It’s no secret to anyone in business that one of the most dramatic changes brought about by the pandemic has been the emergence of eCommerce as an essential tool for retailers that want to thrive in a post-pandemic world.

As recently as a year or so ago, eCommerce was considered a “cool” toy by many brands or the “future” of retail, implying that the future was well down the road. These brands considered eCommerce little more than just another convenience for customers.

That changed almost overnight.

Today the internet is the new “Main Street” for millions of consumers, and eCommerce is the storefront. This is becoming more prevalent every day.

According to Digital Commerce 360, consumers spent $861 billion online with U.S. retailers in 2020, a striking 44% increase from $598 billion spent in 2019.

This spike shows a dramatic change in consumer behavior in what is a relatively short amount of time. As a result, some brands responded well to this shift while others scrambled to react.

At Edible, we were able to respond almost seamlessly, leading to what was a record-setting year in terms of sales. More importantly, however, thanks to decisions made two decades ago, we were able to quickly adjust to the “new normal.” We effectively took care of our customers — both existing and new — even at the height of the global shutdown.

Looking back now, I realize that getting Edible into the eCommerce game early not only paid off, but it set us up for future success in ways we never could have foreseen.

Early adoption

Back in 1999, like many young entrepreneurs at the time, I was fascinated by the dot-com boom. As has happened throughout history when disruptive new technologies come along, a lot of people questioned early on the potential of the internet as a tool for retail. At the time, most of the naysayers simply didn’t understand it.

Yet in my mind it was clear even then that because of the rate at which the internet, browsers and other tools were evolving, it was only a matter of time before it would become a disruptive force to traditional retail. I was eager to get in on the action.

I took what was then an unconventional step for retailers by designing our website ordering and delivery system before I even opened the doors to our first store in East Haven, Connecticut.

From day one, my bet on technology paid off. Almost immediately our website was a catalyst for business demand. At that time, the idea of placing an order on the internet was still new, and many people were skeptical about giving their credit card numbers to a computer. But still, our site generated about 30% of our orders, a significant number for the era. Most importantly, we were laying the foundation for what would become the cornerstone of a global business based around emerging technologies.

That commitment led to the eventual creation of a full development team that would become NetSolace and, later, incorporating Naranga and its expansive range of digital services into the business building tools available to our franchisees. Over time, our talented development teams developed state-of-the-art eCommerce and POS systems allowing all our franchisees to digitally connect and conduct business through the Edible cloud. By building these capabilities internally we also created a strong barrier to entry for those looking to enter our segment.

Little did we know at the time that we were perfectly positioning ourselves to become a critical resource for millions when a pandemic would sweep the world 20+ years later.

With technology comes opportunity 

Over time, eCommerce is ultimately what allowed us to rapidly grow and develop such a dynamic franchise system. As consumers became more comfortable conducting business online, our dynamic eCommerce system coupled with our ability to hand deliver Edible’s signature arrangements right to a customer’s front door created an omni-channel franchise model that allowed thousands to pursue the American Dream of business ownership.

We now have what I believe to be the ideal business model not only for the fast-paced business environment of today – as we proved during the pandemic – but more importantly, we have a business model perfectly designed for the needs and opportunities of tomorrow. We have a robust eCommerce platform that has been constantly evolving over the past two decades and continues to do so. We have dedicated franchise owners who are passionate about the communities they serve. Having franchise owners in the mix gives us a unique ability to personalize our eCommerce capabilities. We refer to it internally as the “last-minute, last-mile,” meaning that when you order a gift from, you know the person receiving and fulfilling that order is a contributing member of your local community and not someone in a mystery distribution center hours away. That means something to us. It means something to our franchise owners. It means something to their local economies.

With technology comes innovation 

Of course, when it comes to technology, standing still is not an option.

According to my daughter Somia Farid Silber, Edible’s vice president of eCommerce, “the beauty of eCommerce is that it’s so easy to pivot offerings and messages.” Not surprisingly, is vastly different today from what it was when I first launched the business. But it’s also different today than it was a month, or even a week ago.

As the perfect tool for introducing and maximizing new offerings more efficiently than ever before, the possibilities of eCommerce are endless. In many ways, we are still just scratching the surface two decades later. Just within the last year, we’ve used as the primary source for introducing an array of new product categories. We’ve also used it to test a wider range of products and price points to appeal to broader audiences than ever before.

But as much as things change and our systems evolve along with those changes, one thing always remains the same: the consumer is the driving force behind it all.

The secret to eCommerce success

More and more businesses are recognizing that eCommerce is a key to surviving and thriving in the modern marketplace. Furthermore, companies now see that the technology exists for them to incorporate it into their businesses in a way they can truly own, rather than being forced to play by the rules of 800-pound online gorillas like Amazon and Walmart.

The dynamic evolution of software and platforms is helping businesses go digital like never before. At Naranga, for example, our team has developed fully-integrated operation management software tools that allow more than 400 franchise companies to seamlessly control their brand to drive sales, improve operational efficiency and connect with their individual franchisees.

Of course, as more companies get in on this digital transformation, there’s more out there to compare. Whose website is flashiest? Whose app design is the most creative?

As proud as I am of the robust platform is today — made possible by our decades of working to perfect it — our eCommerce capabilities are ultimately just a means to an end.

At its core, eCommerce is really no different than any other type of commerce. It’s all about the consumer, and it always has been. When I first launched Edible Arrangements with what was then considered a dynamic website, I didn’t do it to show off what I could do with some fancy new technology. I did it because it was the best way to give my consumers what they wanted, which was and still is a positive yet convenient shopping experience that results in a quality product – something that WOWs them.

Consumer preferences will continue to shift, and we will continue to be at the forefront of responding to those shifts. For example, we’re already working on expanding our delivery infrastructure to include high-tech vans that can store fresh products to make delivery even faster. As our eCommerce system gets better, so too should the way we fulfill orders.

I’m proud of the eCommerce brand Edible has become, but I’m even more proud of the fact that we’ve proven our ability to innovate and adapt our technology to meet the needs of this new environment. That is the key to survival in the digital age, and I’m confident after all these years – and after the past year in particular – that we’re ready for whatever comes next.

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It’s hard to believe we are nearing the end of 2020 and, before we know it, the holidays will be over and we’ll be starting fresh with a new year. If nothing else, 2020 will leave us with plenty of memories — both good and bad.

For us at Edible, we haven’t been immune to the lows brought on by this year. At the same time, we’ve been fortunate to have experienced some of the highest of highs, including sales numbers like we’ve never seen in 21 years of business.

There are many other milestones we’ve achieved this year, and as a result I’ve recently been repeatedly asked by the media and others in the industry: “How did you do it?” The answer is simple. We did it TOGETHER. 

There’s no “I” in “TEAM” 

A successful business is like a champion sports team. The different players on the team depend on each other, challenge each other and ultimately will only achieve their championship dreams if everyone is doing their job effectively. A team made up of all the best players working together toward one common goal is unstoppable. 

It’s taken time to find this perfect combination for us, but the team we have assembled at this point continues to produce incredible results regardless of the challenges put in front of them. I’m fortunate to be surrounded by a group of men and women who are singularly focused on our brand’s mission to “WOW” our customers with everything we do. 

As simple as this mission may be, keeping it at the core of our efforts has resulted in what will be a record-setting year for us despite all odds. As I look back on what has led us to this point in what is a relatively short amount of time, I’m reminded of what a team effort it’s truly been.

It takes an army

Between our nearly 200 corporate team members and our 1,100 franchise locations worldwide, the Edible team is a large and mighty force. With everyone pulling their weight, some amazing things have happened for us this year.

First, you have our HR team. As concerns took over regarding how the pandemic would impact our organization, this group probably had it worst of all as they struggled with how to keep us afloat by potentially having to take away the livelihoods of people they’d grown to love and respect as their colleagues. But thanks to HR Vice President Tom Horn and his team, we not only maintained a majority of our original staff, but we’ve expanded our headquarters team by an impressive 27% since March and plan to grow by another 25% in the coming months. 

A major driving force behind us actually growing our team during this crisis has been our finance department, led by Vice President of Finance Carey Malloy. Without Carey and her team keeping our fiscal affairs in order, we not only would not have been able to grow our team, but we wouldn’t have been able to achieve the profits we’ve seen this year. 

Meanwhile, our innovation and marketing departments have made a perfect team in the face of all this uncertainty. Thanks to Vice President of Innovation Cindy Mockler and her people, the creativity Edible has put forth this year has been unmatched. We’ve launched multiple new product categories this year, including Fresh Produce Boxes, FruitFlowers, Bakeshop, Printible, and Edible Music. And each new launch has made a major splash thanks to Vice President of Marketing Laura Rueckel and her marketing and PR teams. 

And of course we can’t forget the complete 180 we’ve seen from our eCommerce platform in the past year since Somia Farid Silber took over as Vice President of eCommerce. The timing couldn’t have been better for our eCommerce platform to excel like it has, as this aspect of our business has been more essential than ever this year. 

Naturally, implementing so many exciting new innovations and adjusting to the world as it is now meant making a LOT of changes to our standard way of doing business. But transitioning to this “new normal” was seamless under Cheikh Mboup as our President and Chief Operating Officer, with VP of Operations Scott Wakeman and their teams by his side. They worked tirelessly with our franchise network to figure out the best way to respond to all the changes, coordinating with our Vice President of Supply Chain & Berry Direct Jamie Davis to ensure that we had all the resources in place to actually accomplish their grand plans. 

Speaking of franchisees, ours certainly deserve special recognition. Their trust in us and their willingness to adapt to everything this year has thrown at them really blows me away. Not only did they take everything we threw at them in stride, but they went above and beyond, making major, lasting impacts on their local communities all the while.

And best of all, thanks to the tireless work of the team under Patricia Perry, Edible’s Vice President of Development, our global network of passionate and driven franchise owners continues to grow at astounding rates. As of September, we’d signed 63 new franchise agreements this year, and I know this number will pale in comparison to our end-of-year development results. 

Round of applause

Clearly, there are so many individuals I could thank for making our organization what we are today, and a single article doesn’t do them all justice. 

So, after the new year, I’ll be highlighting different members of our Edible team every month on LinkedIn. These people are the real reason why Edible is the company it is today, and they deserve my eternal gratitude and all the applause for their hard work.

You can follow along on LinkedIn by following #EdibleTeamSpotlight. 

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Business Woman magazine just announced its list of the 100 most influential women in franchising right now, and I must say what an impressive group of leaders they have there. To all of the women named to this prestigious ranking, I want to wish them, their companies…and their extremely proud parents…a hearty congratulations.

That being said, as one of those proud parents, I cannot pass up this opportunity to celebrate my daughter, Somia, who was included in this list among so many outstanding leaders. As any parent will tell you, your greatest hopes are to watch your children grow and succeed. That is exactly what Somia has done, and I’m thrilled to see her earning industry recognition for all she’s accomplished thus far.

Like so many family businesses, my children have had a front row seat at Edible from the very beginning. And Somia especially took a strong interest in the company from the start. She literally grew up alongside Edible’s entrepreneurial journey as she, herself, grew up and advanced her business interests.

Then she went to Babson College, the number one school in the world for its entrepreneurship program, and excelled in areas far beyond my wildest dreams. After school and some impressive hands-on experience in the business world, she returned to Edible and started working at the corporate office in 2017. Let it be said that her skills, knowledge and hard work made her right for the job much more than her family name. And already, her track record speaks for itself.

Having your daughter join your company is great, but to find that she is actually smarter than you and able to do things better than you?

That’s priceless (right, Mastercard?).

This coming week is National Business Women’s week, and I couldn’t be prouder of everything that Somia has accomplished over the years. Moreover, it puts a smile on my face to see her leading Edible as the VP of e-Commerce with skyrocketing sales. It’s one thing to be a strong leader for an organization. It’s another to do it so well in a pandemic that you help achieve new company records for the benefit of the system at-large and the customers we serve.

The milestones she has conquered in record time are something to admire. I always knew she was amazing, but now I can say she is so much better at aspects of the business than I ever was. She is a strong, independent leader who many people, including myself, look to for guidance.

It just goes to show that her hard work has really paid off. She is already in a management role at just 27 years old, but she is leading with the confidence and respect for others that many veteran business leaders struggle with. She has taught me so much, and I know she will continue to be influential in franchising and e-commerce for years to come.

Thank you, Somia, for all that you do. I couldn’t be prouder of you, and I know your mom is ecstatic about your accomplishments as well. You will continue to raise the bar and achieve great things. You will continue to challenge, test and prove what is best for the business in ways that I never thought possible. And, yes, I will continue to smile as your success translates into Edible’s success. I am excited for what the future holds for you as a leader for this organization.


Your proud dad

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It is in giving that we receive. As an entrepreneur, I’ve witnessed this first-hand. My mother always told me that if I took care of my customers, they would take care of me. Not only was she right, but I’ve seen this concept come to fruition beyond compare. 

The minute I decided to turn Edible Arrangements into a franchise opportunity, I was able to share my business idea with others. In turn, they were able to serve more customers in more communities than I could have ever dreamed possible. As a result, we have experienced a greater level of success together than any of us could have achieved alone. And that success has been the driving force behind a constant desire to give back. 

Tomorrow we celebrate the International Day of Charity, which serves as a great reminder of what charity truly means to those of us who are business leaders. Business is more than just the bottom line; it is also a means for serving, supporting and giving back in profound ways. 

That’s one reason that my wife Asma and I created our foundation. We’ve extended our entrepreneurial passion into philanthropic giving. Whether it is through our involvement with food banks, our support for schools and teachers, our donations to healthcare initiatives or furthering the dreams and aspirations of the next generation of entrepreneurs, our prosperity has allowed us to help others. 

Meanwhile, in trying times like we’ve experienced throughout 2020, we are called to do even more. The hurdles of the pandemic have challenged our society as a whole to lift one another up. And as far as the eye can see across the Edible network, I am inspired by the response. Our hearts are big, and our teams are powerful. There isn’t a week that goes by where I don’t see Edible teams donating food to healthcare workers, rewarding first responders with treats, or working non-stop to get fresh whole fruit and produce to homebound customers in their time of need. When the world has seemed locked down and disconnected, we have created a compassionate answer. 

Not surprisingly, we have seen tremendous growth in our sales and our franchise development expansion to more locations at the very same time. And while these achievements do make me incredibly proud, what I am most proud of is the selflessness that led to them. Seeing this transpire across Edible Brands has served as yet another testament to my mother’s wise words: “Take care of your customers, and they will take care of you.” 

So when it comes to charity, I don’t question its impact for a brand, a people, a community and a world at-large. I merely embrace the goodness that resides as an immediate result.

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I cannot say enough about our entire Edible team and the way everyone has banded together to innovate during a pandemic to elevate our business and, most importantly, give our incredible customers what they need and desire in these uncertain times. Our success as a brand and as a franchise community on Main Street across America and around the world is a direct result of our continued ability to WOW people for every occasion.

Continue reading “Planting the seed for exciting new directions”

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