Tariq Farid, the founder of the Wallingford-based Edible Arrangements, shared his story as a young immigrant to the United States whose hard-working ethos created a successful franchising business specializing in fresh fruit arrangements.
At a recent Lunch and Lead held in the Margaret E. and Henry R. Roberts Center for Leadership, KO students learned of Farid’s drive and the key elements to his success. Immigrating from Pakistan with his family when he was 11, Farid helped support his family by entering the job market early with stints as a newspaper delivery boy and a Burger King and McDonald’s server. His aspiration to be a doctor took a detour when, at 17, he purchased a flower shop that was going out of business. He said, “The magic was that person who lent me the $6,000 who believed that I could make the business a success.”
Farid admits that while in school other students ribbed him for his flower business, but he persisted despite his detractors. While managing the flowers business, he developed a computerized point of sale system for other flower shops nationally which, ultimately, became a more dominant aspect of his own flower business. His mother, his focus group of one, approved of the concept of fresh fruit arrangement inspired by the floral business which led him to open the first Edible Arrangement store in Hamden, CT in 1999.
Now, the Edible Arrangement concept has blossomed into 1300 locations in ten countries with $600 million in sales. Part of Farid’s success is his insatiable curiosity. “I chased down the guy that ran Subway, and I asked him questions. I was always curious as to why something failed. What happened? What could they have done better?”
He told the students to set their sights high and be wary of looking only at the next incremental step ahead. “People look at their business career from basecamp to basecamp. That is not the way to live life. You should look to the top and say “I’m going to run this business one day.” You have to train yourself mentally.”
Farid describes leadership as the ability to be humble and yet decisive simultaneously. He said, “You define what the rules are and you have to assume that it could fail.” He regards building a team as an essential component of a thriving business where true leaders find and cultivate the right people, built on trust. He said, “You have to figure out what you’re good at and find someone who makes you better. If you’re mediocre at something, put someone else in place. Just get out of their way because you’re not going to be great at everything.”
When his business was in its nascent stages, Farid was stuck in traffic on the Q Bridge in New Haven with his grandfather, a deeply religious man. His grandfather remarked that he was delighted that Farid was in a business that made people smile. His grandfather said, “I will always pray for you if you promise to always stay in a business that makes people smile.” Farid has carried this take away to heart by establishing and living core values at his company. He said, “You can build any success but you need to stay true to who you want to be. Build an American brand that does it the right way.”