While on a flight to New York City, Clara Khoury was passing time by reading the air carrier’s magazine and noticed an advertisement that caught her eye. She read about a franchise opportunity for Edible Arrangements, a gift store offering a variety of fresh fruit bouquets for special occasions. Father’s Day was coming up so when she returned to El Paso to purchase a fruit bouquet she looked for an Edible Arrangement but there was none to be found. This discovery led to the idea of owning an Edible Arrangements store in El Paso.
Clara is no stranger to small business ownership since her father owned a restaurant and at an early age she learned his work ethics and the importance of being dedicated to the business. Her husband, Tony Khoury is an entrepreneur as well and has owned a commercial flooring business for 27 years. At this time, Clara had been employed as a teacher for 23 years but she now had become consumed with the idea of owning her own business.
She wanted to learn more about the particulars of operating a franchise business and attended an Edible Arrangements “Discovery Day” for interested franchisees at the corporate headquarters in Connecticut. While learning about the franchise opportunity she discovered that a nationwide U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) lender could provide small business financing for the franchise purchase.
In December 2007, Clara decided to end her teaching career and seek an SBA 7(a) guaranteed loan from CIT to purchase the company and open her doors for business on July 7, 2008 in East El Paso. Her hunch that this would be a good business venture was right. Her store is often ranked one of the top stores in total sales of the 68 stores in Texas and in the top five stores in the nation.
“My customers love to celebrate special occasions and they like the idea of purchasing a fruit bouquet. Many people are living a healthy life style and this has helped build my business,” Khoury said.
Soon after opening the store she quickly increased the number of employees to meet the immediate demand for her product. She started with a staff of seven and in one week had to increase the number to 12 and later employed 25 people. Additionally, her store had reached maximum operating capacity and she noted that 40 percent of her delivery orders are to customers on the West side of El Paso.
Clara decided to look for a new location and when meeting with a lender at First Light Credit Union she learned about the SBA 504 loan for the purchase of land, building and equipment. The loan can also be used for the renovation of a building that she had identified on the West side. Clara’s second Edible Arrangements is located on El Paso’s West side and opened in June 2011.
Clara’s daughter was hired as the store manager and after one year she was recognized as the national Store Manager of the Year. Clara’s daughter decided to pursue her higher education degree and is now attending college at Our Lady of the Lake in San Antonio, Texas.
“Once my daughter completes her degree and if she is interested she can help me open a new store in Las Cruces, New Mexico,” Khoury said. Her son moved to Austin, Texas and is now working at and Edible Arrangement there. The entire family is recognized across the nation since the East side location is still one of the top stores in the nation.
The West side store is growing. “Now that we have two locations I moved some of my employees and have 10 on the West side and 15 on the East side but plan to hire five more employees by the end of the year bringing the total to 30 employees!” Clara said.
When asked what it was like once being a teacher and now an entrepreneur she said that owning a business is a lot like teaching. “Working with new employees is like teaching students, they need to feel that they are valued, involved, appreciated and provided with the support tools they need.” Her advice to new entrepreneurs is to work your business, be there and be involved.