The other day I was reading my e-mails when I came across one from an amazing franchisee, Cathy, who owns the Edible Arrangements stores in Catonsville, MD and her latest store featuring the Edible To Go extended product line that opened in Elkridge, MD in February of this year. But before I discuss what makes Cathy a role model for the system, and her incredible public relations and marketing savvy that we all can learn from, her e-mail reminded me of something I wanted to write about previously.

There are many challenges and decisions that businesses, both new and established, face every single day. Whether it is identifying your target market (yes, your ‘customer’ will evolve), staying ahead of the competition, continuously analyzing your company’s strengths and weaknesses, improving customer service, cutting costs without sacrificing quality and service, increasing productivity, figuring out what new markets to enter and when, and how to grow your brand, to name just a few. First, I have to just say that challenges should be welcomed and embraced, not feared. As an entrepreneur you should look forward to what the challenge will be that day –then set out to conquer it. Second and more importantly, make sure you don’t go too far outside your mission, outside your company’s DNA, too soon and introduce new products or services just to grow your market share and increase sales.

Cathy’s pictures in her e-mail of her latest store’s grand opening showcasing Edible To Go Products reminded me of this and sent back some searing memories of a new product Edible Arrangements was considering introducing a few years ago. It was a time when we were contemplating menu options in addition to our world-famous arrangements to drive traffic to our now 1,000+ stores –a precursor to our Edible To Go, grab and go product line we now have. I will not get into all the products and details we were considering but one item we came close to finalizing was fruit sandwiches. Yes, I said it –sandwiches made mainly from fruit, and a few other ingredients. I know most of you are saying to yourselves what on earth were we thinking, but those of you in business know that sometimes an idea takes on a life of its own and grows. Luckily, a mentor to my brother Kamran and I (the importance of having a mentor will be one of my blog entries soon) woke us up to the fact that no customer would buy such a concoction.

The valuable lesson we learned is do not step too far too soon outside what you do and know just to drive sales and reach a goal. A business must look inside itself, perfect what it does and what it is known for, master it and become experts. At Edible Arrangements, we are the fruit experts. We know fruit. We learned from this near mistake and created our Edible To Go extended product line –products made simply from fresh fruit – for customers to come into one of our stores for a healthy, pick-me-up snack such as our fresh fruit smoothies, fruit salads, fruit sundaes, many kinds of chocolate dipped fruit, pineapple pops in many of our signature pineapple shapes dipped in chocolate, and much more. This is all in addition to our signature bouquets. Not all Edible Arrangements stores carry the Edible to Go extended product line -yet, but all stores carry our grab and go items like salads, smoothies and dipped fruit. Yes, we are expanding our menu options, but we are staying true to our roots and our expertise, and the product we know best –fresh fruit and nothing else.

Now that I digressed a little bit, I wanted to showcase Cathy not only because she is one of our most successful and passionate franchisees, but because she is also really good at marketing and staging an event. Case in point, she recently held her grand opening celebration for her new store in Elkridge on April 14. The community turned out in droves. Why? Because she planned, drafted a personal, localized press release, created eye-catching invites, and executed the event perfectly. I couldn’t be more pleased by her professionalism, commitment to her community, customer service skills, and hard-work. Cathy never does anything half-hazardly, nor should you. In business, a customer can see right through imposters and those who simply are not prepared. Lose their trust and you may never get it back. Show them you are prepared, professional and engaging, you will have a customer for life.

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