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A Break-room Alternative The FruitGuys

How a Bay Area company that stocks businesses with fresh fruit grew to nearly $8 million in sales.



Looking for something healthier than what's in the snack machine? Call The FruitGuys. Chris Mittelstaedt's San Francisco-based business provides more than 1,000 clients with fresh fruit as an alternative to the usual break-room fare. With revenue of $7.7 million, the 12-year-old company claimed position 2,001 on the 2009 Inc. 5000.

I had lots of friends who were working long hours at dot-coms and surviving on chocolate-covered espresso beans and Jolt Cola. I thought it would be a good idea to sell them fresh fruit. My goal was simply to get people to put down the doughnut and pick up a peach instead.

The dot-com crash was a turning point. I was $100,000 in debt and was forced to reset my expectations and do everything I could to save the business, including laying many people off. I was sick to my stomach for weeks.

We want the company to grow and make profits, but we also consider ourselves social entrepreneurs. We're big advocates for farmers and local agriculture. We have buyers knocking on doors off country roads looking for new and unique fruits and vegetables.

I am an omnivore, but I haven't had fast food or soda in 12 years. I am definitely trying to live the goals and values I have for the business.

For more on the Inc. 500|5000, go to www.inc.com/inc5000.

Last updated: Jun 1, 2010

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DARREN DAHL is a contributing editor at Inc. Magazine, which he has written for since 2004. He also works as a collaborative writer and editor and has partnered with several high-profile authors. Dahl lives in Asheville, NC.

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