Startup: Bananas Gone Wild
Founder: Davonte Wilson
Location: Frisco, TX
Launched: October 2015
The pitch: In this world of electronic, ethereal communication, it’s refreshing to receive a physical letter or card. But what if the message could be written not on paper, but on a banana? Yes, a banana.
Not only would it be thoughtful, it would be funny. That’s the idea that came to Davonte Wilson, the founder of Bananas Gone Wild in Frisco, TX. He was sitting in class eight hours a day, training to be a cardiac software technician.
“It was very intense,” he recalls. “The material was very difficult. Going through the day, you would get very mentally fatigued, and I brought a couple of bananas each day as a snack. I’d draw heart rhythms and other doodling on the bananas to break up the monotony.”
Wilson was barely passing the quizzes and tests, and one day the instructor wrote on the top of one of his tests, “Maybe you should learn to write reports as well as you write on bananas?”
Wilson said everyone in the class poked fun at him and the bananas on which he doodled, but they also would stop by his desk and ask about them.
Wilson passed the course, and at the celebratory lunch for new hires, one of the executives suggested he keep it up. “I like to draw and he thought they were actually pretty cool.
He said, ‘We want you guys to have fun around here and I think it’s a good way to break up the day.’ I went home and thought, let me see if I can make something out of this.”
How it works: After lots of experimentation, Wilson now turns bananas into different characters, like Mr. Banana Head (a play on Mr. Potato Head), Superman and the Minion character from the “Despicable Me” movie franchise.
Customers request a saying, a particular drawing or both, and Wilson creates that on a banana. Some of the bananas include add-ons like beards or moustaches, eye glasses, eyes or glitter. Wilson draws and writes on the bananas using paint pens.
In order to decorate and ship the bananas before they are too ripe, Wilson buys them when they are barely green, decorates them and then wraps the stem in plastic to prevent it from ripening too quickly.
Traction: Wilson has customers all over the country and so many orders that he had to cut back his software technician job to two days a week.
Revenue: Monthly revenue is about $8,000 (A$10,450) a month –an average of 55 orders a day– and that’s net, he says. And yes, from bananas.
“We get them from Sam’s Club, about 8 for $1.05 (A$1.37) and shipping is about 3.50.” It’s $9.99 (A$13) for a basic decorated banana and then 99 cents (A$1.27) for every add on (like a bow tie, sunglasses, hair, etc.) but the average order is closer to $11 (A$14), with add-ons, says Wilson.
Did he ever think he’d be making a living this way? “No,” laughs Wilson. “But it’s a cool way to send a personal message to someone and lighten up their day, instead of the average greeting card or edible arrangement.”