I never imagined that our kid business idea and experiment would turn out to be so successful.
Here are some surprising stats. In 2 weeks, our online advertisement was seen more than 5000 times. We had more than 100 requests to buy our fruits and we actually had to turn down more than 50 people because we ran out of fruits to sell. We ended up selling more than 500 fruits and made $200 for about 10 hours of work (think about it, that’s $20 an hour)!
It was definitely not bad. To be honest, I am still shocked by the amazing result.
Keep reading and I am going to tell you what happened. I will also cover the following items:
- Why We Chose Fruit Picking As A Business Idea For Kids
- How To Choose Your Sales Strategy
- How To Choose Your Marketing Strategy
- How To Upsell
- How To Facilitate Repeat Sales
- Making The Process More Efficient
- Mistakes Made & Unexpected Wins
- Summary of Entrepreneurial Lessons For Kids
Why We Chose Fruit Picking As A Business Idea For Kids
We have a pretty old house but one of the fantastic things about our house is that it has a huge garden out the back. The garden also has several mature orange, lemon and grapefruit trees.
Because Mr. LeBrick loves peaches, we also planted a peach tree. Our hope was to supply ourselves with organic fruit.
We live in an area with a great climate for fruits and veggies in general; sunny and hot for most of the year.
I personally don’t enjoy gardening but there is something very satisfying about harvesting fruit from your own garden. However, it soon became apparent that there was going to be way more fruit than we could actually consume.
We started giving away fruits to neighbors and friends but while many of them loved our lemons, oranges and peaches, not many appreciated the sour taste of the grapefruits. I felt sad seeing the grapefruits decomposing on the ground and being wasted.
It was then that I decided that we should try selling the fruit to others who lived within driving distance to us. Because I wanted to teach Toddler LeBrick (who is almost two years) about entrepreneurship and hard work, we decided that she could play a part by helping to pick the fruits. All the money we collected would go towards her college or startup fund; whatever she decided to do with her life.
Is Fruit-Picking A Good Business Idea For Your Kids?
If you have a big garden where you can grow trees, fruit-picking is a great entry-level business for young kids. They can start as young as 1.5 years old if they are able to walk well, pick up items and put them into a bag.
Buy trees that are mature enough to start producing fruit within a year or so. It also would help greatly if you live in an area with great weather that is suitable for fruits.
The great thing about fruits is that they can be sold wholesale legally. This means that you won’t need a food license or permit to sell them from your garden.
Fruits can not only be sold wholesale, but they can also be turned into jams, pies and other types of baking goodies. If you are able to grow lemon trees where you are, you can eventually turn those lemons into lemonade so that your child can have their own lemonade stand too. Do note that these activities sometimes require food licenses, depending on your local laws.
So will fruit-picking work for your child?
It is unlikely that your child will become a millionaire by fruit-picking but it is a great way to introduce young kids to the concepts of hard work, marketing and managing money.
How To Choose Your Sales Strategy
There are many ways to sell fruits, depending on how many numbers and varieties of fruits you have to sell.
I thought about several options for selling the fruit but in the end, convenience and maintaining our privacy were the most important factors for us. These were the sales strategies I considered and their pros and cons:
- Customers come and pick from our garden.
Pro: Customers love the idea of picking their own fruits fresh off the tree.
Con: Our trees were in our back garden and we did not want our privacy or safety compromised. Also, choosing this strategy would mean that Toddler LeBrick doesn’t get to be involved with the picking.
- We pick and sell them at a local farmers market.
Pro: Toddler LeBrick would get to see what a real small business looks like. Potential sales could also be bigger.
Con: Selling at farmers markets would mean additional monetary and documentation hurdles to overcome. Also, farmers markets normally require a long-term commitment. We only had a limited number of fruits to sell and there would be no point having a stall once the fruits were gone.
- We pick and deliver fruits to customers’ locations.
Pro: Could potentially target more customers especially those who didn’t want to make an extra trip from their grocery shop to buy the fruits.
Con: Time-consuming. Not a great idea to drag a squirmy toddler into the car every time a delivery is requested! However, perhaps possible for larger orders of fruit.
- We pick fruits all at once and hold a one-off stall on our front lawn.
Pro: Get it all over and done with.
Con: Need huge upfront marketing to ensure that you have enough people to come and buy all the fruits at once. There is a risk that nobody turns up. Fruits have a short shelf life once picked from a tree and any unsold ones would probably have to be given away for free. Also, there is the potential problem of customers touching, choosing and damaging fruits while doing their selection. I would also have to put aside a whole day to supervise the stall on my front lawn.
- We pick fruits when customers requested them and I personally hand them to customers when they arrived.
Pro: Fruits stay on trees until a request to buy is received.
Con: Customers would have to make a trip out to our place, thereby limiting our potential customer pool to those who could and were willing to drive. I would also have to be home all the time while waiting for customers to turn up. There was also the risk that they might not arrive on time, arrive at an inconvenient time or fail to turn up completely.
- We pick fruits when customers requested them and customers pick them up from our front porch. They would leave money under our front door mat.
Pro: Fruits stay on trees until a request to buy is made. Customers can come whenever they want whether I am home or not, or tending to my child. We also maintain our privacy as I wouldn’t have to physically come out to meet the customers.
Con: Again, we were limiting our potential customer pool to those who could or were willing to drive out to us. There was also the risk of unscrupulous customers stealing fruits from our front porch.
After considering all the options above, I decided on the last option 6. This option would give us the most privacy, suit our lifestyle and inconvenience us the least. There was a risk that we would sell fewer fruits but I was fine with that. There was also a risk that our fruits could be stolen off our front porch but to be honest, I wasn’t too worried about such a loss.
I knew that getting the pricing wrong could make or break our kid business.
Basis Marketing 101 will teach you that great marketing can help you increase your pricing. Although this is true to an extent, a large part of pricing also depends on the type of product you are selling. Apart from quality, size and flavor, fruits are generally the same everywhere. Unlike a car which can vary greatly in features, design, speed, fuel economy, noise level, brand etc (you get the picture), fruits are generally sold in the same way in all grocery shops which limits how different you can price them.
I knew that our fruits were similar to organic fruits (a business advantage) but since we had no official certification as such, I labeled them as spray and pesticide-free instead of organic.
I knew that our business disadvantage was that customers had to travel to our house to pick up the fruits. I had to make sure that we priced the fruits cheap enough so that it was worth their time to come out to us.
Because of this, I researched the price of fruits sold in several local grocery stores and then priced it a little cheaper.
How To Choose Your Marketing Strategy
Next, I had to decide where and how I was going to market the fruits.
I did not want to use Craigslist as I wanted to focus on local customers so I decided on using Nextdoor first. Nextdoor is a website that enables neighbors in the same cities or nearby cities to connect with each other. We had a few inquiries from Nextdoor and sold to a few customers but I was not happy with the result.
My second try was to market the fruits on Facebook’s Marketplace. As it turned out, I had a much better response because Facebook Marketplace is seen by more people.
Here are some other tips on how to market your stuff well.
- Find your Unique Selling Proposition (USP) and use it in your marketing.
One of our first customers from Nextdoor commented on how she loved that we were a kid business and that the money would be used for college or something similar. I also noticed that almost all of our customers were female.
I realized at this point that our USP was that we were a kid business. I made sure that I continued to mention this in the subsequent ads that we put up on Facebook Marketplace.
- First impressions are everything.
I tried two different kinds of photos in our ads. In the first ad, I used a picture of some of our fruits in a cheery looking bowl. It got a decent amount of views but it wasn’t till I changed them to pictures of our fruit trees laden down with fruit that our views really blew through the roof and reached 5000 views. Interesting, huh?
How To Upsell
One of the most well-known methods of upselling is McDonald’s phrase, “Would you like fries with that?”
In our kid business experiment, I often received requests for the more popular fruits of lemons and peaches. However, we also had less of these fruits available to sell. When I received a request asking for only lemons or peaches, I would sometimes ask if they wanted any oranges or grapefruits too.
I also would give away free oranges and grapefruits to customers who didn’t order these so that they could try for themselves how great they were. This strategy did work a couple of times when the customer would return to buy these fruits as well.
How To Facilitate Repeat Sales
For customers that ordered through the Nextdoor website, I included a simple ‘Thank You’ handmade and handwritten card in bright colors and asked my toddler to scribble a signature in it. In the card, I also included my mobile number so that the customer could contact me directly if they wanted more.
I did this to create a personal touch and to also make it easy for our customers to order more from us.
However, this was time-consuming and I finally ditched the card when I moved to marketing on Facebook Marketplace as we had such a huge influx of inquiries all at once that I couldn’t even keep up!
Making the Process More Efficient
When we started receiving the unexpected interest from people on Facebook Marketplace, I realized that I needed to make our inquiry process more efficient to save time.
Instead of letting customers dictate the tone of the conversation, once I received an “Interested” Facebook message from a potential customer, I would immediately copy and paste a standard sentence that asked the potential customer how many fruits they wanted and when they would like to come and pick up. I used this assertive tone to weed out people who were not serious. It also helped me to gauge how many fruits we would have to pick for that day and how many more we had left to sell.
A second thing I did to increase efficiency was to ask customers to inform me if they were going to be more than 1.5 hours late behind the time they said they were going to turn up. It is not unusual for customers to be very late and some to not even turn up at all.
However, when I started explaining to potential customers that we didn’t want the fruits to sit out in the heat for too long, we had almost a 100% rate of customers showing up within a reasonable timeframe of the original scheduled time. The few who couldn’t make it due to unforeseen circumstances would reschedule to come the next day.
Mistakes Made & Unexpected Wins
I definitely made quite a few mistakes in this kid business experiment.
One of the first mistakes I made was to price the fruits too low in my first ad on Nextdoor. We only received a lukewarm response and I actually thought that I had priced the fruits too expensive. It turned out that the real reason that we did not receive a great number of inquiries was because Nextdoor’s selling portal wasn’t as well-designed and popularly frequented like Facebook’s.
The reason I know this is because when I put up a second ad on Facebook Marketplace, I absentmindedly priced it higher and the interest in the fruits turned into a frenzy.
Receiving such a huge amount of interest also created quite a bit of stress. Sometimes, I only received 15 minutes notice before a customer showed up at our front door.
Because these orders came in so quickly, I often had to pick the fruit myself instead of waiting for Toddler LeBrick to do it as she couldn’t pick them fast enough. This did mean that she wasn’t as involved in the kid business as I originally intended her to be.
Nevertheless, one unexpected win from selling on Facebook Marketplace is that I received quite a substantial number of large, bulk orders. I had several people asking to buy 25 fruits at once, one asking for 50 fruits and one even asked to buy everything we had.
I wasn’t used to these large, bulk orders when it started coming in and this led to my second mistake.
The second mistake I made was to forget that peaches are much, much more prone to damage than tougher-skinned fruits like lemons and grapefruits. Putting fruits out on the front porch in a paper bag or plastic bag was fine for the tougher-skinned fruits but when I did this for my first bulk order of peaches, they ended up becoming soft and squishy by the time the customer arrived home with the peaches.
This led to the first customer complaint that I received. I ended up having to replace almost all the fruits that the customer ordered.
To deal with the problem of the peaches ending up damaged in bags, I put out a cooler bin on our front porch and left the peaches in it. I asked the customers to come with their own bags and package them however they wanted and I always left extra in the cooler bin to replace for any damaged fruit.
As I already mentioned earlier, I always made sure that I gave our customers more than they ordered anyway. It was both to provide customers with free fruit samples but also as a sign of thanks and goodwill for their support of our kid business.
One unexpected win of doing this is that some customers actually left more money than agreed for the extra fruit anyway.
Summary of Entrepreneurial Lessons For Kids
The real purpose of this kid business experiment was for Toddler LeBrick to learn the concepts of hard work and some entrepreneurial skills. Although there were many concepts that were probably too advanced for her to pick up, I am sure that she benefitted from watching the process in action.
Here is a summary of the business concepts that kids can learn from such a fruit-picking business:
- Choosing a target market
- Unique selling proposition (USP)
- Choosing a suitable marketing medium
- Selling strategy
- Dealing with inquiries
- Repeat sales
- Increasing efficiency
- Dealing with stress.
Pretty impressive, huh? Who would have thought that kids could learn so many things from a humble, home-based, fruit-picking business?
I am a firm believer that life is a great teacher and learning to use what is available to oneself is a great way to plant entrepreneurial seeds in a child. Whether you decide to do a fruit-picking kid business or not, if you help your child to look around for opportunities, I am sure that you will be able to find something.
For other ideas on activities to encourage entrepreneurship with your child, see our article on 5 Best Activities to Do with Kids to Encourage Entrepreneurship.