In 2003, Wan Kim opened his first Smoothie King store in Seoul, South Korea. He recognized there was a significant, growing trend on the peninsula
“At that time, Korea was moving from being a developing country to a developed country,” said Wan.
The country’s standard of living was increasing and people had more money to spend on luxury items.
“It’s my belief that when people have more disposable income, they naturally want to take care of themselves,” said Wan.
As a result, they start to look for brands that compliment a healthier and active lifestyle. The timing was right to introduce Smoothie King to South Korea. Within six years, Wan had opened 120 stores in Korea.
The pathway to success, however, wasn’t a straight shot upward.
“Monthly rent for my first store was over $30,000 and there wasn’t any brand recognition,” said Wan.
He was competing with other international brands. Through an unshakeable belief in the brand and in himself, Wan continued opening locations. Eventually, brand awareness grew to 94 percent in South Korea.
Wan’s next goal was to take ownership of the whole Smoothie King brand. By 2012, he achieved it – purchasing the company from the founders.
Wan’s direction for the brand was to remain focused on the core mission: Inspire people to live a healthy and active lifestyle. And vision – To be an integral part of every health and fitness journey
Belief in the mission and vision supported Wan’s objective of opening 1,000 stores by 2017. Fast forward to August 2018 and Smoothie King reached that historic milestone. Most recently, he was recognized as a 2018 Golden Chain Award Winner by Nation’s Restaurant News.
The award recognizes CEOs who:
- Run industry-leading operations
- Mentor top teams
- And create opportunities for others
It also celebrates leaders’ recent achievements, including steps taken over the 18 months that resulted in improved business performance. Wan credits Smoothie King’s guests for helping the brand grow to that level. And he recognizes that his leadership team has been fundamental to its success.
And he now has his sights set on growing to 1,800 locations by 2022.
“I really don’t think any other smoothie chain is going where we are headed,” said Wan.