Poppy Elfes, owner-operator, Lady Providore, Sydenham, NSW
Tell me about Lady Providore
LADY Providore is a fruit and vegetable box delivery service. It is an extension of FreshPro, started by my father-in-law in 1966, with over 50 years in supplying Sydney's finest restaurants, hotel, cafe, pubs, catering companies with the freshest premium seasonal fruit and vegetables.
I started the business in March 2020 when COVID-19 hit in response to many people's need to access fresh produce while they were in lockdown.
This was particularly so with older people who were afraid to go out of their homes to shop as they were used to doing, so we started delivering to the Southern Highlands.
I had been wanting to get into this side of the business for a while and this presented the right opportunity to tap into this market.
What do you specialise in?
We specialise in delivering the freshest possible fruit, vegetables and seafood. We aim to deliver seasonal produce which is 99 per cent Australian grown.
We are proud to say that our fruit and vegetables are only 48 hours from the farm gate to your front door. Our turn-around of produce is very fast; we don't have lots of fresh stock sitting around in our warehouse.
Who are your customers?
We deliver our fresh produce boxes direct to our customers doors throughout the Sydney Metropolitan area and parts of the Southern Highlands including Goulburn, Crookwell, Gunning and Marulan.
We also deliver to the hospitality industry including reception centres, cafes and restaurants.
What sets your business apart from other delivery services?
To start with it is quite unusual for a business to be run by a woman in this very male-dominated industry. Our customers call me directly with their orders, just one point of contact.
I know them and their business, and their likes and dislikes, and can offer advice on what is in season and what looks good at the moment.
We offer excellent quality and service with a woman's touch.
Where do you source your produce from?
Our produce is sourced from local growers and the Sydney Market. Making the most of my father-in-law's long-standing relationships at the market we source outstanding quality at good market prices.
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How did you get into the fruit and veg business?
I have been married to a providore for over 26 years so during that time I have been immersed in the industry and lived with the long hours that are part of the industry.
My father-in-law started his business FreshPro in 1966 so this has made it very easy for me to learn the ropes from Sydney's original providore.
Covid-19 presented me with the opportunity to tap into the industry that I had always been part of. It just made sense to launch the business when I did.
What do you enjoy about the market?
Although I don't go the market daily, as my father-in-law buys what I need, I love the atmosphere - fast-paced, very busy, constant shouting and lots of fun - when I am there.
What is the best thing about working with fresh produce?
It's great to know that I am working with freshest produce that I can get my hands on, straight from the farmer, and I love the idea of my kids eating healthy and having access to clean eating.
What is most challenging about the industry?
I still find the hours of our industry challenging. While everyone is sleeping we are doing orders and buying stock, because we don't sit on any stock, we buy fresh in every day.
Then we start again the next day - buy everything fresh and distribute it.
How has Covid-19 affected the business?
We started the business as a response to people's need for fresh produce during lockdown so initially we saw some of our customers returning to the local shops again once they could get out and about.
However, many of these customers have returned to us because of the freshness of our produce - there is no comparison.
What is the secret to a successful business?
You really need to know your product; buying things at the right price and just being able to take that customer phone call when they contact you.
What does the future hold for the fruit and vegetable industry?
People will always want the freshest produce at the best possible price and the produce needs to taste good and last a long time.
As long as we stick to this formula the future looks good.
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