The Thorny Fruit Co is an online exotic fruit concierge start-up that has been operating in Sydney, Australia since April 2019 - founded and run as a sole-trader business by me, Zona Tan-Sheppard. The bootstrapped business started in my home garage, and eventually expanded into a storage and freezer space in Chullora.
Whilst business grew fast and furiously in the past two years, COVID accelerated business growth 1000-fold. My husband lost his job in March 2020, and The Thorny Fruit Co became the family's sole income.
The revenue and profit has not been enough to grow my frozen durian and fresh Australian exotic fruit business to keep up with customer demand and supply, and juggle my household expenses (two children and a mortgage) simultaneously.
In these two years, I have been a stickler for building The Thorny Fruit Co into a strong reliable brand. I have recently developed the business into maintaining the quality of the frozen durians delivered to customers utilising the hire of a weekly chilled/frozen delivery van contractor for home deliveries.
Since early 2021, I have committed to -
* an 6-month hire of a 3m x 2.3m freezer upgrade,
* palletised stock ordered bi-monthly,
* the monthly hire of two storage units, and
* advance order 1000 units of TTFC branded cooler bags.
However, I have not been able to retain reliable part time staff and have had to regrettably cut down on orders and deliveries to juggle family commitments and personal health.
As such, I've fallen hugely behind on cashflow, and I have a wholesale customer who owes me $20,000. I've come to a crossroad on whether to shut the business, or keep going...
A big part of me does not want to shut The Thorny Fruit Co. The business has become financially viable - and has ignited a deep passion for the food industry I've become a part. It has given me hope and dreams of growing it further into a concept dessert bar & fruit showroom, or expanding into other metro areas, or national delivery... I've learnt a lot about what I've done wrong and right in the past two years running TTFC.
Capital is holding my business back.
However, I know that TTFC has touched the lives and imaginations of many individuals and communities who have encountered me and this little business baby. I have a tiny inkling of hope that there are perhaps others out there who wants me to keep going.
I would be eternally grateful for the monetary support (big and small) and love anyone graces upon me and my family. It would mean that I can continue to put smiles on many faces for supplying them their favourite mangosteen, langsat or a well-handled durian.
And also help my children to learn what it means to run your own passion business.