fruit Addicts also took advantage of all the “amazing, phenomenal” government support available to them – applying for and receiving a range of grants from Business Victoria. Plus, the couple have a strong business support network, meaning they’ve not had to “navigate all this ourselves”.
And there have been plenty of other changes too. Originally with their new home delivery service, Food Addicts stuck with their existing schedule – Mondays, Wednesday and sometimes Fridays – “so we could keep our drivers on the road”.
But that’s shifted to seven days a week because, as Monica says: “if that’s what people need, that’s what we’ll do”.
The flow-on effect
Many of those employees whose bosses ordered them ‘thank you boxes’ have also become loyal customers, ordering fruit and veg from Fruit Addicts for themselves, their friends and their families. And the online marketing work Monica has done is paying off, too.
While many other businesses have also pivoted to home delivery, Monica believes some of those have gone a bit too far to try and stay viable – and will pivot back as soon as possible.
“I think a lot of people are trying to do too much – being everything to everyone. But your time is better spent focusing on what you do well,” she says.
“And that’s what we’ve tried to do – we had a whole pantry of items we were going to launch – but we decided to keep it simple.”
Plus, Shane and Monica always knew that to keep growing Fruit Addicts, they were going to be doing home delivery eventually. It was always part of the plan, COVID-19 made sure it happened sooner than expected.
And Shane and Monica are staying resilient – they’re confident that there’s a light at the end of the COVID-19 tunnel – but they’re setting themselves up for however long it takes to get there.
“We’ve got lots of plans we’ve put down on paper – this is Plan A, this is Plan B, Plan C, Plan D – we’ve got options. Because if you’re not looking into the future you’re always looking back,” Monica says.
“We can’t control COVID, but we can control our business and our mindset – and as a family and a business we’re glass-half-full people. Let’s just get on with it and do what we do well.”
It’s easy to see that glass-half-full mindset in action when you hear Monica talk about the highlights of what’s not just been a tough time for Fruit Addicts, but all businesses.
She’s quick to relate the story of a customer who offered to keep paying the couple their regular delivery fee, without receiving a fruit box in return. Shane and Monica said no to the deal, so the customer has now forwarded their deliveries as donations to the Salvation Army.
COVID-19 has changed a lot of things, some for now, and some for good. Fruit Addicts will keep doing home deliveries, while many other businesses will go back to bricks and mortar. But this year has made people even bigger fans of having everything they need delivered to their homes.
That will work in Shane and Monica’s favour from here on in. But their humble, healthy approach to doing business could take them even further.
“To put it simply, we deliver quality fruit. And our ethos is to always back that up with personal service. We really love our business and our customers,” Monica says with a smile.
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