A Wexford entrepreneur who started selling strawberries on the side of the road at 13 years of age has revealed how his cheeky roadside signs sparked a successful career in marketing.
Mark Kavanagh (22) is due to launch his own strawberry-infused vodka with a leading supermarket at the end of the summer.
And it all started with his days experimenting with leftover fruit as a young boy.
He captured the attention of local media as a teen due to his innovative advertising style.
Signs such as “100pc orgasmic Wexford berries”, “Support the small man” and “The fruit, the whole fruit and nothing but the fruit” encouraged many drivers to pull in for a punnet.
Business was doing so well, he eventually had to open a second stall.
“I was a 13-year-old chap going up against proper established businesses and it’s not really possible to differentiate as we’re all selling the same product at the same price – but when I started putting up the signs, all of a sudden people were showing interest and they were coming to support you because you made them laugh,” he told the Irish Independent.
‘Mark’s Market’ was such a hit, it encouraged him to pursue a career in marketing.
He was just finishing up his three-year degree at the National College of Ireland when the Covid-19 pandemic came along – and he had no idea what to do next.
“I remember being in my student accommodation and I started Googling businesses that thrived during the recession, and the main ones were the tobacco and alcohol industries – and that’s when I thought about the strawberry vodka I made a few years ago.”
Instead of letting his leftover fruit go to waste, Mark mixed the strawberries with vodka and sugar in a container. The end concoction went down very well with his friends. During lockdown, he put his experiment to good use and commercialised the idea.
He has now created Wexbury Spirits, is doing a masters with the Smurfit Business School and is a top 10 finalist in Enterprise Ireland’s Student Entrepreneur Awards.
Meanwhile, his 13-year-old brother Ben is keeping the strawberry business ticking over with his own stall.
“I always said I was never going to sell strawberries for the rest of my life but, lo and behold, I’m selling Wexford strawberry vodka instead. It’s great to be able to promote Wexford and Greenhill Fruit Farm, who sold me the strawberries when I was a boy and whose product is used in Wexbury Spirits,” said Mark.