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.
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!”