When he immigrated to the United States in 1981, Tariq Farid was eager to embody his new home. To accomplish this feat, Farid purchased a shirt with tigers on it, because, well, that’s what Americans do. At least he thought.
Farid’s trek to success as founder and CEO of Edible Arrangements International was also rooted in daring attempts—much like his tiger-embroidered shirt.
The international businessman touched on these intimate stories and his rise to success last week on the Startup Grind New Haven stage at The Grove. Adam Muniz, founding director of SG New Haven and Stamford, posed questions to the East Haven resident in a dynamic conversation before a sold-out crowd.
After spending his first 11 years in Pakistan, Farid’s mother told her eldest of six the importance of their resettlement.
“She said ‘Today is my freedom,’” he recounted. “‘My life begins today.’”
While he didn’t fully grasp the significance of that day at the time, Farid knew the conversation with his mother was poignant.
Farid would soon land in East Haven where his father had migrated years before. Landing in the New Haven area was a blessing, he said, which made last week’s event that much sweeter.
“I really enjoy speaking to people in New Haven because this is where it all happened,” Farid said.
As a boy, Farid personified the values of Pakistan through hospitality and hard work. He helped his mother deliver authentic dishes around their new neighborhood and mowed the neighbor’s lawn.
Good grades in middle school earned Farid his first job at 13 years old in a flower shop. Before leaving the store for several odd jobs, he found his desire for entrepreneurship.
In 1987, Farid was just 17 years old when he purchased a flower shop in Milford using a loan from a family friend. His parents tended to the store while he finished high school every day. He laughs now thinking back to how he didn’t know how to operate a flower shop. He even destroyed the first shipment of flowers he purchased by freezing them overnight. The distributor also laughed, he said, and offered a free batch of new flowers.
“If he didn’t do that I wouldn’t have survived,” he recalled. “This journey of mine has been [because of] the kindness of many, many others.”
Farid said he has always valued the advice of others and learned to see new trends in the business sector. He proved this in 1988 when he started a computer installation business that implemented software and networks for flower shops around the state.
“I learned you don’t live in the present, you don’t live in the past, you always live in the future,” he said. “You always look at where things are going and be the first to learn it and adopt and adapt.”
By 1993, Farid turned his installation company success into a business called Netsolace. Now with several flower shops and a thriving software company, Farid eyed a new venture with all of his business contacts in hand.
After coming across a photo of arrangements from 1967, Farid realized melding fruit with flower arrangements could be a groundbreaking initiative.
In 1999, he dedicated 600 square feet of his flower shop in East Haven to the endeavor and called the project Edible Arrangements. Despite doubts from business constituents and a magazine story reviewing his business, he continued selling the fruit baskets because his consumers approved.
The small business became a franchise of 500 stores in just five years, even though Farid’s original business plan called for 35 to 50 stores. More than 1,100 Edible Arrangements stores now operate throughout the United States, including 62 international stores. The company is still growing, too: In the last three years, the company reports three percent growth.
Farid also serves as the CEO and president of Naranga and founder and CEO of BroadPeakIT, both of which are software-oriented companies. In 2013, he founded the Tariq Farid Foundation, a nonprofit organization formed to feed the hungry and provide healthcare, educational and job training services.
His parting advice to budding entrepreneurs was to value life experiences—not just industry-based experiences.
“If you have a great idea and you have the passion, just go after it,” Farid said. “Just find yourself some positive mentors who are going to help you, who are going to give you real advice.”
Images courtesy of Startup Grind New Haven