Mary and Yeng Thao are launching an exotic fruit business
Mary and Yeng Thao at Wausau World Market, where the couple will launch MY Produce, a truck selling exotic tropical fruits in bulk quantities.
Mary Thao knew one thing for sure: There are a lot of great fruits that not many people in the Wausau area are familiar with, but they should be—because they’re absolutely delicious.
With her new business, Thao and her husband, Yeng Thao, hope to expand Wausau’s palate and help fruit lovers save money in the process.
On June 9 Thao will launch MY Produce at the Wausau World Market. It’s a mobile food truck selling tropical fruits in bulk quantities. Thao did some local testing of the mobile bulk sales idea, first starting with fruits most people are familiar with, such as bananas and oranges. But when she tested with more exotic fruits, such as rambutan, longan, passion fruit, dragon fruit and guava, that’s when people went bananas.
“They cleaned us out (of inventory),” Thao says. “We had to go to Minnesota to get more inventory for our two-day event.”
Some of the fruits MY Produce sells can be found at local Asian markets, Thao says, but My Produce specializes in bulk quantities, and works directly with growers. That allows her to get the freshest produce and sell it at low prices.
That makes them ideal for people with large families, who can go through fruit very quickly, meaning costs add up quickly too.
So far, all the marketing has happened on social media, and some very vocal supporters have become her influencers. Thao also runs a live feed on Facebook called “Welcome to Mary’s Kitchen,” in which she demonstrates how to eat and prepare some of these fruits, and how to use them in recipes such as smoothies.
Thao, who is the chief information officer for the Stockbridge-Munsee Community at Northstar Casino, says the truck will sell at the Wausau World Market and is working on other locations such as farmers markets (the challenge being that many markets require food sold to be sourced locally).
The food business goes back in Thao’s family. Her father, a political refugee, was the first Hmong broker dealer at the Minneapolis Farmers Market, meaning he was allowed to bring in produce from outside the allowed limits to sell at the market.
Thao lauded the programs available in the Wausau community to help business owners, such as MCDEVCO’s minority loan program, Wausau’s Entrepreneurial Center and the Wausau Regional Chamber of Commerce’s leadership program.
“I’m an example of what comes out of all these great programs and resources, as long as you utilize them,” Thao says.
For Thao and her husband, it’s about living the American dream. They both work day jobs and then run their business. Thao is on multiple boards including the Wausau School Board, and Yeng Thao is a sponsored bass fisherman. They also have a family of six. “Dreams are possible here,” Thao says.
For details search for MY Produce on Facebook.