I recently had the honor of joining 49 other entrepreneurs and business leaders being recognized by the Asian American Business Development Center (AABDC) as part of their Outstanding 50 Asian Americans in Business Award gala.
I am always honored to be recognized by organizations such as the AABDC, but I also find that events like this inspire me by giving me the opportunity to network with other passionate and successful businessmen and women who are pursuing their dreams.
When I created Edible Arrangements in 1999, and again when the first franchise location opened in 2001, I was convinced the idea would be successful. I could never have imagined, however, that less than two decades later we would have more than 1,200 locations worldwide.
Manny is a compassionate man with a big heart who seems to have non-stop energy! He also is one of the many military veterans who have become successful Edible Arrangements franchisees.
Manny is originally from a factory town, Lorain, Ohio, where “it was expected that after graduation from high school, you would go work in a factory. That’s just what people did.”
After high school, however, Manny found himself in Vietnam as a member of the 101st Airborne combat infantry. Once his service to his country had ended, he enrolled at California State University Northridge where he earned a BA in Communications. After a successful career as a headhunter, he established his own business and grew it to an $8 million company prior to selling it and retiring.
Manny was not content to stay still for long, however, and soon began considering yet another career path! Franchising caught his attention as a great way to get back into business and he began researching various franchises ranging from Subway to ebay. Then, one day in 2005, he saw an arrangement from Edible Arrangements for the first time.
“I was truly WOWED,” Manny remembers. “I now know that Edible Arrangements’ goal is to WOW people and when I saw the product that was exactly my reaction!”
Manny opened his first Edible Arrangements store in 2007 in Victorville, California, a somewhat isolated area in the high desert. “I was planning on working at the store a few times a week, but then when the economic downturn happened in 2008, that was not an option,” he said.
Manny ended up working every day to grow his business and protect his investment during tough times. His main focus was on marketing and WOWING people with Edible Arrangements’ visually stunning arrangements.
As a result, he began to interact with his local community as never before. Not only was he successful in growing his business despite the difficult economy, but he found that he truly loved being engaged with the community. And he found himself getting more and more involved.
He has served or now serves on numerous boards of area non-profits and business organizations, including the State of California’s Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, Boys & Girls Club, Victor Valley Medical Center Foundation, Adelanto and HD Hispanic Chambers. Edible Arrangements is one of the major sponsors for The Phoenix Foundation, which pays funeral costs for victims of tragedies, and Manny is Executive Director of his local Boys and Girls Club of Victor Valley. This year the High Desert Hispanic Chamber of Commerce representing the Inland Empire recognized Manny’s Edible Arrangements store and awarded him the “Small Business of the Year Award. The Visionaries and Leaders Organization also recognized Manny as one of the 10 most influential people in the High Desert during Hispanic Heritage Month.
Manny has now opened his second Edible Arrangements store in San Gabriel, California.
To what does he attribute his success?
“I have great parents,” he says. “And my family and the military.”
Manny says that he would not be the person he is today without the guidance, love and support of his parents and his family. And he says he would not have achieved the business success he has enjoyed if not for the leadership and other training he received from the military
“We are leaders,” Manny says of his fellow military veterans. “We are persistent and tenacious. We’ve gone through the worst, so we can handle the rest. All of my military training and experience has helped me get through this—all of the ups and downs with my business due to the economy. If you have been trained well, even when things go wrong or fear strikes, your training takes over and you will make it. These qualities have helped me successfully grow my Edible Arrangements stores.”
As a result, “my life has far exceeded my dreams,” says Manny.
On this Veteran’s Day, don’t forget that Edible Arrangements is providing a way for you to salute the men and women like Manny who served in our military. Through tomorrow we will donate $1 for each Edible Pop™sold to the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA), the first and largest organization for new veterans and their families. These funds will assist in employment support programs including the creation of a tool kit for Edible Arrangements franchisees to locate and hire qualified veterans across the U.S.