This week, as the country celebrates National Small Business Week, I’d like to look back and reflect on the beginnings of Edible®, when we were just a small store in Connecticut. Looking back on these memories makes me eternally grateful for all of Edible®’s franchisees that have gone on this journey with me. I’m happy to honor all of them as small business owners across America and applaud them for earning their piece of the American Dream. Continue reading “Celebrating National Small Business Week”
Bill Russ and his team at the downtown Baltimore Edible Arrangements are an example that a key to building a successful business is being able to deal with unexpected challenges.
One of the things you quickly realize as the owner of a business, whether big or small, is that you should always expect the unexpected. There will always be challenges, some that you create yourself, and others over which you have no control.
The key to building a successful business is how you deal with those challenges.
That’s why I am always so inspired when I hear stories about our Edible Arrangements franchisees facing and overcoming challenges. Few have been as inspiring as the announcement that Bill Russ, a franchisee in Baltimore, recently had the #1 store in sales for the week.
It began on the evening of April 25. Anyone watching the news that evening could not avoid reports of what was happening on the streets of Baltimore as protests began to break out throughout the city. Bill has an Edible Arrangements store in downtown Baltimore and when his team arrived on Sunday morning they found the plate glass window shattered but fortunately there was no other damage. As the civil unrest continued to escalate over the next few days Bill closed early nearly every day to make sure his crew could get home while conditions were still relatively safe.
From a business standpoint, residents were staying off the streets so walk-in traffic dried up for the week as people were afraid to go downtown. Bill and his employees, however, were determined to keep the business open and had an “all hands on deck” mentality. They never thought about not taking whatever orders came in, either online or in the store.
“We kept our display cases full and inviting,” Bill said. “No one was turned away.”
The damage, however, had been done. A store that Bill expected to be among the Top 20 in the nation in sales for Mother’s Day slipped to 138th.
Still, Bill never questioned that he would rebuild his business. It wasn’t the first time he had faced challenges thrown his way.
“I remember one particular Valentine’s Day when we suffered back to back snowfalls of more than 20 inches each,” he said. “We couldn’t get anything delivered because no one was going to their work place where we were asked to deliver their arrangement.”
What happened then?
“Our guests still sent their Valentine an Edible Arrangement! Our sales the following two weeks of that February set records,” he said. “The demand for Edible Arrangements is insatiable. Over the past 10 years I have learned that our guests want our product no matter what.”
With that in mind, Bill and his team focused on getting their customers to return as the protests died down and the city began the process of recovering.
“That became our biggest challenge, encouraging our guests to come back and visit us,” Bill said. “Our employees are devoted to their store and they take pride in its success. We know we have a great product and resolved to be there for our guests whenever they felt ready to come back. We felt a personal responsibility to do our part to recover from this adversity and show our support for Baltimore and its good, law abiding citizens. We resolved to do our part to rebuild this great city!”
And the guests did return, to the point that the Baltimore store achieved their recent #1 ranking in sales for the week.
“We have always embraced every opportunity to serve our guests, including offering a full line of products and keeping the store fresh with the latest upgrades,” Bill said. “We want to be the most inviting retailer in downtown Baltimore and we are proud to show off the most attractive retail space in our neighborhood!”
And as for lessons learned to share with others who find themselves facing difficult situations?
“Setbacks will come,” Bill said. “That’s a fact of life none of us can avoid. In the end our success will be measured in how we respond to those adversities.”
Well said, Bill. And congratulations to you and your dedicated team for a job well done!
As an entrepreneur, I am always interested in how others decided to take the leap and become the owner of a business. Because Edible Arrangements has so many successful franchisees, there is never a shortage of interesting stories. And I often find that more than anything, it was a decision based on a necessity.
Take Robin, for example.
Like many, Robin had always wanted to own her own business, especially a restaurant. Her degree, however, was in medical office administration and she spent a good portion of her career in the healthcare industry.
In 2004, she was running a non-profit homecare agency when funding was cut and the board of directors decided to close the company.
“At that point, I started looking into opening my own business,” Robin told me. “I was tired of relying on others for my paycheck.”
She looked at franchises in areas ranging from homecare to donuts. Then she was told about Edible Arrangements and decided to look into the opportunity.
Within a year Robin was opening her first store in Manchester, NH. Later, she had an opportunity to take over the Concord store and decided to go for it.
Robin, who has four children and three grandchildren, has lived in New Hampshire since opening her first store and she is not all work and no play. Her interests include walking, health and wellness, furniture restoration, decorating, word puzzles, reading and wine.
She also started a program a few years ago where she visits schools to talk to children about healthy eating.
“I talk a lot about the importance of eating fresh fruit and the benefits of Kale – it is a super food!” she says.
It’s already been a decade since Robin opened her first store.
“It is hard to believe that it has been 10 years,” she says.
During that time Robin has been one of our most successful franchisees and she recently renewed her original franchisee agreement, which means we will be blessed to have her as part of the Edible Arrangements family for years to come. That also means she can continue to make her own favorite treat — Berry Chocolate Bouquet with dipped bananas.
“The bananas are definitely my favorite dipped fruit!” she says.
Today I would like to introduce you to Aislinn, an amazing woman who is truly an inspiration for many, including my very own daughters.
Aislinn’s family owned a small business, an environmental laboratory in Hyde Park, NY, and by the age of 11 she was working for her mother doing office work, cleaning lab dishes and other tasks.
At 16, Aislinn decided to start her own business and partnered with a high school friend to open the Hyde Park Dance Arts. That earned her the Johnson & Wales University’s Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award, which came with a four year scholarship to Johnson & Wales University in Providence, RI, where she graduated summa cum laude with an A.S. in Hotel/Restaurant Management and a B.S. in Health Care Administration, specializing in Gerontology.
After graduation, Aislinn became licensed as a Nursing Home Administrator and worked in Massachusetts and Rhode Island.
It was while working at a nursing home in Massachusetts that she was introduced to Edible Arrangements® when the director of nursing for the facility purchased an arrangement for the residents. Aislinn still had an entrepreneurial spirit within her and after seeing the reaction to the arrangement, she decided to research the company.
In 2005, Aislinn purchased her first Edible Arrangements franchise. She returned to her hometown and in July opened the first Edible Arrangements in the Hudson Valley in Poughkeepsie, NY.
Two years later she opened her second Edible Arrangements location in Kingston, NY. That same year, I presented her with the highly coveted President’s Award at our annual convention. In addition, the Poughkeepsie store was awarded the company’s Northeast Region Pineapple Star Award for exceeding customer expectations and providing superior product quality. Aislinn also received the Always There Making A Difference Award in 2012 for the passionate work she has done in Ulster and Dutchess Counties.
Aislinn and her daughter, Samantha, live in Rhinebeck, NY, with their rescue dog, Honey Bear, and rescue cat, Pookie. If running a business and raising a daughter wasn’t tough enough, she is also active in the Girl Scouts, where she is a Gold Award recipient, a troop leader and also volunteers to teach troops about healthy eating, nutrition, food service and Edible Arrangements. She has also served on the Board of Directors for the local Chapter of the American Red Cross and the New Paltz Regional Chamber of Commerce. She is also an active volunteer and supporter of the Alzheimer’s Association, the Center for the Prevention of Child Abuse and the SPCA.
When she does find a little spare time, she enjoys hiking, gardening, ballet and painting.
How does she do it all?
Aislinn says she is fortunate to have a dedicated group of individuals working with her. Many of her team members in the Poughkeepsie store, for example, have been with her since 2006, including Lead Designer, Marcelo, and Lead Prep Assistant, Bryan.
Aislinn encourages her team to have fun and bring happiness to the local community. She often pushes the Driver Supervisor, Josh, to entertain as the store “Banana Man” at community events. Jordan, a Fruit Expert, is also involved in the store’s social media efforts and store supervisor Kayla Welz, who started with the Poughkeepsie store in 2012, has played the role of the “Strawberry Princess” or “Fruity the Elf”.
Oh yes, her favorite arrangement is the Mango Kiwi Blossom with the Tropical Sampler add-on. However, she will never refuse a pineapple fruit truffle!
When I hear her story, I am reminded how blessed we are to have franchisees like Aislinn and many others like her as part of the Edible Arrangements family.
I’ve been writing recently about some of our newer Edible Arrangements franchisees. It’s always exciting to watch the family of franchisees grow and meet the new entrepreneurs who are pursuing their own version of the American Dream.
Equally dear to my heart, however, are those long-term franchisees who have been the foundation upon which Edible Arrangements has grown into a global icon.
I first met Rich and Pat 10 years ago. Pat had a computer science degree while Rich had a computer engineering degree. Both worked for Xerox in product development, but had been bitten by the entrepreneurial bug. In May of 2005 they opened their first Edible Arrangements store in Rochester, NY. They have since opened five more locations as well as a dipped fruit shipping center.
Five years ago they moved to Minneapolis where Rich became the Managing Director of Hollander Inc., a software company servicing the Automotive Recycling industry. They manage their stores remotely with the help of a great management team back in Rochester and a set of processes and tools that have developed over the years.
Rich and Pat have four children, ranging in age from 11 to 27. Michelle, the oldest, joined the management team in 2012. Claire owns a marketing consulting company in Tampa, FL, while David is a freshman at Iowa State University and Caitlin is a sixth grader. Oh yes, they also have a 10-year-old black lab named Keira.
In their spare time, they enjoy boating, yard work and healthy eating. Rich is also a runner and just completed his first marathon.
I mention Pat and Rich because they just renewed their initial franchise agreement for another 10 years. We are blessed to have passionate franchisees like Rich and Pat as part of the Edible Arrangements family. I hope to feature more in the coming weeks.