Selling bananas to Apple!

By Kate Jones

The April meet-up was with local legend Neil 🍎🥦 Bharadwa from the Cambridge Fruit Company. The topic? How much he hates grapefruit. Just kidding. It was about the creative pivoting of a business!

Pivot 1

While on holiday in Cyprus, Neil bought some strawberries from a local fruit seller and got the idea of doing something similar in Cambridge.

This was a vast change from his previous finance job in London.

With the support of friends and family, the decision was made. The original idea was to be like a mobile market stall. Travelling from street to street, he would toot his horn and people would come out to buy.

At least that was the plan. The business launched in cold, wet and miserable November – tough selling conditions.

Pivot 2

Someone told Neil to try selling at the science park. It was a hit! The workers loved the novelty of it and everything sold out – they bought fruit to have at their desks and veg to take home.

Pivot 3

One of the businesses at the science park asked him to make up a box of fruit for the staff kitchen. And the idea of office deliveries grew from there. Things were looking good!

And then disaster. Yes, it’s the covid years.

Pivot 4

The biggest part of Neil’s business was delivering fruit to offices. But with terrible news coming in from China and then Italy, emails arrived to say staff would be working from home. Orders were dropping off.

Then lockdown was confirmed and Neil’s inbox was full of cancellations.

He thought he’d lost everything.

Pivot 5

The good news was that there was no problem getting fruit and veg. He asked his social media followers what he should do and the idea of a family fruit and veg box was born.

At this point, the Cambridge Fruit Company website was just a brochure site. So his web dev friend Jake added an e-commerce page.

Emails started flying in with orders.

One of those first orders was from a friend, Jim Osmond, who ordered 5 family boxes and said Neil should send them to people in need.

Not quite knowing what to do with them, Neil got in touch with Alex Collis who worked for a local food charity. Alex put Neil in touch with The Red Hen Project. A brilliant partnership that continues to this day!

And from that companies like Spotify, Astra Zeneca, and Sony started ordering fruit boxes for the NHS.

Neil talked about how important local support is and it was great to see lots of the Indie Cambridge community out!

Our next meet-up is on 21 May with deception consultant Stuart Scott.