Nation’s leading fruit provider pivots to survive

The FruitGuys CEO talks about their response to the pandemic and how they are helping others in need.
3:48 | 09/03/20

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Transcript for Nation’s leading fruit provider pivots to survive
decisions just to survive. Here to tell us how he reshaped his $40 million fruit delivery business while continuing at the same time to give back to the community, the founder and CEO of the fruitguys, Chris Mittelstaedt is here with us. Chris, thank you for being with us. Before this pandemic I know you ran a very successful business. You were providing fresh fruit and snacks to workplaces all over the country. Talk about what covid-19 did to your business. Thanks for having me, Amy. Covid-19 has been devastating to our business. In the first 15 days of the pandemic back in March, businesses started closing and we saw about a 90% drop in our business because of that. We've been pivoting and trying to do all that we can as we continue to stay in business and serve folks with healthy fresh fruit. Tell us how you've been able to shift your business model to keep things going. So, for our corporate customers, our office customers, we have some remote work programs now where we can send produce and snacks to folks at home. We also pivoted into a home delivery business of fruits and vegetables all over the united States. We've also added some other programs as well too. One of the things that we've always done over the last 22 years is we've donated to charity partners to help them feed those that are hungry and we've also been in great support of small farmers. We have seen that our small farmers have been severely impacted not just because of the decrease of our sales volume but also just across the board they're seeing challenges. We've run some campaigns for specific farmers. We did run recently for a farmer in southern California that grows Oranges where he's facing having to pull out many of his trees because he just doesn't have the volume and the money really to keep them alive. So we're doing a program there to help him. We're also trying to do programs to actually help our nonprofit partners as well too, as they've seen an increase in need and a decrease in volume. Yeah, that's fantastic that you're doing all you can, and unfortunately you mentioned initially losing 90% of your business. You eventually not only had to furlough your employees, you had to lay them off. How did you reach that very difficult decision? Yeah, it was horrible, to be honest. As a family business that's been around for 22 years, we've had employees we've worked with for decades, and to have to make a decision to, you know, say good-bye to those relationships is just horrible and I am working hard every day. The goal here is that we won't consider a success in our recovery until we can go and offer those folks jobs again and bring people back. I know your workplace is your family and your employees are part of that in every way. What advice would you give to small businesses, to companies who are going through obviously a tough time and trying to keep things going? What would you tell them? We have a really big approach to thinking about the world through the lens of in how are we in service to others. The one thing I can say that's been a guiding force for me is thinking about service as the thing that drives me every day and gets me up to say, like, how do we keep moving and how do we keep thinking about serving customers and serving those in need. So coming up with creative business solutions so that we can continue to do that like our fight hunger program which folks can find on our website if they're interested but those are the things that really motivate me and keep my energy up so we keep driving forward. This is a beautiful mission and hopefully very inspirational to everyone out there. Chris Mittelstaedt, thank you for all that you're doing and for sharing your story with us. Thank you so much for having me. Coming up next when we come

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