The Importance of Having an Entrepreneurial Mentor When Running a Business

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When asked about the greatest influence on their careers, most successful business leaders will say they had a mentor. At some point in their lives, the words or actions of a sports coach, a supervisor or family member made an impact, inspiring them to achieve. For Smoothie King CEO Wan Kim, it was his uncle. To this day, he remembers his uncle’s sage advice and applies it to help grow the Smoothie King brand.

We sat down with Wan and asked him to share how his mentor has positively impacted his life leadership:

Q: Who was your mentor?

WK: I had an entrepreneurial uncle who gave me some great advice before he died. It led me to purchase a Smoothie King store in 2003, and guides me today as Smoothie King’s CEO.

Q: What advice did he give you?

WK: He told me business ownership runs in our family; he wanted me to become a business owner. He gave three pieces of advice to guide me in the journey:
  • Always be genuine.
  • Don’t do anything shameful.
  • Always have integrity.
WK: In terms of being genuine, or true to myself, I pursued owning a business I wholeheartedly believe in. Product pride was extremely important when I was looking for a business to invest in. I had the opportunity to own multiple fast-food restaurants and make a substantial profit. But I wouldn’t feel good about myself selling a product I would not want my family to eat. I needed to find a product I felt good about, something that was nutritious and a better-for-you alternative. Something I could feel proud would help people achieve their fitness and wellness goals. Smoothie King was my answer.

Q: What made Smoothie King the perfect fit?

WK: Wanting to be true to others, I provide Smoothie King franchising opportunities to other like-minded entrepreneurs who genuinely want to help people achieve their lifestyle purposes. I believe in my heart that the Smoothie King mission of inspiring people to live a healthy and active lifestyle is honorable. It requires the sincerity of franchisees to sell a genuinely better-for-you beverage. I think we all go to bed at night feeling good about ourselves because we’ve been genuine with our guests who come to us seeking better-for-you alternatives or meal replacements to help them achieve their purpose.

Q: What have been the payoffs from your mentor’s words of wisdom?

WK: Leading Smoothie King is fulfilling. I have a tremendous sense of inner-peace because I believe in my team, the Smoothie King product and our franchisees. Yes, there are challenging days, weeks and months, which is typical in business. But I know I can always go back to genuinely feeling good about our people and our product. There’s absolutely no reason to feel ashamed about that. It inspires us all to continue working with integrity.

Q: How does Smoothie King benefit from your uncle’s advice? 

WK: Smoothie King is growing at an impressive rate. Why? In large part it’s because we are genuine, we believe in our product, our people and our purpose. This makes us energized. That was evident in 2016, when Smoothie King signed 111 domestic franchise and development agreements, which will add another 172 stores to the growing 850-unit system. That amounts to a 29.7 percent increase in signings over 2015. Smoothie King also opened 100 new domestic franchise stores last year, a 12 percent increase over 2015. This year, our sights are set on growing in 16 domestic markets.
Smoothie King experienced great success in the Middle East last year, too. We will build upon the success by focusing on Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.
I can say without regret and with great honor that we are on pace to surpass 1,000 locations in 2018.

To learn more about the franchise opportunity and become part of an expanding brand, download our franchise kit here.


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