The entrepreneurial bug bit LaVon Bullard just about the time her husband Derek was thinking of stepping down from the health care company he founded in 1999. They both knew and loved the Smoothie King brand. Their oldest son worked at a Smoothie King in their hometown of Charlotte, North Carolina, Derek was a frequent customer during his business travel and LaVon made Smoothie King part of her active lifestyle. The couple decided they wanted to open multiple Smoothie King stores of their own, across different markets.
Being excited about a product is one thing – being a new store owner in an expanding franchise system is another. It can be an overwhelming experience, full of uncertainty. Plus, the Bullard’s first store would open in Spartanburg, South Carolina, more than an hour from their home. They had also committed to opening several more Smoothie King locations in the future.
However, they didn’t go into the venture completely naïve. They understood there’s always the “what if” worry hanging over new business owners’ heads when starting out.
They opened the first store on June 30, 2016. According to the Bullards, the training provided at the Smoothie King franchise office helped them toward a smooth first three months. As a franchisor, Smoothie King understands new-owner jitters and has created a system of resources based on responsiveness and training. The simplicity of operations also made running the store relatively straightforward from the start.
When their second location opened last November in Asheville, North Carolina – even farther from their home – the process was easier and less daunting.
Support Comes in Many Forms for Smoothie King Franchisees
LaVon called those first three months “exciting.” Since the closest Smoothie King to their first new store was 30 miles away, they knew educating local consumers would be critical. But any fears they had about letting local consumers know about Smoothie King were put to rest when they experienced a constant flow of guests through the doors and drive-thru on opening day.
“We opened in the height of summer, which created an ideal opportunity for product trial,” Lavon noted. “People were hot and wanted something cold and nutritious to cool them off. Then we knew they would come back based on love of the product despite the weather.”
Smoothie King was especially helpful with providing general site selection criteria and guidance in the selection of an acceptable site. Derek and LaVon ended up deciding to open their drive-thru store on Warren H. Abernathy Highway, a main thoroughfare in Spartanburg. The highway is lined with quick-serve restaurants among other businesses, is located near a mall and just a few minutes’ drive from both the University of South Carolina Upstate and Wofford College.
“Their site selection team did a great job,” Derek said. “They provided us with good answers to all of our questions.”
After the doors opened, Derek and LaVon took comfort knowing the Smoothie King franchise office was there when needed. They appreciated knowing an operations manager was in the area. In addition, they could always rely on a timely response from the franchise office for any questions.
“They always returned our calls and were eager to help us,” LaVon said. “They helped us make our first three months seamless.”
The operations manuals were user-friendly, which was also helpful. However, the couple wasn’t concerned much about complex operations, as they had worked in a Charlotte store a few months before opening as part of their training to get a first-hand feel of Smoothie King’s day-to-day operations.
“We go in, work hard, and follow the key procedures and protocol, which makes it pretty simple,” Derek said. “It was much easier than it would have been to start a business from scratch.”
Smoothie King Franchisees Growing with Confidence
In the first 90 days, Derek and LaVon’s hard work and dedication helped the “what if” cloud disappear. Due to their work ethic, their transition to franchise ownership had proved a sound decision – a good thing given they planned on opening nine stores in six cities, with some of those markets five hours apart.
“We were able to see early on that we could scale the business,” Derek said. “It requires a great manager to be on-site, and requires us to be on-site about every two days. But we could see in the first 90 days that with all the time and effort we’d put into the business it could definitely be done.”
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