At sundown today members of the Edible Arrangements corporate staff and franchise community that are of the Jewish faith will begin observing Hanukkah, the Festival of Lights. And Christmas, of course, is less than two weeks away.
At times like this I am reminded of the diversity of the Edible Arrangements family and the beauty of watching people of various religions, races and cultures coming together in support of a single purpose.
As I look around the Edible Arrangements offices, I marvel at the diversity of the organization. It begins at the very top where we have a founder and CEO who is Muslim and a President who is Jewish! I haven’t checked into it, but my guess is that the Edible Arrangements office closely mirrors the diversity of the nation overall.
Much of the success we have enjoyed over the years can be credited to such variety of thought and experiences. It has led to everything from creative new products to innovative ways of operating our franchises. Even more importantly, it seems to create a vibrancy and energy that would not be possible otherwise.
As our Jewish friends prepare to celebrate the coming holiday and we prepare for other celebrations over the coming weeks, now is the perfect time to celebrate our individual differences and our individual cultures. Embracing diversity makes us all better people.
We have long-term franchisees that have owned a store (or stores!) for a decade and then signed on for 10 more years.
We have franchisees who always dreamed of being entrepreneurs and small business owners, and we made their dream come true.
Some are military veterans. Some are husband and wife teams. Some own one or two Edible Arrangements’ stores, while others own more than 10!
There are franchisees that came out of retirement after successful business careers seeking a new challenge. There are young upstarts, who always knew they wanted to be a small business owner. And there are those who got tired of the “corporate treadmill” and wanted to be fully rewarded for their work.
Linda falls into several of the categories mentioned above.
An amazing young woman with boundless energy and a very friendly, energetic and outgoing demeanor, Linda was barely in her mid-20s when she became the owner of her own small business—an Edible Arrangements store. She had enjoyed a successful career in marketing, but was disenchanted with the fact that while her work was praised and helped her employer thrive, she was still not given an opportunity for advancement. She started to become unhappy in her job.
Linda knew about Edible Arrangements from her work in marketing and had been watching us grow from the time we started franchising in 2001. Linda says that watching Edible Arrangements grow from from a small start-up into a global chain in just a few years was exciting.
Linda remembers thinking to herself: “What if I could be rewarded for the work I put into something and not have to rely on a boss or someone else to reward me?”
It was then that she decided to make the big jump, leave her job and open her own Edible Arrangements store.
That was 10 years ago! Now a long-term franchisee, a multiple store owner and still young, Linda says she doesn’t regret a thing.
“At first, I thought that I would do this for a few years and then get out,” she told me. “But I found something that I truly enjoyed and I was able to grow along with my business. I love the challenging times, and I still get to use my marketing background!”
The best thing, Linda says, is that “with my Edible Arrangements stores, I definitely get out what I put in!”
Maurice Welton had dreams of no longer being stuck on the “corporate treadmill” when he discovered Edible Arrangements. Today he owns four successful stores with a fifth on the way!
When I first met Maurice, who now owns multiple Edible Arrangements stores, he WOWED me. Maurice is a veteran, a hard worker and a friendly, fun and charming person. He had big dreams of no longer being stuck on the “corporate treadmill” as he put it.
“I was working so hard, and successfully, but not getting anywhere. No acknowledgement, no promotion even though I was doing great work and making money for the company I worked for,” I remember him telling me.
After watching a program in which I was being interviewed in 2006, Maurice was struck by the thought that Edible Arrangements presented the opportunity for which had been looking.
“It all fit,” he told me. “I felt a connection.”
So, Maurice did some research then called the Edible Arrangements corporate office to get a better understanding of how he could become an Edible Arrangements franchise owner.
After that, he says, “I knew, this was it!”
Maurice opened his first Edible Arrangements store on May 29, 2007 in Texas.
“Everything went smoothly,” Maurice remembers. “Everything happened exactly as my corporate support contact explained it would. And I am still guided by his advice today.”
“I do something I love,” he says. “I like that what I sell makes people smile—who doesn’t love a dipped pineapple!”
Maurice says that Edible Arrangements has allowed him to grow, both personally and professionally. He serves on the board of the McAllen Chamber of Commerce and he is a member of numerous other chambers and organizations!
“I love being more involved with the community. Along with my businesses, I have blossomed,” he says with a grin. “That’s what Edible Arrangements has done for me.”
But what is the most important change that his experience as a small business owner with Edible Arrangements has brought him?
“Legacy. It’s not just about being able to provide for my daughter, but I will never have to put a lid on her aspirations. That means the most to me,” Maurice says.
His advice for anyone considering becoming an Edible Arrangements store owner?
Ron and Lori with their children, Mia and Eli, in Walt Disney World.
I am always interested in how our franchisees find out about Edible Arrangements. Interestingly enough, it often is an unexpected encounter with one of our beautiful arrangements.
Take Ron and Lori, for example. After graduating from West Virginia University, Lori became the morning and noon anchor on WOAY-TV in Oak Hill, West Virginia. She would later move on to a career making commercials for Charter Cable before taking time off to raise their two children.
Ron, meanwhile, was enjoying a career in the pharmaceutical industry in northeastern Ohio when he found himself on a call with one of his sales reps from Forest Pharmaceuticals.
It turned out that the rep had ordered an Edible Arrangements to be delivered to the prospect, and when they arrived at the office, there it was!
“One of the neatest things I had ever seen!” he remembers.
Lori had been talking about going back to work if she could set her own schedule, so Ron, who had worked with his father in the restaurant industry as a teenager, began researching Edible Arrangements. He and his father attended a Discovery Day and Ron was hooked.
Today Ron and Lori have eight locations throughout Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia. And they just signed a franchise agreement for their ninth Edible Arrangements store!
And to think it all started because a sales rep wanted to impress a prospect with an Edible Arrangements.
If you have been following my blog, you know that I have a soft spot in my heart for the men and women of our armed forces. The sacrifice they make on a daily basis is truly inspirational.
It’s the reason that I have gladly contributed to the International Franchise Association’sVetFran program and we started our own Hero’s Welcome program. Many of our top franchisees are former members of the military who have taken advantage of these programs to become business owners, and I want to make sure that many more have the chance to follow in their footsteps.
Now I am very pleased to announce that we will soon be opening our first Edible Arrangements location on a military base, thanks to the exhaustive efforts of franchisees Laverna and Martinez Alexander. The Alexanders will be opening at Fort Bragg in North Carolina in November. Fittingly, that is the month we celebrate both Veteran’s Day and Thanksgiving.
This will be Laverna’s second Edible Arrangements store and the first for Martinez.
The story of how Laverna became a franchisee, however, is filled with twists and turns and, as she says, a little miracle.
She first became interested in Edible Arrangements in 2008 shortly after she had become a manager at a local jewelers. Laverna stopped by an Edible Arrangements store in Fayetteville, NC, to pick up an arrangement and, she says, “the moment I walked into that store I was moved.”
Laverna says she can’t explain why, but she couldn’t quit thinking about the store. So a few days later she decided to research the company and after discovering it was a franchise, she filled out our short online informational form. Within a few days she found herself on the phone talking to someone from Edible Arrangements named Moussa.
“I was so surprised to get such a quick response,” she said. “We laughed and talked, he asked me a few questions and then told me I was just the kind of person Edible Arrangements was looking for to own stores. I told him I was just fooling around with the idea because I had just started a new job.”
The calls and conversations continued every few weeks. Then, in September of 2008, Laverna was informed that the jeweler was going into liquidation and would be closing before the end of the year.
“What a blow,” she said.
Moussa, on the other hand, told her that it was a great opportunity to come out and visit Connecticut.
“He called me every week,” she said. “I finally told him, ‘let me close this store and maybe I will come early next year.’ ”
Laverna says she was exhausted after the store closed in December, but decided to sign up for a real estate course.
“I thought I would just try it for a while,” she said. “Moussa kept calling weekly to check on me and I was seeing Edible Arrangements everywhere, but I just kept blowing it off.”
Then, in the middle of her real estate courses, Laverna suddenly became ill and had to have emergency surgery. A few weeks later, as she was recovering, her mother told her that another Edible Arrangements was opening across town near Raeford.
“I was shocked,” Laverna remembers. “I stopped and thought to myself, ‘God is trying to tell me something.’ So I prayed, ‘God if this is what you want me to do, then give me the courage and conviction to do it, and I will start and not stop until it is done.’ ”
As soon as she had recovered, Laverna flew to our corporate offices where she toured the office and met some great people.
“I left there knowing this was what I was going to do,” she said. “I started my loan paperwork on June 1, it was approved June 30, and I signed my franchise agreement July 14.”
She opened her first store in February of 2010.
“It has not always been easy,” she admits, “but I am now in the beginning phases of opening my second Edible Arrangements and the first on any military installation ever! I am thrilled. Look at God! Thank you for the opportunity!”