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This Family Photo Keeps the Edible Arrangements Founder Focused on Growth

It was taken when he received his 28th order, and today reminds him to work through the inevitable hard times.

This story appears in the June 2019 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

In 1986, when I was 17, I bought a tiny, 600-square-foot shop with a loan from a family friend. My mother was my first employee. I would drop her off on my way to high school and come back afterward to run the shop. She'd made it only through the fifth grade in , but during those early days, when we would sometimes struggle just to make $100, she was instrumental in teaching me the fundamentals of success.

Courtesy of Tariq Farid

When I began testing the idea of selling bouquets out of fruit cut into various shapes, people thought I was crazy, and it was impossible to get bank financing. But the first time my mother saw an arrangement, she got it. "That is amazing," she told me. "This is going to be big." So I kept going. In March 1999, I opened the first store. It was Easter, and we had 28 orders. We thought we had hit gold. My mother gave me a big hug, and someone snapped a photo.

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was good. We had $190,000 in sales that first year, and I became obsessed with how we could grow even more. Then my mother sat me down at the table. "You've got to stop chasing the ," she said. "Instead, talk to your customers. People work so hard and give you $30, $40 for flowers they don't need. Go take care of them. Then the money will chase you." And she was right. By 2005, when my mother passed away, we already had many franchises.

Then, in 2008, the collapsed. Some of the stores were really struggling. During a really rough patch, I spotted that photo of my mother giving me the hug. Suddenly, memories of those early days came back to me of when we had to make deliveries by bus or bicycle, how a snowstorm would totally derail our business (flowers go bad quickly), and the times we could barely make payroll. It reminded me that we had been through difficult times before, and I realized that if someone hasn't had really rough moments—if they haven't had to correct their path at least two or three times -- then they aren't trying hard enough. They aren't taking enough risks.

That kept me going.

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Today, Edible Arrangements has more than 1,200 locations worldwide generating more than $500 million in annual sales. I have technology companies, logistics companies, a philanthropic organization. But no matter what, that picture remains on my desk. It helps me stay grounded and keep my eye on the big picture. "Be thankful when times are good and when times are tough," my mother would say. "The most important thing is to remember the journey."

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