IN THE NEWS
A Thousand Dollars and a Dream
It started in a garage in 1989 but today, Candy Bouquet International, Inc. is a worldwide franchise company that has awarded more than 640 franchise territories in 18 countries.
Margaret McEntire began Candy Bouquet in Little Rock, Arkansas, with a thousand dollars and a dream. Her unique idea was to create floral-type bouquets, replacing the flowers with colorful candies and chocolates wrapped on stems and highlighted with bright accessories.
The concept was virtually unknown to the public and McEntire was content to make her creations just to give to friends on their birthdays or while in the hospital. But as more and more people saw the Candy Bouquet arrangements, she began to get orders from others willing to pay for them. Thus, a business was born.
McEntire and a friend opened a retail store in an upscale Houston, Texas suburb and sales soared. But when the friend was forced to give up running the store because of a family situation, Margaret was left to start over on her own.
She returned to making Candy Bouquets in her garage until it was filled and spilling over into her home until it, too, was filled. At that point, she opened a tiny 90 square foot store in a bank building in Little Rock. Sales were brisk and people purchasing the colorful arrangements soon began inquiring about franchise opportunities.
It was then that she made the decision to go ahead and develop what is one of today's top franchise organizations, rated at the top of its category by almost every industry publication. This year, Candy Bouquet was one of only four companies chosen as national Blue Chip Enterprises awarded at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's annual meeting.
The unique idea of creating floral-like bouquets from candy has now grown into a full shop concept that features designer gift bouquets, priced from $25 to $250 each, along with homemade fudge, a line of Sweet Shop chocolates, and a new line of Tout Sweet European chocolate products. Candy Bouquet has become the North American distributor for London-based Applewoods' personal care products such as shampoo and bath oils as well as candles, aromatherapy, and gift sets.
The Focus is on the Franchisee
Because McEntire personally tracked her dream every step of the way, she learned the business as it was being created. There was no sample bouquet to follow, so she made one up. She had never been involved in franchising so she began to build her franchise company from the perspective of the franchisee.
"What would I want to see in a franchise? That was the question that kept coming up," says McEntire. "If Candy Bouquet could be built as franchisee-friendly from start to finish, everyone would benefit."
One of her first themes helped set the tone: "Fun to give. Fun to receive. Fun to eat." Of course, she wanted her franchisees to be profitable while having fun.
That approach has made Candy Bouquet unique and helped it skyrocket to the top of its category. McEntire proudly clicks off several of the points that attract franchisees to her offering:
The Price is Right
Candy Bouquet franchises start at only $3,500 and are sold based on the territory the franchisee prefers. The company guarantees the geographic territory and makes certain that franchisees don't overlap.
Because of this, franchisees often help each other, passing on customers and leads that come from another's territory.
Start-up costs for a Candy Bouquet franchise are as little as 1/10th of competing franchises. McEntire has structured her franchise organization so that even people with little or no experience can come on board for a minimal investment and be successful because of the company's comprehensive training program.
Although Candy Bouquet is presently in 47 states and all Canadian provinces, McEntire says there are thousands of high quality locations still available.
No Royalty Fees
Candy Bouquet does not charge its franchise owners a royalty fee which has attracted attention from prospects and competition alike. To the franchise industry, this approach is as unique as the product itself.
According to McEntire, the reason behind the "no royalty fee" policy is to avoid a conflict of interest with the franchisees. "We don't want them to have to pay us or anyone else from the profits of their hard work," she explains. "In return, we receive their cooperation in sharing designs and marketing ideas, creating a supportive franchise family."
Instead, franchisees pay only a flat monthly association fee of $35 to $200 that is not tied to sales volume and is used to cover office expenses, phone and communications.
A Franchise as Creative as its Franchisees
"Unlike hamburger franchises, no two of our products are ever alike," points out McEntire. "Of course, we have the highest quality control standards that must be followed, but our franchisees are free to be creative with what they make and sell."
Candy Bouquet's training course includes learning the ten basic arrangements that are so popular. But from there, franchisees are free to custom-make bouquets or to take advantage of designs they share with each other in the company's monthly newsletter and in competition held at the annual conventions in Little Rock, Los Angeles, and Winnipeg.
Candy Bouquet custom arrangements can be made in almost any container with the customer's favorite candies in it. These delicious sensations can be customized with bright balloons, cellophane accents, party novelties, stuffed animals, silk flowers, hobby themes, and more. Occasionally customers bring in photographs or other personal items to be incorporated into the bouquets.
"The great thing about Candy Bouquet's concept is that the number of arrangements is limited only by your imagination," says McEntire.
One franchisee built a bouquet around a customer's old cowboy boot with an arrow shot through it. When the boot's owner was a child a friend accidentally shot the arrow through the boot he was wearing. On the shooter's 40th birthday, it became a surprise one-of-a-kind present to him.
Customers have requested arrangements in Olympic skates, foot casts, paper bags, sand buckets, crock pots, blenders, golf bags, shopping carts, coffee pots, and even a mannequin. One customer brought a three-foot tall stork bouquet to his granddaughter by airplane to the amusement of passengers and crew.
"Everywhere our arrangements go, they draw attention," marvels McEntire.
Candy Bouquet is attracting attention internationally, as well. This summer, it awarded franchises in four more countries, bringing its total presence to 18 countries. It has a franchise office on two continents and last year joined with Asian partners to form Candy Bouquet Asia, Ltd., with headquarters in Kuala Lumpur, the capital of Malaysia. Its products will soon be enjoyed on all continents.
Unlike fragile floral arrangements, Candy Bouquet arrangements can be packaged and shipped anywhere in the free world. "They last longer than flowers and certainly taste better, too," notes McEntire.
The Candy Bouquet Distribution Center
Candy Bouquet has its own distribution center, over 15,000 square feet, having grown from the corner of McEntire's dining room in less than four years.
Stored in the center are over 2,000 items, including private labeled coffee, popcorn and chocolates in addition to the standard candies and accessories required to make the bouquets.
Because of its contents, the building has strict humidity control and even a "cool room" to protect the chocolates from usual searing summer heat in Arkansas. The center uses special insulated packaging to ship chocolates in warm weather.
Candy Bouquet has its own special wire, cellophane and other engineering machines used expressly by franchisees in the creation of the bouquets. Developed exclusively for the company, they are only found in the distribution center.
Another unique approach McEntire has taken is allowing franchisees to purchase supplies and materials from outside of the company's distribution center. This gives the franchisees the freedom to create candy bouquet arrangements with a local flavor and sometimes saves the franchisee shipping costs.
"Since our franchisees don't have to buy materials from us, this approach assures the franchisees that we will keep our prices competitive," explains McEntire. "They are not obligated to buy everything from us."
However, the distribution center has many items that can't be found anywhere else at the bulk price Candy Bouquet is able to negotiate from its suppliers. The company passes these savings on to the franchisees.
Candy Bouquets, continually evaluating an ever-increasing number of candies and chocolates, is always looking for high quality new items to provide more excitement its arrangements.
A Close-Knit Franchise Organization
A firm believer that value starts at the top, McEntire insists on talking personally with prospective franchisees and spends hours daily taking calls from franchise owners around the world.
Candy Bouquet is a company built by a group of diverse people across many religious, ethnic, and cultural lines. Over 65% of its franchises are minority-owned, including its very first franchisee.
"Many of our corporate staff are also minorities, working as a family unit here at CBI headquarters," says McEntire.
The Holy Angels, a Catholic organization of handicapped individuals, puts arrangements together under volunteer supervision with all profits going to charity. One franchisee is color-blind while another was blinded in an
accident and works with her daughter. Another franchisee has multiple sclerosis and makes bouquet arrangements with one hand.
"If they believe in their hearts they can do this," explains McEntire, "we believe in ours we can provide everything they need to do the job right."
Taking That Extra Step
Candy Bouquet believes it has a corporate obligation to its communities and the world.
McEntire's husband, Jay, is on the board of the Rainforest Preservation Foundation, a commercial log retrieval operation that pulls sunken logs out of the Amazon River and sells them. Part of the proceeds are used to buy existing rainforest land and preserve and replant it for the future.
In addition, McEntire has made arrangements with a Brazilian Indian organization to purchase handmade clay pots for her franchisees. Each sale of an Indian pot includes a donation to the foundation. The Rainforest
Preservation Foundation has already saved several million acres of the dwindling rainforest land.
The corporate headquarters is also setting an example in the support of education. Employees in the distribution center who maintain a B average and work with the company for a year are eligible for a college scholarship and full tuition paid at the University of Arkansas, as long as they work for the company.
"The productivity in the distribution center went sky-high when this was announced," says McEntire. "We have one of the few such centers with warehouse workers that are all computer literate and extremely productive. We work like family around there. They know that we are there for them and they are the same with us. What a great way to have camaraderie."
From Candy Bouquet's humble beginnings to its current position of success, it has consistently operated under the philosophy that "If you get greedy in anything, you lose. If the corporate headquarters is honest and giving with its franchisees, the franchisees, in return, will be giving to their customers and clients."
"Families teach values and operate this way, so why shouldn't franchise families do the same?" McEntire states emphatically.
Candy Bouquet International
Candy Bouquet International, Inc.