When we first spoke with Nancy Martin in 2018, she and her husband, Michael, had just made the decision to become Smoothie King franchisees. They were among the first owners to join the Smoothie King franchise system through the First Responders Initiative.
The initiative was born out of the fact that millions of first responders across America exhibit the qualities and experience that align with what Smoothie King looks for in strong smoothie franchise operators. These include:
- A passion for public health and wellbeing
- A mindset oriented around community service
- Exceptional leadership qualities
The program helps give first responders who have completed at least 10 years of service assistance in making their dream of entrepreneurship a reality by reducing the initial franchise fee by 20 percent.
Today, Nancy and Michael Martin have been operating their Smoothie King in Lexington, South Carolina, for roughly seven months.
Being just the fifth Smoothie King location to open in the greater Columbia, South Carolina, metropolitan area, Nancy has put an emphasis on building relationships within the local community to increase brand awareness and drive in-store traffic.
A Multi-Channel Marketing Strategy
Lexington is a developing market. Among the more than 1,000 Smoothie King locations across the U.S., Nancy’s smoothie bar has the benefit of several other Smoothie King stores across the metropolitan area. She’s been able to build on interest among community members for a Smoothie King of their own.
“People were wondering when Smoothie King would be coming to the neighborhood,” Nancy mentioned.
Her in-line store is located in a small shopping center. Many of the surrounding businesses are complementary to Smoothie King’s mission and convenient, on-the-go, health-oriented products. For instance, there are multiple early childhood education and daycare centers nearby, as well as organic and health and wellness-focused grocers and retailers.
Meanwhile, Nancy has invested in a multi-channel marketing and advertising strategy to help get the word out. She’s put money into billboard advertisements in the community to help raise brand awareness.
In addition, Nancy has been working with a local digital marketing firm to run digital ads to support limited-time offers and promotions to drive traffic to her store.
But one of the most important elements of her marketing strategy is creating a larger presence within the local community. For example, she’s taken a boots-to-the-ground approach to earning brand recognition by visiting local businesses to hand out smoothie samples. At the same time, she’s done sampling at the grand openings of complementary businesses, including local fitness facilities and gyms, as well as at local sporting events.
The local school system is another great networking opportunity for Nancy. She has sponsored sports teams through the community’s high schools and handed out cards offering a discount on smoothie purchases to student-athletes.
Keeping the Connection with First Responders Alive and Well
Being part of the community of first responders, Nancy wanted to make sure she maintained that affiliation and give back to those who dedicate their lives to public service.
One way is by offering a 20 percent discount to all first responders. She also participates in Serve & Connect, a local nonprofit organization that works to bring law enforcement and community members together in an effort to build trust, create a positive impact and empower members of the community.
Through this program, Nancy uses her Smoothie King location as a place where members of the local police force and neighborhood residents can come together to meet one another, express their gratitude and discuss ways to improve lives through community policing.
Building a Strong Smoothie King Team
As a first-time franchisee and being brand new to the restaurant industry, Nancy is a proponent of the support Smoothie King offers to get new owners up to speed. She is quick to mention how beneficial the in-store training was when they were first opening their business.
“We would have been lost,” Nancy said.
By getting hands-on guidance from the Smoothie King corporate training team, Nancy grew accustomed to in-store systems, including the point-of-sale system, back-office software and other tools and processes she hadn’t had experience using in her previous career as an occupational therapist.
When recruiting and hiring her team, Nancy sought out individuals who met specific criteria.
“I look for people who can interact with the public,” she mentioned. “They need to have a positive attitude and believe in what Smoothie King stands for as a brand.”
Among her 15 team members and five shift supervisors, she has found the local technical college has been a great source of talent.
And with a second location currently in development, she plans to put what she’s learned opening and operating her first Smoothie King into practice when the time comes.