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.
Yesterday the franchising world lost a friend and a great mentor, as did I.
For me, Fred DeLuca was much more than the founder of Subway and a franchising icon. Fred was a true inspiration and his advice and mentorship was instrumental in the success I have enjoyed over the past two decades.
Like me, Fred became an entrepreneur as a teenager and from the first time I met him he gave me the confidence that I, too, could build an international brand.
Over the years he was never more than a phone call away, ready to share his wisdom and support when things looked rough and his encouragement when times were good.
The franchise industry lost one of its best and the world lost a master entrepreneur who not only built a great company but helped so many others achieve success. And for those of us who had the privilege of knowing Fred, we lost a true friend. He will be missed.
In franchising, nothing is more important than the success of the franchisees. If our franchisees are growing and are prospering, it means that all the hard work that has gone into building Edible Arrangements has been worthwhile. It means that our products and services are delivering on their promise and making everyone’s life a little sweeter.
That’s why I am always excited to learn about franchisees renewing their franchise agreement, such as Richard, who recently renewed his agreement for the Centennial, Colorado, location.
Richard originally discovered Edible Arrangements in January of 2005 while relocating one of his Curves franchises to a much larger space. He received a postcard in the mail promoting the Edible Arrangements franchise opportunity. His wife, Stacey, tossed it in the trash. The more she thought about it, however, she decided to pull the postcard out of the trash and show it to Richard.
Richard took one look and said, “We could sell these bouquets to everybody!”
A few weeks later Richard was on his way to Connecticut for discovery day. A few months later he was back in Connecticut training with me at one of our corporate stores. By June, he was open for business.
Like many of our franchisees, the success of Richard’s Edible Arrangements franchise is a husband-wife cooperative supported by an amazing team.
Stacey, his wife of 32 years, manages the store.
“She is an AMAZING woman,” Richard said. “All I can say is that the luckiest day of my life was when I saw her for the first time. I’m very proud to be her husband.”
Then there is Hilario “Speedy” Gonzalez. “Our production ‘Superhero’ has been with us since day one,” Richard said. “He is incredibly fast! He can create seven daisy bouquets in five minutes and he is always saying, ‘No problem, piece of Kale!’”
There is Leslie Farley, who has been a part of the team for nine years. “She is our ‘go-to girl’ in the store,” Richard told me. “She can handle any situation with professionalism and grace.”
There is “driver extraordinaire” Lisa Snyder who has been with the store for six years and coordinates all aspects of deliveries from a normal day to Valentine’s Day. “I never have to lift a finger,” Richard said.
Then there are relative newcomers such as Alex Velarde and Mark Sexton.
Alex has been taking care of customer service for a year but, even more importantly, is engaged to Richard’s daughter, Stephanie.
Mark recently joined them as VP Sales of Marketing. “He has a great ‘go, go, go’ attitude and we expect him to be very successful increasing store sales,” Richard said.
Do you want to be a success? Then you can’t go wrong by following Richard’s example, whether it’s family or business.
I recently participated in an event that was not only inspiring but also left me excited about the future of business, in general, and specifically franchising.
As a founding sponsor of the International Franchise Association’sNextGen program, I was invited to join several of my colleagues on a panel in which I was able to share my experiences in building Edible Arrangements with a group of about 40 young entrepreneurs. The entrepreneurs were winners of the IFA’s Young Entrepreneurs in Franchising Competition and were selected from more than 450 applicants across 44 countries who submitted ideas for franchiseable businesses.
I was encouraged to find that many of the ideas reflected social responsibility within the business opportunity, such as alternative energy refill stations from South Africa and fresh drinking water systems from Uganda. This new generation truly understands the importance of being a contributing member of their community.
What excited me most, however, was the vision these young men and women have for the future of franchising.
While those numbers are impressive and reflect the critical role that franchising plays in the economy, I’ve always felt that we are just scratching the surface when it comes to realizing the true potential of this amazing business model.
Advances in technology have given us opportunities not available even a few years ago to build dynamic franchise systems that go well beyond a chain of shops offering the same products or services.
We have the opportunity to create our own ecosystems in which we can control almost every part of the process — from production of the resources needed to create a product all the way to how the product or service is purchased — thus guaranteeing a universal experience.
What I discovered in visiting with these young men and women is that they “Get It!” They are a generation raised in a global economy and in a time in which companies such as Apple and a few others are redefining the way businesses serve their many markets. Their ideas for how to launch and grow their businesses reflected this more global way of thinking.
As a result, I truly believe they understand that franchising can be much more than it is today.
I am excited to see where this new generation takes us. Wherever it is, I am confident it will bring the type of new thinking and innovation needed to inspire all of us in franchising to rethink the way we do business and bring us closer to reaching our full potential.
One of my great pleasures as the CEO of Edible Arrangements is the opportunity to recognize the outstanding achievements of our franchisees.
Each year, as I join the management team in presenting the awards at our international convention, I continually marvel at the diversity of our franchisees and their backgrounds, yet how all share a deep passion for their business and their customers.
This year’s convention reminded me again how blessed I am to be able to share this opportunity with so many wonderful people.
Because we have so many extraordinary franchisees, it is always difficult to decide who deserves to be recognized for their achievements. I wish I could recognize them all.
But there are a special few who make you say “WOW.” These franchisees are shining examples of the Edible Arrangements spirit, going above and beyond to deliver an unforgettable Edible Arrangements experience for their guests. And I want to publicly recognize and congratulate this year’s winners.
Our Franchisees of the Year are Pamela and Jeffrey Shirk, who have locations in Lebanon, Lititz and Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Pamela and Jeffrey represent everything that is great about our franchise system. Their enthusiasm, commitment to customer service and desire to succeed have made them model franchisees and among our most successful in the world.
Our International Franchisees of the Year are Jianyi Wang and Zhigang Liu, who operate franchises in China and are among the most enthusiastic brand ambassadors a company could have.
Our Guest Service Award was presented to Jeffrey and Kathryn Good of Lafayette, Indiana. They were nominated by fellow employees because they exemplify the best of Edible Arrangements and they ALWAYS have a WOW attitude.
Each year we also present Pineapple Star awards to a franchisee in each region of the country. The award recognizes franchise owners who excel in sales, local store marketing and delivering service with a WOW attitude. This year’s recipients were:
Mid-Atlantic Region — Lita Heckler, who operates stores in Camp Hill and York, Pennsylvania.
Northeast Region — Nicholas and Emma D’Alleva, who have Edible Arrangements in Beverly, Lynn and Peabody, Massachusetts.
Midwest Region — Linda Ekendahl, for her location in Elmhurst, Illinois.
Central Region — Joshua White, Jeffrey Sanders and Ronald Vaughn of Tulsa and Owasso, Oklahoma.
West Region — Ibrahim and Hashim Choudhry, who have one of the most successful collection of stores in the system, located in Laguna Hills, Fontana, Claremont, Moreno Valley and Rancho Palos Verdes, California.
Canada — Jovita and Gerardo De La Torre of Guelph, Ontario.
Southeast Region — Chet Koch and his late wife, Jean, who operate stores in Southaven and Olive Branch, Mississippi. In one of the most moving moments of the convention, Chet received a standing ovation from the more than 700 Edible Arrangements franchisees in attendance as he accepted the award and remembered his wife among a tearful crowd who remembered her as a beloved member of the Edible Arrangements family. Jean passed away earlier this summer. She was an active member of the Chamber of Commerce and served on the local high school Parent Teacher Association (PTA). She was described by her fellow employees as a star.
The Outstanding My Store Marketing award went to Rory, Hillary and Seth Friedland of Plainview, Port Washington and Hicksville, New York. They simply excel when it comes to sales, local store marketing and delivering service with a WOW attitude.
The Best Multi-Unit Owner was presented to Ted and Deborah Kostisin, who have six locations in Providence, Warren, Cranston and Smithfield, Rhode Island, and South Attleboro, Massachusetts. They are a perfect example of what can be accomplished when you take advantage of proven systems and processes to build a chain of businesses.
The Manager of the Year was Bethanni Langdon of our Austin, Round Rock, Corpus Christi and Cedar Park, Texas locations. Bethanni exemplifies what it means to “take care of customers.” A story was shared in which she made an impression on one special guest who visited her store. The guest tearfully discussed buying arrangements to thank the staff of the animal hospital that treated her yellow Labrador Retriever that had passed away the previous week. The customer’s grief and heartfelt conversation stayed with Langdon and she sent a personal arrangement to the family, leaving them in awe.
The Rookie of the Year award went to Megan and Richard Revels, who opened their Winter Haven, Florida, store in October. From the start the Revels have proven to be exceptional operators with their “never-say-no” attitude that has already generated great customer and employee feedback.
Delivery Ambassador of the Year was Randy Taylor of Rochester, New York, who was nominated by fellow employees for his leadership and for always going the extra mile. They shared a story of how, while making a delivery to an elderly woman, he put the arrangement in the refrigerator for her because he knew it was too heavy for her to lift.
Our Social Media Superstar was Prashant Patel of Drexel Hill, Pennsylvania, who continually amazes us and gives us creative ideas.
Vikki Brown of Farmington and Lake Orion, Michigan, received the WOW Award. This is one of our most prestigious honors and is presented to the owner of an Edible Arrangements franchise that works to better the brand as a whole. Vikki was recognized as a true “Fruit Expert®,” always bringing helpful thoughts and ideas to the corporate team that benefit the entire organization. One of her ideas was the fruit truffle challenge that took her community by storm this summer.
Of course running a business is ultimately about sales, and our franchisees continued to demonstrate exceptional results:
Highest Sales: 0 -24 months — Limor Ziarno and Sylvia Uziel of Brooklyn, New York.
Highest Sales: 24 – 36 months — Limor Ziarno and Sylvia Uziel of Howard Beach, New York.
Highest Sales: 36+ months — Robert and Moses Mignosi of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Highest Sales: Valentine’s Day — Robert and Moses Mignosi of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Highest Sales: Mother’s Day — Ibrahim and Hashim Choudhry of Moreno Valley, California.
Our Vendor of the Year was burton + BURTON. The success we have enjoyed over the years would never have been possible without such great business partners.
Finally, I presented my Chairman’s Award to Jennifer Brown, who has locations in Grapevine, Fort Worth, Irving and Grand Prairie, Texas. This is considered the most prestigious award and is given to an Edible Arrangements franchise owner who I feel best exemplifies the Edible Arrangements brand and has a strong entrepreneurial drive that brings the company to the next level.
Jennifer continually inspires me with ideas and actions for where we want to take the Edible Arrangements brand. She always has a positive and helpful attitude and is loved in the community, supportive of all of her fellow franchisees and could not be more deserving of this award.
Congratulations to all of these exceptional award recipients and to ALL our Edible Arrangements franchisees, who made the past year one of the most successful in our history. I am continually inspired by all of you.
I close with a few more highlights from another inspiring convention.