Succeeding in business in this tough economy is a challenge for most business owners. Entrepreneur Tariq Farid is tackling this head on, not just for himself, but on behalf of the nearly 900 franchisees in his Edible Arrangements franchise system. Farid’s efforts have not gone unnoticed; the International Franchise Association just named him its “Entrepreneur of the Year” for 2009.
Farid is used to tough challenges. He came to America from Pakistan with his family when he was 11. Working at McDonald’s as a teenager, Farid was impressed by the company’s systematic approach to business. At 17, he borrowed $5,000 from his parents and bought a local flower shop in East Haven, Connecticut. Two years later he had four flower shops. Being a bit of a computer geek, he soon realized the retail floral industry needed better systems, so he started a company distributing computer software to flower shop owners.
Farid got the inspiration for Edible Arrangements after spotting a fruit bouquet in a picture a friend showed him in the late 1990s. At the time, Americans were consuming a lot of fruit (an average of 102 pounds a person in 1999) and spending a lot of money on gift baskets. The first store opened in 1999 in East Haven, where Farid used his floral store background to design fruit bouquets. He opened a second shop in 2000 and started franchising the business in 2001. In 2002 Farid told Inc. magazine he wanted “to become the Domino’s of edible fruit bouquets.”
Farid still marvels at his good fortune, recently telling me, “Only 10 years ago I was delivering fruit out of a van.” But he also realizes you can’t rest on your laurels. “Being unique only goes so far,” he says, “it takes more than a wow factor to grow a business.”
While Edible Arrangements has seen revenue skyrocket from $200,000 in 1999 to over $400 million system-wide today, the recession has caused the company to shift part of its previous strategy. Although Farid warns business owners that “you can’t fall prey to the winds,” Edible Arrangements is encouraging franchisees to shift from single-unit owners to multi-unit operators. In order to do that, Farid has had to go through the system and identify the strengths and weaknesses of the individual franchisees. Then he tries to “help strengthen” the weaker links so everyone can go from being “jockeys to horse owners.” As he explains,” A jockey only rides [and gets to win from] one horse at a time, while a horse owner has many [entries] in the race.”
Another possible challenge to the system’s continued growth in this current economic climate is the fact that Edible Arrangements franchises are required to have retail storefronts, which adds to the upfront startup costs for potential franchisees. But, Farid sees a positive side to the recession as well, since lowered real estate costs can make units less expensive to open.
Farid believes in being a hands-on business owner. His advice to all entrepreneurs: “You’re the captain of your business. You can’t be a captain without acting like one. The biggest burdens and responsibilities [of running a business] are also its biggest rewards.”
Rieva Lesonsky is CEO of GrowBiz Media (www.growbizmedia.com), a content and consulting company that helps entrepreneurs start and grow their businesses.