While the concept of juicing has been around since the 1970s, its explosion over the past decade was sparked by a greater understanding of the health benefits of drinking smoothies and juice from fresh vegetables and fruits. Health-minded people have gravitated so strongly to juicing for a variety of reasons including to cleanse, detox, absorb essential vitamins in a delicious, flavorful way, and conveniently fuel up on-the-go.
While the highest concentrations of juice bars are typically in New York and Los Angeles, their popularity is also growing throughout the rest of the county. Kat and Landon Eckles, a millennial couple from North Carolina, took their passion for juicing and turned it into business phenomenon. In 2014, they decided to create and launch Clean Juice, the first and only USDA-certified organic juice bar franchise.
Kat and Landon Eckles – 30 and 31 years old, respectively – are not your traditional millennial couple. At a relatively young age, they’ve turned the success of their one, local juice bar into a thriving franchised business, all while raising their five children. In fact, their plans to raise a big, healthy family were a driving factor behind Landon Eckles’ decision to leave his position as a managing partner with a real estate development firm to establish the juice concept with his wife. They wanted the flexibility to be actively involved in their children’s lives without the constraints of Landon’s business travel.
Kat Eckles, a self-proclaimed recovering junk food addict, discovered a strong interest in wellness in 2007, after the birth of their first child. She dedicated herself to learning everything she could about nutrition, taking particular interest in the benefits of enjoying a diet focused on fresh, organic vegetables and fruit. With her drive to maintain and share a healthy lifestyle and her husband’s business background, the couple created a business focused on their passion, creating a juice bar that provides its customers easy, on-the-go access to organic foods. Certified organic produce was a non-negotiable for them. In two short years, they’ve grown beyond the original location to four corporate stores, and they’re poised for massive growth, with close to 50 signed agreements to open additional locations across the country.
The couple originally wanted to bring the joys of juicing to the south and middle America, while staying away from the already saturated New York and Los Angeles markets. However, as the brand expands, New York and Los Angeles are viable and exciting markets for Clean Juice to enter into.
The franchise’s flagship store opened in June of 2015 – on the couple’s wedding anniversary – in the Lake Norman area of Charlotte, North Carolina. They launched this first location after a year of research and development, turning their vision and ideas into a business model that became an instant hit among health-conscious consumers in the Tar Heel State. The couple’s strong faith is a part of the Clean Juice brand, as they’ve incorporated their favorite bible verse, “Dear Friend, I hope all is well with you, and that you are as healthy in body as you are strong in spirit,” into their overall franchise model. They make sure the overall experience customers get from a visit to Clean Juice is unique, as they focus on a vibrant, positive experience. They believe strongly in transparency, providing consumers with the full details of what goes into their juice.
“More and more people are beginning to understand how important it is for produce to be organic, especially in juices,” said Kat Eckles. Landon and Kat Eckles actually looked extensively at purchasing a franchise before they decided to open their own concept. “I searched high and low for a juice and smoothie bar that I believed actually did it right and just could not find one”, said Kat Eckles. Landon Eckles adds, “We were down to the wire, and Kat looked at me and said ‘OK, we can do this, but I probably just won’t drink anything from our store’. At that moment I knew that we had to do our own thing.” This also alerted him of what was missing in the marketplace, which they contribute as a big factor to their early success in franchising. The couple also claims, “Being the only certified organic concept sets us apart, but beyond that people fall in love with our brand and the experience.”
Most of Clean Juice’s new franchise leads come from customers who enjoyed the experience enough to want to become a part of the business. Other prospective franchisees are attracted to Clean Juice’s status as the only USDA-certified organic juice bar. While many of their guests are fellow millennials, many of their franchise leads have come from parents of millennials. “Their children find our product and fall in love with it, and they present the opportunity to their parents, who get the concept and want to jump in,” said Landon Eckles. “We originally hoped to award five to ten units in our first year of franchising, but if we keep at our current pace we will be close to 100.”
The couple is most proud of the way they’ve been able to do the business their own way. “Working hand in hand and building this brand as a couple has easily been the most rewarding part of the whole experience,” said Kat Eckles, “and now, being able to take the fun and fulfillment that Landon and I have building a business together and offering it to other spouses and families to do the same is just the icing on the cake.”
These millennials took a very non-traditional career path and while following their passion, have already achieved a tremendous success. “We’ve built an incredible team around us that are as focused and as passionate as we are about propelling the brand forward”, says Landon Eckles. “We know that the best is yet to come and are all very excited about what the future holds.”