U of O student starts fruit catering business

 Photos courtesy of Jacqueline Bonilla

While some students are just trying to manage the stress of a full course load, Jacqueline Bonilla is working hard as a student and a mother. On top of all that, she has also started her own business.

This September, while completing the fourth year of her honours specialization in sociology with a minor in communications, Bonilla registered Fruit Couture, a catering business with which she creates platters, sculptures, and other designs using fruit.

She came up with the idea for Fruit Couture when she was invited to her boyfriend’s sister’s baby shower. Bonilla was asked to bring a cheese plate, but she wanted to do more.

“I wanted to bring something creative and different and she was having an owl-themed baby shower,” she says. “I was kind of looking online for ideas and I found one. I thought, ‘I think I can do that.’”

Instead of the cheese plate, she brought an owl made of fruit. She was happy with how it turned out, and when she brought it to the baby shower people were impressed with how realistic it looked.Arts_FruitCouture2_Jacqueline BonillaWEB

“I had fun doing it,” she said. “I just liked the way it looked.”

Wanting to make more fruit designs, she felt she could turn it into a business and use her PR experience to help it grow.

“I took a PR (public relations) course two years ago,” she says. “I just fell in love with everything they do.”

After taking the course, she volunteered to do PR and marketing at a Latin festival and she’s now using what she learned from the course and her volunteer work to start and promote her own business.

Balancing her new business with her course load and her role as a mother can be challenging.

“It can get difficult, but I have a lot of support from my family,” she says. “I have to manage my time—I really have to make priority for my studies first. “

As she works on her fruit creations, her son is there to cheer her on.

“He has fun just sitting there with me,” she says. “I guess he’s like a little supporter, you know?”

As a student, she understands managing time and trying to live with a budget. With that in mind, she tries to make her fruit bouquets affordable for students. This month, she’s also donating $5 from every fruit bouquet to the Breast Cancer Foundation in honour of Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

“It can happen to anybody and I’m very supportive of women,” she says. “I just believe in the cause. I believe it’s important to raise money for research.”

For now, her business is growing slowly, which allows her to continue focusing on her studies and family. Her customers come to her when they’re holding baby showers, birthdays, and other events. She also has salespeople buying fruit bouquets for their clients.

Bonilla has a variety of designs available, and she also works with clients to create platters, sculptures, and other fruit selections to meet the needs of their event. Working out of her home for now, she hopes to eventually open a boutique where she can show and sell her fruit bouquet designs.

For students looking to start their own business, Bonilla says it’s important to research the business they’re interested in, look into community resources for funding and business counselling, and use social media.