Gavin Stevenson, owner, Fruitman Sam, Sydney, NSW
Tell me about Fruitman Sam
He was stretched working between both businesses so I came to work with him at Fruitman Sam and bought the business about 12 years ago.
Basically, we provide small, medium and large seasonal fruit boxes to residential customers.
We are passionate about providing the freshest quality produce to our customers, which means that the produce has fantastic shelf life something our customer's always compliment us on.
I know that that I am providing my customers with the healthiest, freshest quality produce available, you can't ask for a better job than that.
What do you specialise in?
We specialise in seasonal Australian produce, which means our boxes contain a variety of fruit and veg that's in season.
It's great to educate our customers about seasonality, add variety to their menus and, with a bit of cooking advice from us, encourage them to try new things.
A great example is one of our customers who had never bought eggplant before, says it is now one of her family's favourite vegetables. I love that.
What sets your business apart from other delivery services?
We pride ourselves on personal service so if the internet is not for our customers then I am on the end of the phone, happy to have a chat and take our customer's orders. We are small enough that I am completely hands on.
We also have a big environmental conscience. Wastage is minimal - no plastic bags or packaging. We recycle or reuse everything, and all of our excess food is rescued by Ozharvest.
Where do you source your produce from?
All of our produce in sourced from Sydney Markets, and our bread from Brickfields. We have some really good relationships and there is a lot of trust with our suppliers because we have been in the box business for so long.
In the last lockdown I was warned that my suppliers might not be able to fill my orders due to the increase in box delivery services but because of our relationships with our suppliers we received preference to the new players that converged on the market.
Who are your customers?
We supply to predominantly residential customers in the Sydney Metro area. Our office clients have fallen off because of the COVID lockdown, although this has resulted in a lot of the staff in those businesses ordering for home.
We deliver from Malabar in the south to the Northern Beaches and everything in between and offer deliveries on Mondays and Wednesdays, and I am thinking about adding Fridays to the schedule soon.
How did you get into the fruit and veg business?
I knew Sam, the previous owner of the business, as a friend, and I'd always been passionate about good food and a good diet with my mum being a naturopath.
So, when Sam moved on to his other business I moved in and bought Fruitman Sam and I'd been working with him for a little bit so that transaction to buy the business was a natural transition.
What do you enjoy about the market?
I love the mix of cultures and ethnicity and the people at the market, although when I first went there it was terrifying. It's organised chaos, trucks mixing it with scooters and fork-lifts, it's an amazing atmosphere. Although, in a strange way it all seems to flow, and it just works.
It was intimidating at the start, but now I have developed fantastic relationships with my suppliers, I really enjoy my time out there. I just love the colours of the produce and the people out there.
What would you change at the market if you could?
I would like to see more signage acknowledging where produce is grown so that we can share that with our customers.
How has Covid-19 affected the business?
Our customer base grew rapidly in the first lockdown, and although we also saw an explosion of competitors enter the market, it took us all our time to keep up with the demand.
I thought we were heading into anarchy at one point when my suppliers of more than ten years were telling me that they couldn't fill my orders due to the increase in box delivery services.
Luckily, because of our relationships with our suppliers we received preference to the new players that converged on the market.
Once again, with the new Sydney lockdown, we have seen many of those customers return so it's great to see that they are coming back to us.
How do you market the business?
I do use social media as our main marketing tool, although not as much as I should. I am trying to get better and be more consistent so each Monday I do a video What's in the Box which is being received quite well.
What is the secret to a successful business?
We provide excellent customer service, and in return receive the trust and loyalty of both our suppliers and customers.
What does the future hold for the fruit and vegetable industry?
Our good growing regions need to be protected from development. I worry about our smaller growers being sold off their land for housing, and although I know housing is important we still need to feed everyone.
Moving into the future the industry also needs to reduce the use of plastic packaging.
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