Starting a Juice Concept With 5 Kids in Tow
A few years back, just outside Charlotte, North Carolina, two young parents with five young kids stumbled upon an idea that seems crazy from an outside perspective: starting a food-based franchise from scratch as a way of improving their work-life balance. With seemingly no fear, they took the plunge and launched Clean Juice Bar in 2014.
“I was making green smoothies before people knew what they were,” said Kat Eckles, who founded Clean Juice Bar with her husband, Landon. “Mine were more like brown smoothies,” noting that her at-home creations were designed for staying healthy, rather than getting a sugar fix.
Before starting the company three years ago, Landon was the managing director for a real estate company, which meant frequent work travel, including mega-trips to Asia on occasion.
“He was gone for weeks at a time, and it just wasn’t going well for our family,” Kat said of their home life after moving south from the Philly area. “Let’s move south, slow down and open up this juice bar. He said OK, we did it, and the rest is history.”
While that may sound nice and tidy in print, this reporter was shocked to hear that building an entirely new brand and simultaneously taking a crash-course on becoming a franchisor was done in an effort to improve, rather than torpedo, the work-life balance of two parents of five young kiddos.
Asked directly about those potential fears or concerns, she struck a confident tone, saying she had so much belief in her smoothies, their business idea and the clear need for healthier eating in this country that they were comfortable maxing out their credit cards and pouring their life savings into the concept.
Compared with other concepts, Clean Juice is certified USDA organic, which includes its own reams of paperwork and processes, but a step they both asserted was well worth the effort both for the final product and peace of mind that their juices would be free of nasty or unknown substances.
“We’re the only USDA-certified organic juice bar that franchises, and that’s a big deal,” she said. Further benefits include attracting the “right franchisees” who are happy to buy into the concept’s story.
In three short years, Clean Juice Bar is up to 10 open locations with another 65 in the pipeline. The current ratio is 80/20 franchise to corporate, with plans to ramp up both company- and franchisee-owned locations. Its locations radiate out from their home base, with stores in both Carolinas, Georgia, Florida, Pennsylvania and Texas.
Seeking to avoid the big multi-unit franchise groups, Clean Juice Bar is looking for fellow owners who are equally as passionate about organic food and healthy living, which includes other adventurous couples and recent college grads partnering with their parents.
And where their old lifestyle often meant weeks apart, their new lifestyle involves spending “basically every waking minute together” and sometimes bringing their kids into the office.
I asked what it takes to design and build a business with five kids at home, and Kat said the key for them was thinking strategically and being strong willed enough to adhere to their original parameters for the brand.
“You have to make sure your people are healthy, and that starts with choosing the right people,” she added. “One sour seed can poison everything.”