Edible Arrangements founder Tariq Farid had a vision for a new type of product: arrangements of fruits carved to look like giant bouquets of flowers. But investors were skeptical. Some even said the business would fail.
Farid, however, remain undeterred.
“The customers told us they loved the product. Anytime you made it and you put it in front of the customers, they would say ‘When can I buy, or ‘How can I buy more?’” Farid tells CNN’s Poppy Harlow in a recent episode of Boss Files.
So Farid bootstrapped the business himself to get it off the ground.
Now Edible Arrangements is pulling in close to $600 million in annual sales across 1,200 franchise locations in 11 countries.
“It was a struggle,” he says. “But I enjoy those challenges, because I guess when you had nothing and you started with nothing, then what do you have to lose? You take the risk and you keep trying.”
Farid’s family moved from Pakistan to the United States when he was 13.
“I remember a moment when... we arrived, and my mother was here for about three or four months, and she said, ‘My life has now begun.’”
Money was tight, however. Farid recalls that the family was unable to afford mangoes at the grocery store – something he was used to having after dinner as a child in Pakistan.
“When we came here, about a year in or six months in, my mother saw mangoes at the grocery store and she told my father that there were mangoes. I think they were a dollar each…. my father says, ‘No, put them back. They’re too expensive’… I realized at that point that things have changed,” he reflects.
But Farid’s family was resourceful and entrepreneurial. When Farid was 17, his father saw a flower shop for sale in the local newspaper. With a $6,000 loan from his father’s boss, Farid bought the shop in his hometown of East Haven, Connecticut. Within a couple of years, Farid had dropped out of college and was operating four shops.
On the side, Farid started creating and selling bouquets of fruit. Customers loved them. And by 1999, Farid launched Edible Arrangements. A couple of years later, the company adopted a franchise model and stores started opening up across the United States.
Critical to his success, Farid says, was his first job at a McDonald’s when he was 16.
“They had systems,” he says. “Where there are systems, you can excel. When you went in, they gave you training. I started out by watching a video and you’re cleaning the bathrooms, you’re cleaning the reception area. But you knew what the next stage was. I learned most of the systems from there, and then when I wanted to franchise my company, I remembered all those things.”
The next stage for Farid is to expand his business even further.
In 2017, Farid bought back the ownership stake in Edible Arrangements from L Catteron, a private equity firm based in Greenwich, Connecticut. The firm had bought the equity stake five years earlier for an undisclosed amount as the company was seeking to expand into fruit smoothies, frozen yogurt and chocolates.
In July, Farid stepped down as CEO of Edible Arrangements to focus on growing Edible Brands, the parent company that includes technology, supply-chain and several other businesses.
“I believe in the brand and I’ve got the years left in me and I feel I can grow it, and I have an amazing group of franchisees. We’re just in the middle of a brand repositioning, or rebranding, where we’re starting to carry a lot more product,” the 50-year-old tells CNN.
It’s what he likes to call “Edible 2.0.”
But Farid notes it’s a particularly “challenging time” given the current rhetoric about immigrants in the United States.
“We have a lot of immigrants that are franchisees. A lot of the entrepreneurs that open our businesses, and you see them concerned,” he says. “You see people concerned about what’s happening, and you see this in other countries, where certain minorities or certain people are discriminated against, and it’s damaging to those economies. It’s damaging to what the fabric of that country is.”
Farid says he won’t stay silent about the contributions immigrants make to the US economy.
“We’re a diverse country, and if we’re looking at immigrants, the contribution has been amazing, both ways. I don’t think any immigrant – my parents never forgot it, my father makes sure I still don’t forget – what this country has done for us,” he says.