By Tamara Pupic
The founder of Fruitful Day, Marie-Christine Luijckx explains how creative they need to be to improve office workers’ health.
Mothers are great multi-taskers who find solutions to many of life’s problems, keep the people around them happy, and always think about next steps.
Interestingly, these traits could describe entrepreneurs as well.
“I had thought about it, but I think motherhood really changes things,” says Marie-Christine Luijckx, managing director at Fruitful Day, a Dubai-based fruit box delivery company, when asked whether she had expected to turn to entrepreneurship after her eight-year career in banking.
She adds: “First of all, you challenge yourself in ways you never thought you would. And, secondly, because you start to think about life differently than you did before, this whole idea of creating something gets you in the mindset of creating something else.”
The Dutch-German’s successful career in banking started with a post at Deutsche Bank in 2006, and was followed by her climbing up the ladder within Barclays Bank until 2013 when she gave birth to her first child.
Going back to full-time banking hours wasn’t an option for this new mother, but remembering them gave rise to her own business idea.
“You’re sitting there sometimes until 7pm or 8pm and you just don’t have healthy snacking options,” Luijckx explains.
“Most offices just have a candy machine so you find yourself eating stuff that you shouldn’t eat.
“There are sometimes options downstairs but you don’t necessarily have the time to go and find something. And even if you go to find something fresh, like fruit, you don’t know about the quality of it. You don’t know how long it’s been sitting there, you don’t know about the taste.”
Joined by two friends, she started working on the Fruitful Day concept in January this year.
“Coming from a corporate world I felt like I really understood the customer we were trying to deliver to, so I was really able to place myself in their shoes and figure out what it was that they would want from a fruit box.”
Fruitful Day, a Dubai Investment Park-based start-up, delivers the staples boxes or the discovery boxes, small or large, to offices around the city.
The discovery box costs AED125 for a box of 25 servings for up to 10 people, or AED250 for a larger box of 50 servings for up to 20 people. Each contains 16 varieties of fruit.
The other option is the staples box, which costs AED95 for a small box and AED175 for a large box. It doesn’t include as wide a variety of fruit options as the discovery box, but it contains standard fruit like apples, navel oranges, and bananas, and a surprise addition every week.
The fruit is neither chosen nor sourced randomly, which is due to the vast expertise of the venture’s fourth partner – Yael Mejia, the founder of Baker and Spice, an artisan food shop concept set up in London in 1995 and expanded to Dubai in 2009.
Mejia ensures that their fruit is sourced from across the region, choosing the best of what each country has to offer.
There are numerous organic farms across the UAE, and the surrounding countries have substantial fruit credentials. To give an idea about the scale of production, farmers in Abu Dhabi alone produced over 38,800 tons of produce during the 2014-2015 farming season.
A wide range of fruit is grown in Saudi Arabia, including nectarines which come from a deciduous tree that needs to experience a certain number of hours at a low temperature in order to flower.
During the winter low temperatures in the dessert allow nectarines and other similar fruit to thrive in the neighbouring kingdom. Mejia knows all of this and much more.
“She really had the qualifications in terms of knowing where to get fruit and, more importantly, when to get it,” says Luijckx.
“So we sat down together and we agreed on this business concept.
“The first important thing was to learn about seasonality. Sometimes, when you go to the grocery store, you would see apples from America and they look nice, but in fact that apple is probably ten months old, and it’s just been sitting in a refrigerator.
“So you have to know when in a certain country certain fruits grow, and that’s something she’s learnt over the years.
“One week you can get it from Iran and it’s very good, the next week it’s not necessarily. You have to keep a detailed eye on the fruit that you’re choosing. That’s what we put a lot of energy into and what sets us apart from other businesses trying to do the same thing.
“Creativity is in curating the box of fruit because it’s not static, because every week you start from fresh, and you have to challenge yourself to find something that’s equally good, a different fruit that’s exciting for your customers to try.”
A growing body of research suggests that providing fresh fruit to employees has an impact on staff morale, satisfaction, and motivation. It can boost employee productivity and performance, and help companies to improve their bottom line.
Although the company is officially being launched this month, orders from offices across Dubai have already been flowing in.
Speaking about the convenience they offer customers, Luijckx says: “People are impressed that the fruit comes ripe, so we think about the details and also the taste of the fruit. That it doesn’t just look good, but that it actually tastes good.
“For offices this is just a small way that they can try to make sure that people are living a healthy life, and that in turn helps them because their employees are less absent, more productive, more motivated. So the benefits for companies are large while the costs are relatively small.”