Here is The Fruitguys CEO, Chris Mittelstaedt, speaking on how The Fruitguys grew in a challenging economy.
The Fruitguys began to ship food nationwide and also explored new ways of making our company more environmentally safe. The dot com crash in 2001 caused trying times for The FruitGuys, forcing Chris to layoff about half of the staff and get back to the basics of business. Over time, more and more people heard about The FruitGuys and requested that fruit gets shipped to their offices all across the country. To keep up with such a strong demand, The FruitGuys developed a machine that folds the boxes that fruit is packed in every day. This has allowed less cardboard to be used and less money to needed to have these boxes folded the way they were before. With more developments in technology, The FruitGuys have been able to make the business run smoothly, even as more challenges arise. In 2008 during another economic hard time, The FruitGuys expanded their offering and implemented other initiatives to be able to grow out of it. This expansion can be contributed to adding a school delivery program and a home delivery program.
Now that The FruitGuys is visible on a national scale, there have been several businesses that have popped up with the same business model for delivering fresh fruit. Chris Mittelstaedt is not worried about these copycat companies, but does warn that keep a business like The FruitGuys up and running for as long as he has is much harder than one might think.
The FruitGuys strives to bring diversity through the types of fruits that they provide in their boxes. The goal is to excite customers about eating fruit to encourage them to reach for fruit as an office snack instead of chips or a candy bar. In addition to introducing new fruits, a newsletter comes in every box of fruit to keep people updated on the business and the fruit!
With a small business growing into a nationally recognized company, Chris mentions that there are challenges in the ways he manages his managers with his vision of the company in mind. These challenges and a bad experience with an angry delivery driver helped him create the 5Rs; Respectful, responsive, realistic, responsibility, and remembered positively. (Read more about the 5Rs) This concept is easy to understand and easy for managers to pass down to employees with little to get lost in translation.
During the economic crisis of 2008, it was easy to hire people at The FruitGuys, but it was hard to run a business that is built partly on the success of other companies. Some businesses canceled orders because they cannot afford to get fresh fruit. It became hard to balance the reality of hiring and providing the product in this economic period.
When asked about how to keep the quality of a product high while expanding, Chris mentioned the harsh realities of farming while there are natural disasters that are out of the farmer’s control. These harsh realities are the reason why The FruitGuys is committed to partnering with small farmers to support their farming and provide the freshest fruit in the boxes. To keep the quality of the fruit stable as the business grows, Chris mentioned that he saw how important it was to open up more facilities across the country to be able to buy from more small farmers and have the fruit be the freshest it could be. Chris predicted that the company will not sway from the core values like supporting small farms, donating and supporting non-profits, and keeping the fruit fresh and exciting!