After 27 years in the Marine Corps, I retired in 2010 as a Master Sergeant, to embark on my next (and hopefully final) career as an adult. As a new civilian and budding entrepreneur, it was important that I set myself up for success. It was a daunting task determining what my next major life choice would be, and I didn’t want to start this chapter behind the curve, so I enlisted the help of a financial broker to discuss my options.
As a leader in the military, I knew from the moment I retired that I wanted to be a business owner. I’ve always thrived within leadership roles and my passion lies in leading and helping others grow. When I began speaking with my broker, we drafted a thorough business plan outlining the type of company I’d be interested in partnering with. There are many existing options for business ownership and I knew from the beginning that I did not want to start a business from scratch, and through the initial strategy session with my broker, we determined that franchising would be the best route.
I know it’s important to have resources and experts available to guide me, as well as having a good franchise model set up. I’ve thrived in many roles while under leadership from those above me, and by following guidelines put into place by those who’ve paved the way. Truthfully, I believe a company is only as good as its leadership team and the tried-and-true regulations that have been implemented to ensure success.
How do you pick the best franchise for you?
It was important to me to be part of a company that promotes a healthy, active lifestyle and provides better-for-you options. In the military, I spent a lot of my time working out and eating well, and it was essential that I pick a franchise brand that’s culture aligned with my lifestyle. That’s when I found Juice It Up!
A brand that’s been around for over two decades, Juice It Up! was, and still is, the ideal franchise opportunity for me. They offer products that are a step above the competition, including fresh-squeezed raw juices, blended-to-order real fruit and veggie smoothies and nutrient-rich bowls. It was the company’s passion for working with veterans and their Vetfran Program which sealed the deal, though, giving me 60% off on the initial franchise fee.
What lessons have you learned since becoming a business owner?
Since I opened my first store in Temecula, California, I’ve learned (as most business owners do) that it’s hard work. We first opened our doors in 2010, a difficult economical time in our country. But, with the support of Juice It Up!’s CEO, Frank Easterbrook, I was able to keep my business afloat and weather the rough financial times during the recession. I was fortunate to have a solid corporate team in place to help me succeed; if I hadn’t chosen the path of a franchisee, I wouldn’t have had that support system available to me.
I also learned that leading people as a business owner is a completely different beast compared to that of the military. In the Marines, the people I led had to be there; they didn’t have the option to quit so I pushed them as hard as I could to get the results I needed. When I opened my store, I found that my employees don’t have to be there… they choose to be there.
Changing my teaching technique style was difficult but not impossible since I learned quickly that my methods could make or break my business. My employees are a necessity for my business to function and succeed, so I changed the way I led to fit my new environment and be more compassionate. I’m the decision maker regarding who works with me and I’ve learned to be more patient, kind and to value my employee relationships.
What advice do you have for any current and future veteran franchisees?
Choose a company that aligns with your values and lifestyle. I knew as soon as I came across Juice It Up! that it was the best option for me. It’s a brand I could be passionate about. Additionally, utilize your corporate team and the resources they provide. Juice It Up! has been around since 1995 and they’re successful because they have a tried and true business model in place that is effective.
Not only is it imperative you find a brand that you can stand by 100%, you have to be willing to grow each and every day. What you think you know is best, may not be the case. As long as you’re open to taking advice, trusting the system and asking for help, you will succeed in the franchise industry.
In 2010, Willie Smith retired a Master Sergeant after 27 years in the Marines, a career that took him across the country and around the world, including two tours in Okinawa, Japan, and one in Afghanistan. In the Marines, he oversaw operations, managed supplies, learned sales skills, marketing and communications through recruitment and was able to hone his leadership skills as an officer. Smith opened his first Juice It Up! location in Temecula, California in 2010 and recently open his second store earlier this year.