I never imagined that I could have so much in common with a pineapple or banana before sitting down with twins Rachel and Sarah Stanton, business partners and recent graduates of Temple University.
Sitting in the Fox School of Business, Sarah Stanton laid out a few of their brightly colored shirts in front of me, each one corresponding to a fruit and a personality type, which they sell through their business, Fruitstrology. With talkative grape, independent pineapple, active orange, charismatic peach, easygoing banana, ambitious coconut, smart apple, and funny pear available already, the pair are planning more options for the near future.
Searching for an oasis in a food desert
The sisters started the business in 2013 as students, with the premise that, for each shirt sold, they would donate a piece of fruit to a child in Philadelphia.
They got the idea when they saw children in north Philadelphia walking to school with potato chips and sodas in hand. They had been working with a group called Net Impact, which tended a community garden on Uber Street in north Philadelphia. But the Stantons realized they were only helping the kids who lived close by.
“We did some research and found out that there’s like a thousand corner stores to every one supermarket,” said Sarah. “And what’s at a corner store? Junk food. It’s cheap, it’s easy and accessible.”
“So we said, ‘How do we get more fruits to more children in Philadelphia?’ Well, what do we know how to do? We can make clothing. How do we get college kids involved and wanting to help? Let’s give them something cool.”
Sarah and Rachel loosely based the Fruitstrology concept on astrology and their own circle of friends. It took them about six or seven months to match the fruits and the personalities just right. Then they began screen-printing and dying shirts in their basement and selling them online and at public events around the city, making regular donations with their profits to the KidsBites initiative at food bank Philabundance.
The plan for the immediate future is to expand in other cities to help children outside of Philadelphia too. Right now, they’re looking for sources of funding to achieve this.
“Food deserts are everywhere,” Rachel said. “It’s a big problem in New York, so that would be our ideal place next. But there are other places, Los Angeles, Detroit. So if we can prove the model with Philabundance and be successful with that, we then can replicate pretty easily in other cities and get out there through retail.”
In it for the kids
Rachel admitted that things have been a bit slow since Fruistrology launched, mainly because she and her sister have jobs now. Since graduating from college, priorities have shifted just a little.
“Since graduation, there has been a lot of speaking events for young girls, high school girls,” Rachel said. “Normally they pay us to do them, but we donate it to Philabundance.”
KidsBites provides 58,000 meals annually to children and their families. Over the last two years, Fruitstrology has donated enough money to help provide 500 meals.
“Many people don’t realize that hunger is present right in their own backyard,” Lindsey Hughes, PR manager for Philabundance, said. “The more people who take a stand against hunger right here in our communities, the better chance we have of ending it forever.”
Sara and Rachel are definitely making a difference, Hughes added. Not only are they helping to alleviate childhood hunger in the region, but they are also raising awareness of the issue of hunger to their network of customers.
Fruitstrology became more of a personal mission for the sisters more and more as they continued venturing out to the community garden and talking to the kids. They speak very passionately about the children of Philadelphia.
“You don’t know it until you’re in it, and I think that’s when we were like: This is a big issue,” Rachel said. “We know that we like to create things, make clothing, make shirts. Let’s use what we’re good at, leverage that and use it to help these kids that we’re speaking to everyday.”
As I talked to Rachel and Sarah about their business, I could not help but wonder what fruits would best identify some of Philadelphia’s prominent individuals. Comedian Kevin Hart could probably be a funny pear. Could Mayor Nutter be considered a coconut — ambitious and goal-oriented?
And the people vying for his job? I can definitely see Lynne Abraham as an active orange. And I think all would agree that Doug Oliver is a smart apple. For me, Milton Street is an ambitious coconut. He knows what he wants to see in this city and he’s not letting anyone stop him from reaching that goal.