By Apornrath Phoonphongphiphat Bangkok Post, Thailand
WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Entrepreneur Natteera Kanjawatkul started taking photos of her fruit as a hobby. Her Facebook and Instagram fruit photos became so popular it inspired her to create an online platform to sell and export fruit for a living.
Bangkok Post, Thailand
It pays to be finicky, especially when it comes to food, a young entrepreneur has discovered.
In fact, it goes a long way towards helping Natteera Kanjawatkul's to achieve her dream of owning a business -- with some help from technology.
"I have always been fussy and picky about everything, from eating, fruit in particular, to my whole lifestyle," says Ms Natteera, 32. It was a trait, picked up at a young age, that made her parents concerned about her future.
Their fears were allayed when she graduated with a bachelor's degree from the School of Communication Arts at Bangkok University, and carved out a career in public relations.
However, Ms Natteera wanted more than just a job. She wanted to run her own business -- and what better way for a new venture than turning her finicky nature to her advantage and expanding on her parents' fruit exporting business.
"The new venture started easily because of what I am, which is being picky about eating, particularly eating fruit. I would normally choose the best and freshest fruit for myself. It could be an annoying habit, but for me looking for the best fruit to eat is not a crime and I was happy with it," she says.
Ms Natteera always took photos of the fruit she selected and posted them to her Facebook account. Her fruit posts became quite popular, and were shared with friends and others.
It was this that inspired her to think about using an online platform as a channel to sell a product that she knows well and enjoys.
In 2014, Ms Natteera started her own small venture of selling premium-grade fruits on Instagram and Facebook.
"My instincts were telling me to give it a go. I started posting pictures of a variety of fruits along with their prices and delivery fees. Soon I began to attract orders," she says At the beginning, she needed to make deliveries to customers herself.
"It may not have been very profitable in the initial stages to drive my own car for delivery to the clients, but I continued to do it in order to maintain my reputation," she says.
"Luckily, I started the business on Mother's Day, when people were looking for healthy gifts for their mothers, and quality fruit is an ideal gift."
The business started off well, with many customers ordering large quantities of fruit from her. This encouraged her to take the plunge to create a proper business.
Ms Natteera resigned from her public relations job to partner with two friends and in late 2014, set up PS Fruits Supply Co, which distributes premium grade fruits under the "Thai Orchard" brand.
She pooled funds with her partners and invested around 1 million baht to buy two pickup trucks with chilling rooms installed on them and hired a few employees to pack the fruit.
"I just realized that my pickiness has paid off since it helps me select fresh and flawless fruits for my clients, which are then packed carefully," she says.
"I am happy when I am selecting fruits and it has also become a learning experience, teaching me what the best strains of strawberries, cherries, or mangoes are and where can I seek them out. "
With positive feedback from consumers and growing trust in the quality of her fruit, Ms Natteera says she needs to manage deals with overseas agent to supply several exotic fruits such as cherries from the US, melons from Japan and kiwis from New Zealand.
She also deals with local fruit traders all around Thailand that have premium grade seasonal fruits to be distributed to her customers.
The business progressed smoothly, with the number of clients rising from a few customers a day to dozens, encouraging her to open an office in Rangsit district with a new chilling room to store imported fruits.
She now has three chilled pickup trucks and one chilling store in the Rangsit office and hires six employees, with sales volume rising to around 7 million baht a year.
"It remains a small business, which suits my situation," she said.
Ms Natteera has managed to expand her delivery services from customers only in Bangkok and surrounding areas to across the country and even customers in Laos.
"Thai Orchard" delivers premium-grade fruits to clients by packing fruits in shockproof packaging with chilling gel. For delivery to remote regions, the fruits are sent through airport terminals and bus terminals where they are then picked up by clients.
"Delivery rates range between 280-400 baht, but clients accept this as there are some clients who order up to 10,000 baht worth of fruit per delivery. Clients in Laos even cross the border checkpoint and drive 40 kilometres to receive the cargo at Udon Thani airport," she says.
The far-reaching success of her business proves that there is strong purchasing power in the rural areas and neighbouring countries, Ms Natteera adds.
"I can guarantee that I have picked every single fruit personally, and I want my customers to eat premium grade fruit, as I prefer to myself. I can guarantee clients will be 100% happy with the fruit I sell them," she says.
Today, Ms Natteera says she plans to expand her business further by set up fruit distribution hubs in all regions of Thailand in order to improve the logistics system to better serve her clients.
When asked if she is happy with her business, she nods earnestly. "Yes I am, and I am sure that my clients are happy as well because I don't only sell fruit, I sell happiness from eating great fruit."