Special Arrangements A persistent entrepreneur enjoys the sweet fruits of his labor.

By Anna Buss

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Chris Dellamarggio, 33, had never owned his own business, but he says he knew one day he would have it all.

Working as a marketing researcher, Dellamarggio wasn't happy, mostly because every major decision was already made for him. He was ready for a change. "I knew in the back of my mind that I wanted to do something [different]," he says. "I didn't know if it would ever come about, but I knew something was out there."

Dellamarggio came across that something in early 2000. At his aunt's house one day, he saw an Edible Arrangements basket of fresh strawberries, pineapple, grapes, oranges, cantaloupe and honeydew sculpted like flowers. "I was impressed with it, and everyone was going crazy over it," he recalls. He thought the product was great. "Their arrangements, in appearance, blew away the other products out there."

Struck with the idea of having his own business, Dellamarggio decided to research the company. When he found out they weren't franchising, he repeatedly contacted the company's owners to try to persuade them to open other locations. After less than a year of regular contact, the owners gave in and put together an Edible Arrangements franchise plan.

Dellamarggio, who spent about $130,000 of his own money to open in 2001, was the company's first franchisee. "I had a gut feeling about the whole thing," he says. His instincts proved to be right, and since Dellamarggio came onboard, the franchisor has opened 53 other locations nationwide.

Although Dellamarggio now works on holidays and for shifts of 15 to 18 hours per day, his dedication has paid off. In 2003, his sales were in the six-figure range, and Dellamarggio projects sales of $1 million in 2004. Due to high demand, he hopes to open two new locations in the Boston area by the end of the year.

Now this former market researcher finally feels like he has it all. His product works on every level-"it's not like cookies or candy, where people are going to feel guilty about sending it," he explains-and he's found his passion. "You have to love what you're doing," he says. "You have to wake up in the morning and say 'I can't wait to go to work today.'"

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