Leading a top-tier brand has taught Mboup to treat success as journey, not a destination.
While Cheikh Mboup, MBA '11, has accomplished a lot in his career, his life aspirations aren’t necessarily work-related.
As someone who left his home of Senegal to come to the U.S. at 13, career success is certainly important. Today, he’s the President and Chief Operating Officer of Edible Brands, the parent company of Edible Arrangements in Atlanta. He’s created and sold companies and worked his way up from a grocery store manager to a district director for Winn-Dixie and BI-LO.
"But it’s what you do with your success that really matters," he said. “I used to think there was a destination, perhaps that I could reach and feel some level of completeness, some level of fulfillment,” Mboup said. “I think it’s a journey that’s a compilation of several things, one of which is what footprints do you leave in this world? “I think that journey, as long as you are able to breathe, and function, you'll continue to pursue it. How do we change the footprint of our existence, from the moment we are here to the moment we're no longer here is something I think about a lot.”
As a high schooler, Mboup was competing in mathematics tournaments with college students from the likes of Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard University – and winning them.
And while most are learning to drive at 15, Mboup was already in college, on his way to graduating summa cum laude from Lehigh University with a degree in finance and statistics with hopes of becoming a stock broker.
A year in the finance industry proved it wasn’t for him, so he entered the grocery business. That’s what led him to Jacksonville — landing a role as a store director at Winn-Dixie/BI-LO. He started his Master of Business Administration at Jacksonville University upon arriving in Florida.
His time at Jacksonville University proved invaluable to him, he said. It’s where he learned to think more strategically and ask the right questions in business settings.
“In my day-to-day life, the things I learned at JU are such a natural thing to do,” he said. “It’s because the exercise was done in the classroom so often.”
Mboup worked his way up the ladder at Winn-Dixie, ending up as District Director. When the opportunity to work for Edible Arrangements arose in 2015, he took the opportunity, and again made his way from Head of Operations to Vice President of Operations, Construction and Real Estate in just seven months. In that same time period, he was busy earning his doctoral degree in economics and international business from Argosy University.
Now, as President and COO of Edible Brands, Mboup oversees Edible Arrangements, its technology company Netsolace, its distribution company BerryDirect and Incredible Edibles, a CBD company.
His first months on the job were consumed by managing the COVID-19 pandemic, which certainly would pose a challenge for any incoming executive. Mboup quickly pivoted the company toward adding fresh fruit and vegetable deliveries to customers, rather than the signature fruit arrangements the company is known for. Mboup turned around a year of declining sales into a record-setting year for Edible Brands, all amid a pandemic, thanks to his deep knowledge of the retail industry, which he’s been cultivating since his days in the grocery store.
Throughout his career, Mboup has been an active investor in more than 17 brands, helping the companies reach new heights with his investment and expertise. He also founded Pierre’s Eatery, an Italian food restaurant with five locations in Florida and Georgia, with plans to expand into more locations in the coming year as it was purchased by the company that owns Sbarro.
“I’ve been able to learn retail from the bottom up,” Mboup said.
For Mboup, the key to success isn’t celebrating it. It’s constantly searching for the next opportunity, whether it is in business or in life.
“One of the greatest obstacles for me is how do I applaud my wins but continue to focus on the opportunities? You can quickly applaud your wins, but you have to refocus yourself on the opportunities,” he said. “It’s an exercise that’s hard to do, to balance yourself emotionally, but it forces you to upgrade your methods on a daily basis.”