For a year before opening the first Edible Arrangements, in 1999, Farid worked on perfecting his idea of edible bouquets. He tested different fruit-cutting equipment to find what would best transform cut pineapples, honeydew, and cantaloupe into attractive flowerlike petals and decorative leaves. (And Farid knows his flowers: He started the first of four floral shops when he was 17.) He produced brochures and took his own photos to create mouthwatering shots for a website whose details he paid as much attention to as he did to the store itself. Most important, he says, he settled on a brand image well before opening day. "One of the best things I ever did starting out was hire someone to have a proper logo designed," he says.
The back office wasn't overlooked, either. Farid, a computer geek at heart, had previously built a software system for his floral stores. Using that know-how, he installed a system for Edible Arrangements that could track the status of online orders and would also record buying patterns, so he could follow up with smarter customer service.
The advance work paid off. Within a year of opening in East Haven, Connecticut, the store brought in $192,000 and turned a profit. In Year Two, revenue doubled. Farid believes the tracking system helped boost his numbers by increasing repeat business -- nearly 85 percent of those who placed an order came back for more.
Success put visions of franchising into Farid's head. He didn't have to wait long. About eight months after the opening of the first store, Chris Dellamarggio, a manager for a marketing services company, sought out Farid to say he wanted to open an Edible Arrangements near Boston. "That's how most franchises start," says Farid. "If you have a business that is working, people want to be involved."
Owning a successful store and launching into the franchise business are worlds apart, though. So Farid built himself a second store, in Norwalk, Connecticut, to serve as his test franchise. He went step by step through the stages of opening and running an Edible Arrangements as if he were new to the business: how to source a location and negotiate a lease, where to buy supplies. He standardized things such as hiring techniques and store decoration. He kept meticulous notes and used them to create a training program.
But how to cram all that info into the head of a green franchise owner? "In the beginning, no operations manual works," says Farid. "You are the operations manual." So Farid acted as chief hand holder to his early franchisees, spending endless hours training them and assisting with their store openings. "I actually went in and laid the floor for Chris's store," Farid says.
If you can get the first 10 stores right, says Farid, you are on your way. "That's when you are instilling in your franchisees the values and procedures that are going to help your company grow," he says. Today, there are 883 Edible Arrangements stores around the globe, including the United Kingdom and Kuwait. "People say we've grown quickly," says Farid, "but we were ready for it."
Company Dashboard: Edible Arrangementsfounder Tariq Farid, 40
Location Wallingford, Connecticut
2008 Revenue $19.4 million
Employees 66 Start-up Year 1999
Start-up Costs $100,000
Breakeven Within six months, on sales of $80,000
Biggest Expenses Travel and assisting franchisees with their store openings
Qualifications Experience in the floral and software industries
Red Tape Strict health department regulations and regional building permits