Franchise focus: How a mom's former junk food addiction led to a thriving juice concept
Landon and Kat Eckles founded Clean Juice.
Kicking an addiction to junk food helped lead to the creation of Clean Juice, a seven-unit juice concept based in North Carolina. Husband-and-wife, Kat and Landon Eckles founded the first one in 2015, in Huntersville, North Carolina, and the couple has since expanded to Florida via franchising.
"I was a founding director at a global investment company, while Kat was a stay-at-home mom. However, we couldn't find a work/life balance with my frequent business travel and Kat's responsibilities of taking care of our young children," Landon said.
That's when Kat became a reformed junk food addict and began learning everything she could about adopting a healthier lifestyle for her family.
"We decided to look at franchising as a way to start a family-run business to balance work and raising five children, but couldn't find a model that met our standards," Landon said.
The couple set out to create their own brand with a goal of providing certified organic produce. After a year of planning, research, menu design and using their entire savings and maxing out multiple credit cards to make ends meet during the launch time, Clean Juice opened in the Lake Norman area of Charlotte, North Carolina.
"Definitely not a path for the faint of heart, but we were willing to take the risk and bet on ourselves," said Landon,
The risk has paid off; Clean Juice amassed over $1 million in sales their first year, said Landon, who recently discussed his venture with FastCasual.
FastCasual: Since you rely on organic only, where do you source the produce? Will that change as you open new units?
Landon: We work with nationwide distributors who have been extremely helpful in sourcing organic items specifically for us. It was definitely a challenge at first and we made many large runs to Costco. Once we had some traction, distributors were more willing to source things for us.
FastCasual: In what states are the franchise agreements?
Landon: Up until now, Clean Juice has awarded 51 franchise units, which is a great accomplishment considering we just started franchising in 2016. We are set to expand through North Carolina, South Carolina, Texas, Florida, Louisiana, Pennsylvania, Arizona and Michigan in 2017, with more states to follow in early 2018.
FastCasual: How many locations will open this year? How many in the next five years?
Landon: At this moment, we have 51 franchise agreements signed and we are slated to open 20 more locations throughout the year. Our projection for the next five years is that we will open another 400. However, that can always change. The goal was to award around five to 10 licenses in the first year of franchising, and if we keep at our current pace we will be close to 100!
FastCasual: What does it take to become a franchisee? How much does it cost to open unit (build-out and any franchise fees)
Landon: We focus on getting to know our franchisees in the awarding process. We only want to work with people who have a passion for what we are doing and who fit into the Clean Juice culture. Beyond that, the initial investment of a Clean Juice is $246,500 to $498,500, including the $40,000 franchise fee.
FastCasual: Lots of juice concepts are popping up; how will you compete and/or stand out? Is there enough room for all of you?
Landon: Through our commitment to our clients and quality of our products, we pride ourselves on being the first and only USDA-certified organic juice bar franchise. This is our unique selling point, which has been attracting customers and franchisees alike.
Additionally, our mission is to become the world's most plentiful juice bar, allowing everyone access to easy, on-the-go organic food. We hope to provide the perfect nutrition that only comes from eating organic, unprocessed food, along with a warm and welcoming environment to every guest that walks in our door.
Our customers keep coming back because they enjoy our organic smoothies, juices, acai bowl and bites, as well as the friendly atmosphere. We ultimately want to be a place that promotes a healthy body as well as strong spirit.
FastCasual: How do you train or set up your franchisees?
Landon: We have a three-week ‘Clean Juice University' program that all franchisees are required to attend. Beyond that, we send a trainer to the franchisee's store the week before they are open and have a franchise business coach dedicated to any issues that arise throughout the lifetime of their business.
Topics: Franchising & Growth