When, having completed his secondary school education, Jonathan ‘Lil Red’ King’s mother, the popular Guyanese entertainer Michelle ‘Big Red’ King suggested that he “find a job,” the amiable and articulate Jonathan embraced her urging as a personal challenge, except that contrary to what might have been her expectation, he had no plans to join the ranks of the salaried employees. Instead, now 25, he opted for business and since December last year, he has been preoccupied with his modest entrepreneurial venture, Fruitylicious, a fruit salad venture which he says assertively is “catching on” encouragingly.
Every morning he is out of bed by three o’clock and along with his mother – his “biggest supporter” he calls her – begins to wash and chop the assorted fruit before packing the mix into plastic containers, a neatly designed Fruitylicious label pasted prominently atop each fruit bowl. At around 5 am the two are joined by a hired helper. The job done, the packaged fruit is stored in a giant cooler and placed in the back of a vehicle. ‘Lil Red’ is ready to hit the road.
Healthy eating is a “big deal” for Jonathan. He believes that his promising excursion into entrepreneurship is contributing to the good health of his clients, at what he believes is a modest cost. That, he says, is his biggest accomplishment.
He offers a fruit bowl containing in-season local fruit – watermelon, papaw, pineapple, orange, tangerine and cucumber are his staple fruit – at $300. For an additional $200 he adds extra helpings of grape and apple. The extent of the patronage he receives tells him that his product as much as his prices meet with the approval of his customers. Once he ‘hits the streets’ Jonathan transfers pre-determined numbers of pre-packaged fruit into a basket to begin the day. There are pre-ordered deliveries to fill and ‘regulars’ whom, the absence of a prior order notwithstanding, would be keen to engage him. He offers customized salads too, allowing the customer to telephone him with particular directives regarding the type of fruit that the salad should comprise. He offers free delivery for orders of three or more fruit bowls.
Over time he has learnt what he says is sometimes the challenging pursuit of negotiating with farmers and vendors. While on the one hand fruit prices can vary significantly depending on availability, his own margin for upward price movement is limited. His strengths, he believes are the affordability of his product, the customized fruit salad which he offers and his free delivery service. He is he says, prepared to explore other ways of serving his customers and is keen to share ideas over the phone at 630-4056.
There is another ‘selling point’ to young Jonathan. He clearly thrives on his ability to win over customers. He completed his CXC examinations at Apex Academy on the East Coast Demerara though he makes only fleeting mention of his seven passes which include two ones and two twos, his heart set on broadening his entrepreneurial horizons.
He conceptualizes his business growth in incremental stages…first, he is aiming to establish fruit carts at several busy intersections in the city after which he hopes to own a salad bar that offers creative fruit plates, smoothies and milk shakes.
Those ambitions, however, are still some distance from realization. For the foreseeable future ‘Lil Red’ is prepared to ‘rise and shine’ at 3 in the morning and join hands with his mother to prepare to provide the service which he believes could be an important stepping stone to the accomplishment of his goals.