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Candy Bouquet, A U.S. Chamber of Commerce National Blue Chip Enterprise

Hard work and perseverance earn sweet rewards, but Little Rock's Margaret McEntire takes that adage around the world and back home to her family every day. Nine years ago, she founded her international Candy Bouquet franchise operation on a thousand dollars. She worked out of her garage and drew sustenance from her father's favorite saying: "Quitters never win, winners never quit." She knew her product was delicious and beautiful and her concept was straightforward and ethical. It was a matter of very little time before she attracted franchises. When she awarded her 330th franchise in her 18th country this year, more than a few people wanted to learn the secrets of her success.

Taking their cue from the industry built by floral arrangers, McEntire's bouquets feature wrapped gourmet chocolates on stems instead of flowers, colorful candies, and a potpourri of individualized accessories. Her Candy Bouquet stores create unique gifts of the highest quality, and so the business keeps growing as fast-if not faster-than the world's passion for chocolate. "It's not that I'm an inventor," McEntire insists. "I'm a perfector. Candy Bouquets will work anywhere; that's what's so nice about them. Everybody in the world loves flowers, and everybody eats candy."

Perhaps more than her astounding international growth, McEntire's family inspired approach to franchising has piqued the interest of prospects, competitors, and franchise industry leaders alike. She charges no royalty fees to franchisees. They pay a flat monthly association fee of $35 to $200 instead. That leaves franchisees free to exchange ideas, refer customers, and become part of the Candy Bouquet family. "We have conventions and don't charge entrance fees," McEntire explains.

"We just say, "Bring your most unique idea." During the year, if somebody comes up with an idea, they will send it to us."

She continues, "What we're doing is following the Sam Walton theory of looking at the big picture on down the road. If you stick with good quality, keep the prices as low as possible, and don't get greedy, it's a win-win situation. There is no way you can lose."

Today she's an adamant follower of W. Edwards Deming's philosophy of total quality management, but McEntire admits she knew nothing about the business when she began. Her father was an economics professor. She'd taken a business class at the University of Arkansas. She started making the bouquets for friends in the hospital or for anniversary gifts. But it wasn't until people started lining up asking to buy the bouquets that she realized she had a business start-up on her hands.

Since she was formerly an educator, it's not surprising that McEntire first trained a friend, then established a training course for quality control that is today a major selling point for prospective franchisees.

McEntire's commitment to family and community may be the sweetest secret of her franchising success. Candy Bouquet pays the tuition of local University of Arkansas students who maintain a B average and work for the company for at least a year. Since McEntire's husband also works actively on the board of the Rainforest Preservation Foundation-whose mission is to reforest millions of cleared acres of trees-the franchise maintains a trade relationship with clay pot makers in Brazil who supply containers around which the bouquets are built. McEntire's added incentives and inclusive, progressive philosophy are one reason for sky-high morale among franchisees and workers. Well over half of the franchisees are ethnic and minority group members and people with disabilities. McEntire believes they join the Candy Bouquet "family" eager to enjoy the sense of freedom born of creating and delivering the best product imaginable.

The trust shared between McEntire's innovative gift professionals makes it a pleasure for the franchisees to buy what they want and need from McEntire's 15,000-square-foot, 2,000-item distribution center. The rest they get from SAM'S Club, with McEntire's encouragement and blessing. The franchisees save shipping costs and are encouraged to localize and personalize their bouquet creations.

With such commitment to success, it's easy to see why McEntire was recently given a Small Business Person of the Year award by the National Small Business Administration. For McEntire and her associates, life is very sweet indeed.

For more information on the franchise oppotunities available, click here.