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.
Ibrahim, in the center of the bottom row, celebrates another record Mother’s Day sales performance with some of his Moreno Valley team members.
Shortly after Mother’s Day each year for the past four years I’ve received a phone call from one of our most successful franchisees, Ibrahim Choudhry, thanking me for convincing him to take over the Edible Arrangements location in Moreno Valley, California. That’s because for each of the past four years, his Moreno Valley store has been #1 in sales for the entire Edible Arrangements franchise system. The credit, however, goes to Ibrahim and what he has accomplished.
It is a story that is inspirational and an example of what a passionate and inspired leader such as Ibrahim can accomplish with an equally dedicated team. It is also one we can all learn from.
The story began five-and-half years ago. The Moreno Valley store had been closed for six months and the area around the store had been hit especially hard by the economic downturn. Several other Edible Arrangements franchisees had already turned down opportunities to take over the location when we approached Ibrahim about reopening it.
Ibrahim was no stranger to the location, having spent time with the original franchisee years earlier while still working for us as a trainer in the corporate office. And when the Moreno Valley location became available, he already had one successful turnaround to his credit.
Ibrahim had left his corporate position in 2009 to take over a closed location in Claremont, Calif., which he quickly turned into one of the most successful Edible Arrangements stores in the nation.
I traveled to California to visit with him about taking over a second failed location.
He was obviously concerned that other franchisees had already turned down opportunities to reopen the store. There was a lot of negative publicity to overcome from customers, from employees and even the government. A lot of people were owed money, but I told him I was convinced he could do it.
Ibrahim agreed to purchase the equipment and renegotiated the lease with the landlord in order not to take on more debt. Then he put all his effort into making the store a success.
He was in the store every day and he bombarded the area with marketing and publicity campaigns. For several months he had to pay rent and bills using income from his other store, but by the end of the first year the effort was paying off and the store was on its way to becoming a record-setter.
Today, Ibrahim has six successful Edible Arrangements locations in California, and all were either struggling or had closed outright when he took them over.
How does he do it?
“There are two things that I believe are critical to success,” he says.
“First, the owner has to have influence and a presence in the store — even if you have six of them. I make sure that I’m a very important part of each one of my businesses. I may not be taking orders or making deliveries, but I make sure my presence is felt at all my stores.
“Second, if you don’t accommodate people when they NEED you, such as the holidays, they certainly won’t want you tomorrow. When a holiday comes around, I push my team and myself to the limit. We try not to turn away a single customer because we know they need us. That has been the key to our success.”
And once again, that strategy has paid off with record sales for a store that only a few years ago was out of business.
Congratulations Ibrahim and thank you for being an inspiration to us all. I look forward to receiving many more phone calls in the coming years!
Easter bouquets played an important role in the start of Edible Arrangements.
Each year as the Easter season arrives, I am reminded how truly blessed my family and I have been. For all of us, it is a time of remembrance and celebration, and that is especially true as Edible Arrangements® celebrates another year of growth. As a reminder of why the Easter season holds a special place in my heart, I wanted to repost this blog I wrote a year ago.
In 1986, when I opened my first flower shop as a teenager, and again in 1999, when I opened the first Edible Arrangements, Easter was my first holiday experience as a business owner in the gifting industry. And in each case, it was the Easter season that eased my concerns and reconfirmed my belief that I had made the right decision.
The Easter season of 1999 holds a special place in my heart.
As spring arrived that year, I was excited about a new idea to create artistically designed bouquets made from fresh fruit and I was convinced that they would be an immediate hit. My banker disagreed. When I asked for a loan to help launch Edible Arrangements, he told me with no hesitation that the business had no potential.
But I was convinced I had a good idea, and I also knew that Easter and Mother’s Day — two of the biggest holidays in gifting — were right around the corner. I scraped together the money I needed and, with the help of my family, built a small Edible Arrangements store next to my flower shop in East Haven, Connecticut. During this time I faced another of those moments that force entrepreneurs to take a step back and make sure they are committed to their idea.
While we were preparing for opening day, my father invited a friend to the store to show him what I was doing. The friend was a respected professor at a local university and I was excited to hear his thoughts on the business. I was convinced he was going to tell me what a great idea this was. Instead, I was shocked and a little shaken when he told me he didn’t think the business had any potential and that I was wasting my time and money.
It’s times like these that can place doubt and second thoughts in an entrepreneur’s mind. But I was passionate about my idea, and convinced it would work. Barely two weeks before Easter, I opened Edible Arrangements.
Marketing funds were limited, so I created simple flyers to hand out to customers of my flower shop, friends and anyone else I came across. I was so convinced they would love the arrangements that I promised each customer that if they didn’t “WOW” the recipient, I would give them a complete refund.
That first Easter I received 28 orders. My family and I worked all day and into the night to create the arrangements and make sure they were perfect. The next day, as they were delivered, the phone began to ring. Typically, in the gifting industry, when you get a call following a delivery it is a complaint that “the flowers aren’t fresh,” “they didn’t look like they did in the picture,” or a similar issue.
Not this time. Each time the phone rang it was a customer calling to say, “WOW.” Their friends or spouses who received the arrangements were excited and wanted to know where they had found such a creative gift. That Easter convinced me that Edible Arrangements would be successful.
At the time, of course, I had no idea that Edible Arrangements would become a global chain and would be featured in newspapers,magazines and on TV programs worldwide.
At the time, I had no idea that the concept of a business selling fresh fruit arrangements would create opportunities for hundreds of passionate franchisees around the world to pursue their dreams.
I had no idea, when we received those first 28 orders, that 15 years later we would be preparing to fill more than 120,000 orders for another Easter weekend.
That’s why this year, as every year, I pause to think back to those early days and remind myself that Easter truly is a blessed holiday.
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.
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!”