At a time when many businesses were suffering a downturn because of the Covid-19 lockdown, best mates Jason McIlwaine and Phil Lagudi – saw an opportunity for a new business – Produce Drop.
“We had been talking about a fresh produce delivery business on and off for a few years, but it was the Covid-19 pandemic that spurred us into action,” said Jason, with Phil adding, “we believed that providing a contact free delivery of high quality, fresh market produce would keep people in good nutritional health while reducing the risk of infection associated with being outdoors and around other people.”
Not content with a business that just sells fresh produce, the guys wanted to create a brand that provides a genuine alternative to the larger chain stores and educates people that they can access top quality produce direct from the markets, while supporting the smaller vendors devoted to producing the best produce possible.
One characteristic found in all small businesses is passion and there is passion in spades at Produce Drop. Long before sunrise you will find Jason and Phil at the Flemington Fresh Produce Market selecting the best of the fruit and vegetables. Produce Drop has its warehouse located within the market precinct, so once purchased the produce goes straight into refrigeration ensuring the freshest possible produce for its clients.
Jason and Phil’s enthusiasm is backed with experience – “My family has been in the fresh
produce industry for over 50 years”, Phil explains, “I worked more than four years on the grounds at the market with my dad and uncles before following my passion for cars and starting my own venture”. “My passion for the industry stemmed from my early years, living on a farm in Lithgow where we used to grow apricots, peaches and plums,” said Jason, adding proudly “mum actually became a globally recognised, award winning jam maker.”
The guys at Produce Drop already have a lot to be proud of but their proudest moment to date was the launch of their first major video content piece (video below) . They teamed up with HeyBuddy Films and created an incredible video that showed some of the behind the scenes activities at Produce Drop. The feedback from family and friends was so positive and the additional sales that followed the video’s release was awesome. There’s a part 2 and part 3 in the pipeline and the guys are really excited about releasing them.
Like many small business owners, the author included, marketing was a challenge initially for Phil and Jason. When asked what the most challenging aspect of their business has been, Jason said, “I’d say the biggest challenge we have faced would be on the marketing front, but in saying that we have practically overcome it. Neither Phil nor I are marketing gurus and the amount of information we have absorbed and the energy we have put towards enhancing our marketing skills definitely proved to us that there is a great deal more to marketing than just writing a caption or posting a photo”.
If you are wondering what to order first, Jason recommends ‘The Refresh Drop’ – a really nice balance of fruit and vegetables. Always a great option, you get plenty of vegetables for your dinners throughout the week and a nice level of fruit to snack on and have with your breakfast each morning! If you aren’t a big vegetable eater the guys have got you covered with ‘The Fruit Drop’, by far Produce Drop’s most popular product. Key to The Fruit Drop’s popularity is the extensive variety of fruit provided, such a great mix of staples & exotics. Produce Drop’s point of difference is that, not only is its produce super fresh and high quality, but through Phil and Jason’s knowledge they can provide their clients with items that they might not normally buy themselves. “It helps our community of clients to explore and have fun in the kitchen, whether it’s prepping new recipes or introducing their children to new fruits and vegetables,” notes Phil adding, “It makes it fun and easier for children to get their nutrition! We have had such great feedback since our launch, and we are confident our clients are really enjoying this opportunity.”
All the produce boxes are super cost effective and the guys are confident the quality blows the leading chain stores out of the water! So, rather than shopping at the big supermarkets, do your taste buds a flavour and pick up one of the Produce Drop’s specialty boxes!
From the start Phil and Jason were determined that Produce Drop would be more than just a ‘service for money’ business and would be involved charitable initiatives that would help members of the community that were doing it tough. One recent initiative the guys were very enthusiastic about was a giveaway to a Defence Family community in East Sydney. After the success of the giveaway they are looking for more opportunities to engage with the community.
Having previously teamed up with a group of mates to launch and operate the charity ‘Beat the Breakdown’, a mental health charity which raised over $240,000 to create awareness and help those in rural NSW, as Jason says, “It is something I’m really passionate about and I know Phil is as well. We love to create initiatives to serve the community and will probably look to partner with OzHarvest, those guys do a great job in terms of charity within the fresh produce community.”
So, what’s next for Produce Drop? “We have so much in the pipeline, … we are really excited by some partnership discussions we are having with other businesses and we are preparing to provide a business Drop service to Sydney offices”. That’s just the start – the Guys are constantly looking at ways to expand the business and develop their Drops. The new Athlete Drop is an exciting move we’ve just made, linking up with some NRL Superstars like James Tedesco, Adam Doueihi and others to help us promote it.
Currently Produce Drop is delivering to most of Sydney but keep an eye on Produce Drop as it continues to expand its delivery reach and produce range!