Closing the Chapter

Effective May 2022, The Thorny Fruit Co will no longer run weekly deliveries, and the business will be wounded down to close - as I can no longer keep the business running.

The durian buffet Sat 14 May will be my last event for 2022. There might be a group buy for fresh air-flown Musang King Malaysian durian in June/July. Then The Thorny Fruit Co online concierge chapter of my life will close.

Have you ever had to choose between buying food for the family, and paying off your mortgage, utility bills and business loan?

I have. My husband recently lost his job for the third time since March 2020.

After 4 years since I was made redundant on maternity leave, and had to deal with PTSD returning to work, I have returned to full time employment.

For the past 4 years, The Thorny Fruit Co has been my full time job. My enthusiasm and passion for creating awareness about Australian grown tropical fruit, and the multi-faceted beauty of durians kept me going whilst I struggled.

Today, I am struggling to keep the business and my family financially afloat. I no longer feel the support of the community, nor does my heart spark joy to keep this business running. There is another calling. Elsewhere.

Of late, I have found it more difficult to mentally bear the unkindness from some customers.

My recent diagnosis that I have had lifelong inattentive ADHD, and Rejection Sensitive Dysphoria (RSD) back in August last year, slammed a nail on the head as to why I can't manage negativity these past 43 years of my life.

Complaints that deliveries are too late when I can only afford one delivery driver every week to cover the whole of Sydney between the Northern Beaches to Sutherland, and Penrith to Bondi.

Complaints that AfterPay shouldn't be removed from my website (even though they charge me 10-15% commission fee without transparency).

Complaints that my website doesn't say where I don't deliver.

I recently got blamed that I spoilt someone's Mother's Day because I "falsely advertised" my website had AfterPay (in spite of explaining I had technical problems trying to remove it!).

I get blamed for price gauging, when I don't even earn enough to cover the costs of my business!

I don't set the cost of what I buy from suppliers, but I mark up what I feel reasonable. I don't have control over supply and demand. I suffer when supply is already so low, and people get angry with me when I cannot fulfil demand. Especially for "affordable" exotic fruit. The expectation is hurtful. The expectations are unrealistic. But I don't have control of people's perceptions. I can only suffer the hurt they impose on me.

A grower had even once accused me of spoiling the market, of being a fraud, and that should not represent Australian tropical fruit. That hurt me.

I'm not a market leader. I doubt what I even buy and sell online is worth 1% the whole industry. But people perceive that an active online presence = big rich profits. No. I wouldn't be struggling to pay my mortgage if that was the case!

I was used by a supplier to promote his products into the market for free, and then driven to debt. Even after I had repaid the debt to this supplier and announced it publicly on social media, he had still gone to around spreading rumours to my other suppliers that I had been unable to pay his $40k debt. The business should have died at this point, but I kept it going to use the revenue to pay my debt off.

A threat by a customer that she would report me to the ACCC for writing "whilst stocks last" for free gifts that have run out.

People email me demanding I send to Brisbane, Melbourne or Perth... and even rural towns. I say no, because the fruit will ROT when it arrives. The times I say yes, the fruits rot and I am left out of pocket because the customers are unhappy.

Australia is not a great place for fresh fruit direct to customer logistics fulfillment. The number of times Australia Post refused to refund me for rotting produce that arrived 2 weeks late, even when I spent money on 3-5 days Express Post.

The general attitude towards The Thorny Fruit Co as though I run a Coles/Woolies/Harris Farm with an 8-figure profit and hundreds of staff, when a customer demands a refund for durians that "don't taste good/too bitter".

Whilst I'm complimented that people think I run a big business because I know how to market and brand, I struggle with the misconception.

I am a SOLE TRADER. Not a Pty Ltd.

When I truthfully tell a customer a product isn't good, but they insist on it anyway then demand a refund after I had spent time getting the product to them. When I ask for an service admin fee, I get told off. This says to me, I am not worth my time or feeding my family.

Every single loss counts a magnitude to a micro one-person, niche business. It means I have to choose between making a customer happy and working elsewhere to pay for the financial loss. Or not paying my household bill, whilst I pay my supplier.

I count myself blessed if the month's sales helps me cover my website fees, before any extra revenue can be used to feed my family.

The perspective and priorities of these complaints over the years have hurt me. There are days where these comments and feedback make me feel suicidal and worthless.

Cumulatively, it is enough for me to say, "no more." I am not exaggerating. These are all recorded, real experiences I have faced this last 3 years.

Whilst I'm sure many business owners can relate as part of life running a business, I realised it is not for me.

On the flip side, I have made some invaluable friends, have a strong validation that there is a need for this niche business in Australia, and I learnt a lot about myself over these years.

Most of all, that while I can kick all those short term high flying sales and marketing goals, I am not cut out to run a business in the long term. Especially not alone. Without a team to play to strengths, my dyscalculia makes managing finances utterly painful. The worse weakness there is to keep a business running.

The lack of a pre-frontal cortex filter means I naturally cannot "fake it til you make it", without suffering some degree of emotional and mental trauma.

Overexplaining things is natural to me. It keeps me ethical in doing business. I write a lot of things online to describe how I run the business, describe as much as I truthfully can on my social posts and web product descriptions. Yet, it hurts me when people don't take time to read, and accuse me of false advertising. Apparently, my truthfulness is not a good skill to run a business. People take advantage of me, and want me to fill their ideas of what Southeast Asia in Sydney should be like - cheap shit and lies.

My ADHD makes it difficult to be around people in public. After running events and markets, all I want to do is become a hermit for prolong periods of time.

The ADHD-RSD I suffer makes it difficult to emotionally regulate when dealing with customer service and feedback, to the point that my family suffers when my executive functions shut down for days. This then ends up perpetuating a cycle of bad reviews  online which affect my self-esteem.

I feel like my ADHD has compounded my loss of support in the community. Therefore, I'm no longer worthy to be of service to you. I am worthless and alone.

With that, I feel that this business no longer carries value to me and my family. For the sake of my mental health, I'm going to wind down The Thorny Fruit Co.

My Instagram account will likely be transformed into a content creator channel to share what that I've learnt about the Australian tropical fruit industry, and experiences I've had recently whilst in Far North Queensland. While the Facebook pages and groups will be shut.

Do I sell the business? If anyone wants to buy it. Have I tried to find a business partner? Yes.

Yet nothing has come to fruition, and I can no longer keep going. Running a business is for the mentally fit. Someone I am not.

It's a sign that the time has come for the end. Thank you for the music.

3 comments

  • HI Zona,
    Hope you and your family are well. When you have time and can spare some free time I would like to ask you for a coffee with your husband to see if there is any other approach to keep the business running and I might join you. Hope to hear from you. Thanks Frank Lee.

    Frank Lee
  • Hi zona it’s Anthony I am glad I was apart of your business from the start. I learnt about exotic fruit growing in Australia and had Australian grown durian for the first time ever. The fresh Aussie grown fruits like champadak and the rare red wild durian was brilliant. Yes it is hard for most of us at the moment and dealing with exotic fruit is expensive. But you always put a smile on my face when I bought from you I actually grow some rare fruits at home and love all that type of stuff you will be mist. But always health and family first and I wish you the best of luck in the future my face book page is Ant man so if yah ever wanted to add as friends it would be great but take care and much blessings. ✌

    Anthony maltman
  • Thank you. Sorry we couldn’t buy more. But give us a chance to order remaining stock if available

    Ian

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