From the August 2000 issue of Entrepreneur

Edible flowers? No, you're not dreaming of Willie Wonka's Chocolate Factory. Incredibly Edible Delites Inc. allows customers to actually stop and eat the roses.

Based in Broomall, Pennsylvania, this crafty franchise specializes in floral-esque arrangements made from fruits and vegetables. With seven locations, co-founders Susan Ellman, 48, and Ellen Davis, 49, consider themselves part of a business that has evolved over time.

It all started back in 1984 when Ellman, a teacher, made a fruit-basket arrangement for a synagogue function. She used fruit that wouldn't turn brown, including cantaloupes, strawberries, pineapples and grapes. Her creation was such a success, she approached sister-in-law Davis about going into business. Davis, a speech therapist, accepted, and the orders poured in. When they ran out of counter space in their kitchens, Ellman and Davis quit their full-time jobs, opened a workshop, and incorporated their business in 1985.

"We didn't think we'd be coming into our workshop every day," Davis says. "However, from the day we opened the door, we never made another basket at home."

When word-of-mouth spread, they received calls from customers as well as potential franchisees who liked what they saw. Since the first franchise opened in September 1993 in Westville, New Jersey, the business has never been the same.

Incredibly Edible Delites delivered more than $3 million worth of baskets in 1999. Using a controlled growth strategy, Ellman and Davis would like to further develop the East Coast and Midwest before expanding to the Western states.

Considering Ellman and Davis never wanted to be businesswomen, their success as franchisors is "unbelievable," says Ellman, "even to ourselves."


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