Business View Magazine interviews Kat (CVO) & Landon Eckles (CEO), founders/owners of Clean Juice, as part of our Top Franchise Opportunities series.
Healthy in body, strong in spirit. This mantra forms the very essence of the Clean Juice brand. Delivering a true USDA-certified, organic juice product in a kind and caring fashion to guests of all ages takes passion – something that husband and wife founders Kat and Landon Eckles have in abundance. Now, they’re looking for potential franchisees to help them share the health, wealth, and Clean Juice lifestyle across America.
The Eckles started Clean Juice in 2014. At the time, Landon had spent years traveling internationally and was ready for a career change and more time with his family, and Kat had spent the better part of a decade making smoothies and juices at home. The idea of opening a juice bar made perfect sense. They embraced the concept one hundred percent, moved to Lake Norman, North Carolina, and opened their first location, Birkdale Village, on their 8th wedding anniversary – June 5th, 2015.
Kat speaks from the heart about their Clean Juice brainchild. “I think our basis for juicing followed the way we’d been eating at home with our kids. I had been doing it, self-taught, for about ten years. I was super interested in the benefits of wellness and eating a plant-based, organic diet. We wanted to turn that into a business because we felt passionate about it, just from being that way at home as a family.”
Landon explains, “The more we delved into other franchise concepts, the more we thought we could do it better ourselves. Not to say anything bad about them, we just wanted to focus on being all organic. We wanted a strong emphasis on the guest experience – how the store was laid out. We wanted our guests to see all the fresh produce we were putting into their products, and we really didn’t find that with any other concepts. I had quit my job, my wife wasn’t working, we were raising our kids at the time, and we spent about a year developing the concept before we actually launched it.”
Landon says, “Obviously, we wanted a strong product. We wanted to be certified organic because we believe when you’re making juices and smoothies you use the best products. When we first began the Clean Juice brand, we didn’t necessarily think about franchising it, but after a year of prep, and the opening, seeing how successful our first store was, we realized that franchising could be a strong possibility.”
Two more corporate stores opened in the first year, and the franchising platform was launched in the summer of 2016. There are currently 63 total franchise units – five currently open and operating and 58 in development, four corporate stores open and operational, and four more corporate stores planned for this year. The first Clean Juice franchise opened March 15th, 2017, and since then interest has soared in states across the country.
Landon notes, “The most important thing a franchise owner can have is passion for Clean Juice. We want them to understand why we are different. Why eating organic makes a difference in your lifestyle. They must meet financial requirements and have some business acumen, but we’ve found the best franchise owners, so far, have been ones that just come on board because they love what we do. Of course, the economics matter, but that brand passion has to be there too.”
Once a candidate has signed a franchise agreement, the Clean Juice team helps them find a location, negotiate the terms on the LOI and the lease, and will not let them sign anything until corporate franchise specialists visit the space to ensure it’s a suitable location. “From there, we help them through the entire architecture and build-out process,” Landon adds. “We make three trips during construction to make sure everything’s going smoothly. We have weekly phone conversations with the general contractor, and bring the franchisee to the home office for an intensive, two-week, Clean Juice University training program.”
Before the Grand Opening, Clean Juice sends out a store launch specialist, a certified trainer, and a field support manager to assist with the opening. They stay for several days to help once the store is opened. Clean Juice has negotiated contracts with several organic produce distributors and food vendors, and all locations must use USDA certified organic material. As a result, all products look, taste and feel the same in every store.
“We are the only USDA certified organic franchise available,” says Landon. “We have a sign in each of our stores that tells what isn’t organic. We’re very transparent with our guests about that. Normally, the sign is empty. If the product is available organically, we need to source it. We tell all our “Juiceristas” (our trademarked name for entry level baristas) that every time a customer comes in, you can make their day. We teach them how to interact with people and give the best versions of themselves when they’re on the floor.”
Beyond making juices and smoothies, Clean Juice offers an individual experience. Guests can see every piece of produce selected and juiced, just for them. And every order is delivered in a cup with the guest’s name on it. That customer relationship is a key reason behind the Clean Juice success.
VP of Development for Clean Juice, Dave Cuff, relates, “From my perspective, overseeing the franchise side of things, what’s important as we grow is our brand standard. When our employees come on board, they’re taught that the guest experience is the number one priority; it’s not how to make a juice or a smoothie. Through our award process, we spend a lot of time getting to know each candidate. It’s important they have the same passion that we do. It’s not necessarily about your business background – we can teach that. It’s more about identifying in the early stages of our franchise owners’ development, the ones that have drive, that really embody everything we do as Clean Juice.”
There are currently eight multi-unit franchise owners, but multiple units are only sold to select individuals. It’s preferred they start with one store to understand the process and get all the operations down before stepping into a second and third store.
Landon sees a future of steady growth. “We hope to sign 100 franchise units this year, and continue to grow over the next five to seven years – whether that means taking the company public or continuing to build privately. We feel that our product and concept needs to be in every market, and we truly believe we’re making the communities that we serve, better. In the next three to four years, I hope we have a couple hundred stores and we’re talking about going internationally.”
Kat Eckles shares fond sentiments about the business she loves: “Our mission statement is a verse from the Bible, but the basic gist is that we want everyone we are in contact with to be healthy in body and strong in spirit. So, we’re serving this health-oriented product that is good for your body, but the other half is being mentally healthy and spiritually strong. That’s behind every decision we make, every drink we serve. Landon and I have done this together as a husband and wife team. We have five young kids, so it’s certainly a family enterprise. We want our customers to feel that too. We want to serve a smoothie that your three-year-old can come in and drink, and it’s so awesome and delicious that they want to get it instead of ice cream.”
That family-based experience carries over to franchisees. “We have siblings that are running stores together; couples; best friends. It’s something that’s fun and positive. We want to extend to other people that we’re happy together – not just investors looking for the best bang for their buck.”
AT A GLANCE
WHO: Clean Juice
WHAT: USDA Certified Organic Juice franchise brand
WHERE: Headquarters in Concord, North Carolina; franchises throughout the U.S.