At age 25, Somia Farid ’15 already is vice president and general manager of Netsolace, the IT service arm of her family business, Edible Arrangements, which her father, Tariq, founded in 1999.
Today, Edible Arrangements, a global franchisor that specializes in fresh fruit arrangements, has more than 1,000 stores worldwide and revenues of over $500 million.
How exactly does a 25-year-old, who employees remember as the little girl who loved wrapping arrangements, successfully step into such a leadership role? Somia said it’s a combination of a solid business education at entrepreneurship-focused Babson, the hands-on experience she gained through working in different departments in the business, and, most important of all, having the confidence to develop her leadership style.
Somia’s family entrepreneurial legacy started with her great-grandparents, who were farmers in India in the mid-1930s before the 1947 partition of India. They grew and sold cotton and other crops, and were the first farmers in their village to have their own business. The family came to the U.S. in 1981, when her dad was 11.
In 1986, Tariq bought a floral shop in Connecticut with the help of family and friends. Inspired by the beautiful floral bouquets, Tariq began making fresh fruit arrangements and selling them out of the back of his flower shop. Customers loved this innovative new concept and Edible Arrangements was born.
Somia started working at the Edible Arrangements store at a very early age. Throughout her childhood, she learned bits and pieces about the business by spending time with her dad at the store. One of the most important lessons her dad taught her was that the Edible Arrangements brand is all about the customers’ experiences. “His goal has always been to ‘wow’ customers. He always says if a customer is not ‘wowed’ by our products and service, then we’re not doing it right,” Somia said.
Somia and Tariq always knew she would join the family business. After a yearlong stint at an advertising firm, Somia joined Edible Arrangements at age 22. Wisely, Tariq put Somia to work in rotations through various departments and functions within the company, so she could learn the business in depth. Somia immediately began to notice a common challenge an heir apparent in a family business faces—how could she best establish her leadership style given when she was so young, but yet was an owner who was expected to lead? How should she establish her leadership in the shadow of a legendary entrepreneur like her father?
For Somia, the first step was to get to know the business. As she moved through the various rotations, she was quite aware of the need to simply be humble, to ask questions, and try to understand the experiences of others. But, at the same time, she also felt responsible for the business and had a desire to lead, but was acutely aware of the need to both learn from long-time employees and to outwardly show respect for their work.
An opportunity to change the dynamics came when Tariq asked her to lead the new Netsolace operation in Atlanta and a new staff of 25+ would need to be hired, in addition to an offshore team of over 100 programmers. Although it has been less than 12 months since she made the move, Somia already talks and walks like a trusted leader.
Reflecting on her experience, Somia said, “In Atlanta, I have a totally new team and I can decide what kind of leader I will be. As far as my age is concerned, I have realized that there are lots of examples of young people running successful businesses. I don’t think about it other than the fact that I know I have to understand my business inside and out, and my team has to be filled with people who are comfortable with a 25-year-old leader. It turns out lots of people are!” said Somia with a confident smile.
This article originally appeared in Family Business Magazine.
Posted in Entrepreneurship of All Kinds