How this Multi-Unit Franchisee Popularized Smoothie King in Northwest ArkansasAuthor: Smoothie King
When it comes to facing a new challenge, Thuc Tran is not one to shy away. He was the perfect man for the job when it came time to bring Smoothie King to Northwest Arkansas, a previously untapped market.
After all, Thuc was no stranger to owning a business. He and his wife, Jackie, own Rouge Salon and Nail Spas in Bentonville and Rogers, Arkansas.
As Smoothie King franchise owners, the Trans have built multiple family-owned and operated businesses, become a core pillar of the community and helped establish and extend the brand’s footprint in the area.
From Cola Vendor to Smoothie King Franchise Owner
Thuc first moved to Northwest Arkansas when his previous company transferred him there to help support operations for two of the area’s major retail stores — Wal-Mart and Sam’s Club.
Previously, he was based out of Houston, where he first encountered Smoothie King. He was not as disciplined as he wished he could be when it came to living a healthy lifestyle. Thuc began visiting Smoothie King on his way to work every morning.
He chose to become a franchisee because he recalled how our smoothies helped him to improve his health. He knew there were countless others who lived a busy lifestyle like his, and they would benefit from having a Smoothie King nearby.
His first challenge? Introducing the Smoothie King brand to the region. He credits the “share of stomach” advice he received from a mentor at one of his previous positions for creating the solid marketing mindset he has today:
“He told me that a person can only consume so much in a day. If they consume Smoothie King, they have to give up something else, like Starbucks. He challenged me to think about how I can compete for that ‘share of stomach’,” he explained.
Building Brand Awareness
According to Thuc, the most important asset to win that “share of stomach” is by educating the consumer. He used networking as a way to connect with his community and promote an active and healthy lifestyle.
Besides getting involved with the local Chamber of Commerce, he also attended baseball games with smoothie samples and sponsored two local baseball teams. He utilized his connections with vendors that he had made while working with Coca-Cola®, and he made an appearance at several potluck-style block parties where neighbors would each bring a dish to share. Of course, he would bring some of his delicious blends.
He has also partnered with local schools for spirit nights and other businesses with similar values to mutually grow their businesses. In addition, he donated funds to a children’s organization that Sam’s Club supports, and Sam’s Club showed their appreciation by placing a large banner featuring Smoothie King above their checkout line.
Some of the most effective partnerships Thuc has engaged in have been with local gyms, where he would drop off Smoothie King coupons at the membership desk. This mutually beneficial relationship meant that every time someone purchased a membership with the gym, they would receive a free 20-oz. smoothie.
A Family Effort
Besides running the family’s nail salons, Thuc’s wife helps with his Smoothie King marketing efforts. In fact, she runs their social media accounts to help increase awareness. They often hold contests where their followers must “like” a post and tag their friends to win gift cards.
Thuc’s kids are also heavily involved in his stores’ operations. His oldest son has been working for him ever since his first location in Bentonville opened in 2016. He began as a team member, was promoted to shift leader and moved into an Operations Manager role in 2018. He oversees everything from recruiting and hiring to training and ensuring that all Smoothie King guidelines are adhered to throughout their stores.
Thuc’s younger son and daughter also work for him, with this son being the “floater” between stores whenever they need help. This combined family effort allows Thuc to focus on other aspects of running the stores, like HR, marketing and maintenance.
That family sensibility extends to his team members as well. He has worked hard to provide a positive company culture. When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, he wanted to make sure they always feel appreciated and secure. He made sure not to lay anyone off, even at the height of the COVID crisis, and worked with team members to ensure they still received the paychecks they were used to. He offered them the chance to float from store to store to help accomplish this. And with the PPP funding he received, he decided to give bonuses to each team member.
Embodying the Smoothie King Mission
To Thuc, one of the most rewarding aspects of being a franchisee has been the opportunity to give back to his community. Over the past few years, he has donated gift cards to several local charities.
However, one of the initiatives he’s most proud of is his “Shape Up with Smoothie King” campaign. He came up with the idea when he realized all the incredible “before-and-after” stories he has heard when speaking to guests since 2016. Several have lost over 50 lbs. thanks to Smoothie King, and some even visit the store twice a day.
The “Shape Up with Smoothie King'' contest was held to ring in the new year and required participants to submit a short essay on what resolution they are making to live a healthy and active lifestyle. They received over 800 entries, many of which included inspirational stories.
“The first-place winner, who is recovering from back surgery, was eager to go back to work as an electrician,” Thuc explained. “His prize — a black card membership to Planet Fitness and free smoothies for a year — will help him get back on track.”
The second-place prize, 10 free classes at OrangeTheory Fitness and free smoothies for a year, went to a mother and cancer survivor who was looking to get back in shape and to be able to care for her children following the toll chemotherapy had taken on her body.
And third place was awarded to a woman in her 50s who was taking care of her ill mother and sister by herself while holding down a full-time job.
“She spent so much time caring for others that she was unable to care for herself like she wanted to. Now, with her free Smoothies for a year, she can begin to,” said Thuc.
Thuc stays in touch with all three winners of the contest and hopes to run it again next year. His partnership with the Arkansas Nationals, a local baseball team, allows him twenty tickets to a suite at the game, and he plans on bringing the three winners along this summer.
Despite the turmoil it has caused worldwide, he credits the pandemic for bringing him and his employees even closer together, as they had to work together to be able to sustain the businesses.
In addition to his stores in Bentonville, Fayetteville, Rogers, and Springdale, he aims to open his fifth store in the near future.