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Fruitful Idea

Internet and fruit equals profit.

Internet and fruit equals profit.

Barry W. Gainer calls himself a high-tech farmer. But it wasn't always that way. His family's fruit business, The Indian River Gift Fruit Co., was a simple operation that changed little through the years--until Gainer juiced up sales by developing an Internet presence.

"I figured it would be a good way for a small business like ours to advertise effectively at a low cost," explains Gainer, CEO of the Titusville, Florida-based business. "But the whole family thought I was nuts."

Still, he forged ahead, convinced that a site peddling oranges was ripe for the picking. He began by researching gift sites, soliciting advice from customers and discussing his idea with business experts on the Net. Then, in September 1995, Gainer launched his first site on America Online (keyword: fruit), and later rolled out a second site on the World Wide Web (http://www.giftfruit.com).

Customers find more than just your average fruit basket here, though. Besides enabling users to order a variety of citrus products mailed directly to their doors, Gainer adds value to both sites by hosting contests, posting recipes and supplying the skinny on the Florida fruit farming industry. Recently, he also began offering fresh products produced by other family-owned small businesses nationwide.

Today, some 25 percent of the company's revenues are generated on the Internet. What's the key to a successful Web site? Says Gainer, "Our success is based on the fact that we're constantly incorporating feedback from customers because we want them to be happy and use us again."

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This article was originally published in the January 1997 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Fruitful Idea.

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