“Don’t chase money, it runs really fast. This is something my mother used to say to me, and it defined my business ideas. As a young entrepreneur I often got lost in the numbers of the business. Numbers and cash flow are important, but nothing is more important than the customer. I’ve found that if you do the right thing for your customers and continually aim to please them, money will start chasing you. This customer-first approach and aiming to make our customers keep saying “WOW” has played a big part in our success.”
I had the distinct pleasure to interview Tariq Farid. Tariq is the Founder of Edible Arrangements, LLC and the CEO of Edible Brands, LLC, parent company of Edible Arrangements® as well as several technology and real estate companies. In 2013, he and his wife established the Tariq and Asma Farid Foundation. He has been inducted into the Connecticut Immigrant Heritage Hall of Fame as well as the Junior Achievement of Southwest New England’s Business Hall of Fame. Tariq is a member of the board of the International Franchise Association, was named Entrepreneur of the Year in 2009, and was inducted into the IFA Hall of Fame in 2018.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us the story of how you grew up?
I grew up in Pakistan and my family was very poor. My mother used to tell stories of how she got her first pair of shoes when she was seven, and she wouldn’t wear them on rainy days — she would rather go barefoot because she didn’t want her shoes to get dirty. For me, just imagine being a kid who, one, your parents can’t afford to dress you well because they’re poor, and two, you wear the wrong sneakers and you’re not the hip person. And then you come to America where things are so much more sophisticated than where you grew up. I grew up on a farm, so we didn’t have anything. We didn’t have a car. My grandmother’s house didn’t even have electricity.
Was there a particular trigger point that made you emigrate to the U.S.? Can you tell a story?
My mother’s grandfather had briefly immigrated to the U.S. at the turn of the century as a laborist, and returned with stories of the land of opportunity that he saw in America. When my parents decided that there was no way to give us the life they wanted for us in Pakistan, they followed my great-grandfather’s stories all the way to America. My mother used to tell us, “I’ve heard that you can make it here, so go make it!”
Can you tell us the story of how you came to the U.S.? What was that experience like?
I had an uncle who lived here, and we were very lucky that he could help us get a visa. We moved to Connecticut when I was 13 and we didn’t speak any English, so things were very difficult at first. My father worked as a machinist during the day, Burger King at night, and then at McDonald’s on the weekend. We all helped out as much as we could. I cut grass, shoveled snow and got a paper route. My brother and I used to deliver papers to a local flower shop, and the owner, Charlie Farricielli, let us do odd jobs around the shop like load people’s cars, ring up orders, or take flowers to the cemetery.
Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped make the move more manageable? Can you share a story?
Charlie was probably the most important person, not only in helping make the transition easier, but also in helping to jumpstart my entrepreneurial journey. Charlie gave me my first real job and was instrumental in helping me to open up my first flower shop when I was 17. Without him and his kindness and generosity, I never would have learned the ins and outs of running your own business, or what it means to start a small business from scratch and build it with your own hands.
So how are things going today?
I am incredibly blessed with how things turned out for me. I have a wonderful family and an incredible company. I lead several successful technology and real estate companies as well as Edible Arrangements, the company I founded nearly 20 years ago now with nearly 1,200 locations around the world. I never could have imagined that one small flower shop in Connecticut would lead to all of this — a true American dream.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
Because I am so grateful for where I am today, I have made it my mission to give back to those who are in need. My wife and I currently run the Tariq and Asma Farid Foundation, where our mission is to alleviate suffering by providing for the basic needs of food and healthcare, and to improve lives through the support of education and skill development opportunities that enable individuals to reach their full potential. I’ve been blessed with so much, and it gives us joy to share that and to pay it forward, as there are many who have shared their time and their wealth and their resources with us. I wouldn’t be where I am today if it weren’t for the generosity and encouragement of others, so it’s really very important to me to give.
You have first-hand experience with the U.S. immigration system. If you had the power, which three things would you change to improve the system?
· Job training. I witnessed my father working multiple jobs just to make ends meet, and I would like other immigrants like him to be able to train for jobs that will make a difference in their community and afford them the opportunity to provide for themselves and their families.
· Language training. I was lucky to have teachers who cared and helped me to learn English, but so many other immigrants do not have the same opportunities.
· Assimilation. Overall, I would like to make it easier for immigrants like my family to assimilate — getting used to American customs or having educational services available to help make immigrants the star citizens they are meant to be.
Can you share “5 keys to achieving the American dream” that others can learn from you? Please share a story or example for each.
· Don’t chase money, it runs really fast. This is something my mother used to say to me, and it defined my business ideas. As a young entrepreneur I often got lost in the numbers of the business. Numbers and cash flow are important, but nothing is more important than the customer. I’ve found that if you do the right thing for your customers and continually aim to please them, money will start chasing you. This customer-first approach and aiming to make our customers keep saying “WOW” has played a big part in our success.
· Opportunity is what you chase and risk is what you mitigate. So, when you look at it, you aren’t defined by the 2 percent of issues you face, you get defined by the 98 percent of success. I told myself this a long time ago when we had no money, when we couldn’t get a loan, when most people told me it won’t work because we cut fruit, put it on sticks and put it in a basket. “How’s that going to work?” they would say. We were doing this from scratch. That’s when it was really difficult.
· This applies to business, but follow the “60%, 20% and 20% Rule”. Spend 60 percent of your time managing and planning for the future, 20 percent reflecting on the past and 20 percent maintaining the present.
· Work hard and work smart. There are a lot of other people just like you who want to achieve their own dream. If you don’t work hard and set yourself apart, you will get lost in the shuffle. I started my first business when I was 17 and I haven’t stopped working since then.
· Remain faithful, especially to your family and friends, as they are the ones who will get you through tough times. My mother was my biggest supporter and her enthusiasm and encouragement brought me to where I am today.
We know that the U.S. needs improvement. But are there three things that make you optimistic about the U.S.’s future?
Some people say that the American Dream is dead, but I tell them every day that I am living proof that the American Dream is still alive and well. Look at me: a kid who came to the U.S., unable to speak English and teased for not having the right shoes or not knowing what was cool. Now I’m the founder of multiple technology and real estate companies, as well as a $600 million business with nearly 1,200 locations around the world. I’m optimistic because:
· I’ve seen the American Dream work, not only for immigrants like myself, but for people like Charlie who built a small business to be proud of.
· America is still the land of opportunity, as immigrants arrive every single day in search of a better life.
· I think Edible is a perfect example of why I am optimistic. The men and women who chose to open up a franchise with us are opening a small business in their community. Small businesses like these are the heart of the American Dream. When you have someone who leaves their job and says, “I want to open a franchise,” and takes their life savings and goes and opens a store on Main Street, that’s a force to contend with. They’re going to take care of every customer because they want to work very hard to protect the investment they made.
Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the U.S. with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might see this. 🙂
This may not seem like a big name, but I would love to have lunch with Charlie- he was such an instrumental part of my career and we have been fortunate to stay in touch over the years!
What is the best way our readers can follow you on social media?
Originally published at medium.com