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Description: With a menu that has all-day consumer appeal, your future with Planet Smoothie is about as sweet as it gets. There has never been a better time to own a part of an established brand in an industry that's growing fast! Opportunities: Franchise and master license opportunities available in the United States and worldwide in many countries. Business Type: Franchise. Minimum Cash Required: $100,000. Financing Assistance: Yes, through a third party. Training Provided: Yes. SBA-Approved: Yes.

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The Planet Smoothie Franchise Impresses CBS

The Planet Smoothie Franchise Impresses CBS

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Michelle and Alonzo Williams opened their first Planet Smoothie franchise in 2012

Planet Smoothie_4Now they are opening a second location and have plans for a third.

Michelle and Alonzo Williams are on the cusp of an unexpected milestone — the opening of their second Planet Smoothie location in the Tucson area. The couple opened their first store in 2012 at 7315 North Oracle Road in Oro Valley, Arizona. Michelle said she was looking for a business she could be passionate about and that would provide a good income.

Mission more than accomplished! The store did so well and demand was so strong that the couple is opening a location in the heart of Tucson, at 345 E. Congress St., a downtown venue that is surrounded by office workers and University of Arizona students.

“Our second store will probably do ten times what our first one does,” Michelle says. “It’s corporate during the day and Las Vegas at night.”

Once the second store is open, the couple has plans to open a third.

Michelle shared her story with us.

What did you do before owning a Planet Smoothie?
I was working 16-hour days running my own business from home. I created a business that provided legal document signings for big banks, using mobile notaries and mobile attorneys. At its peak, I had 35,000 agents working with me and they nicknamed me the barefoot CEO. That business made a small fortune but it wasn’t fun and it wasn’t something I was passionate about. After 10 years of grinding away and building a nest egg, I decided it was time to do something I would enjoy and I started hunting for a business opportunity.

How did you find Planet Smoothie?
I was sitting in my car looking at a sandwich franchise and my son said, “Mom, why don’t you open a smoothie store? It’s what you eat every day!”

After my second child, I went from a size 12 to a size 2 and a lot of that came from improving my nutrition. I started by simply replacing one meal a day with a smoothie that I made at home. With just that one change, I started seeing results. I also started running marathons in 2011. I became a customer at the smoothie bars around town but I was frustrated that their smoothies weren’t as good or healthy as what I was making at home.

After my son suggested I open a smoothie bar, I started investigating to find a smoothie bar worth investing in. None of the ones operating in Arizona at the time were ringing my bell, so I got online. That’s when I found Planet Smoothie. As I read about the ingredients, I got extremely excited.

So, Planet Smoothie does a good job of meeting demand for healthier ingredients?
We just launched our veggie campaign this morning and customers are constantly coming back to try this one, try that one. We’re working on developing a beet smoothie right now. We are really, really breaking boundaries to make the menu even healthier and I love that about this company.

What is the corporate team like? Are they good to work with?
They are super open to their franchisees. They listen to us and they care about what we say. They may not be able to do a cartwheel every time we ask but they always really try. They also let me have my own voice. Even as a new franchisee, they listened to my ideas. I’m now madam chairman of the Franchise Advisory Board and my first store is just over two years old.

From top to bottom, they are amazing. They are like family. (CEO) Peter (Holt) is amazing — hilarious, down to earth, warm, loving. I have a call with them tomorrow and whenever we talk it feels like I am talking with friends.

Describe your relationship with your customers and your community.
Our customer relationships are the gold standard that I use to judge other concepts whenever I go somewhere else to eat. I’ll go somewhere else and think, “Gosh, their customer service is so bad.” When our guests come in, they are like family.

Our Planet Smoothie raises money for the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, and my husband works with his fraternity — Kappa Alpha Psi — to raise money for scholarships. We participate in and promote Red Cross blood drives, animal adoptions and a charity that provides water wells in Africa. We also team up with local schools. I just got an order in from a football team for 110 smoothies. I am providing them a big discount and the coaches are happy because they are tired of giving their athletes garbage. We nourish our athletes and the children in our community.

Who is a typical customer?
We are two doors down from a gym so we get a lot of people coming in after their workout for recovery and relief. We also have moms who are getting ready to drop their kids off at school and who grab smoothies for breakfast for themselves and their kids.

We also get an after-school rush — a lot of hungry kids. Then we have an after-dinner crowd who come in for a frozen yogurt for dessert, and people who don’t want to cook dinner so they come in for a smoothie. The spectrum is huge and we know them all by name.

How do you and your husband divide responsibilities?
Alonzo is VP of a huge media company in town. He is the MBA grad and I’m the street-smart girl. He does all the hiring and helps with staff. He is also the dollars-and-cents guy behind the second location. He has worked with contractors and with corporate on the new location and he did all the financial work to get the second location ready to open. When we went to Planet Smoothie’s Discovery Day, he came with me. I was all heart and he was all head and we both saw a great opportunity through different eyes.

What do you like best about the business?
I love our ingredients. I am proud of what we serve every day. I know we are doing something to reverse the obesity epidemic. We have a couple of customers who have lost a lot of weight and give credit to us. We have one customer who has lost just over 50 pounds at this point. What I like the best is changing people’s lives.

Were you planning to open more than one location when you started?
I was planning for one. The fact that the business has done so well and that there is so much demand is just icing on the cake. If I only had one store to provide income for my retirement I would be ecstatic based on what I’m seeing from my first store. My customers are always asking us to open in more places though so we’re opening a second store. As soon as No. 2 is done, we’ll start working on No. 3. I think it’s our duty to continue to grow here in Tucson.

What does a typical day look like for you?
It depends on how you schedule. I say that I finally have the 9-to-5 job I always wanted. I come in, check on things, put my hand on things. I was the owner-operator with my first store and now I am ready to hire managers. In the morning I check emails, skim over the inventory, look for feedback from my baristas, do research on ingredients and their nutritional benefits and educate baristas so the nutritional knowledge trickles to guests. I also check price points to see if there are opportunities to improve profit margins.

I go out and shake hands of guests — and hugs are normal here. Customers really love us! It is beyond “liking” or “favoriting” or adding us to their Pinterest. My typical day is very peaceful. We have our moments when the lobby is jam-packed and we try to keep our cool with all the blenders going. My baristas tell me it’s the best job they’ve ever had. The energy here is very positive. The positive environment is contagious even for me. It brings me peace when I come here.

Why do people love it so much?
I truly, truly love what I am doing and I think that is contagious. I tell my employees, “Do you realize that when I am teaching you about the benefit of bananas and different types of protein, I’m not just telling you stuff to do your job better? I am teaching you things you will trickle down to your children and grandchildren.” I think they understand that they are providing a service and it’s not just a job. They are all on a crusade for better health and that gives them purpose.

Do you feel like Planet Smoothie keeps up with health trends?
I would say we follow demand. America as a whole is trying to do better. It’s great that cleansing and juicing and smoothies are coming to the forefront. My baristas tell me what customers are asking for. We have had several requests for carrots, carrot juice and avocados. Demand for vegetables is getting stronger.

As a company, you wouldn’t push the market toward vegetable smoothies, because vegetables tend to be more expensive especially when you are using organic spinach and kale. It takes a lot of work to create recipes and supply chains that allow us to offer vegetable smoothies that are profitable.

Planet Smoothie corporate also allows us to respond to local demand. We offer some additional side items for customers — I run it by corporate before I offer it, and they have been great. So I do have avocados on hand and almond milk — things that have been requested by regulars. Some other stores carry things I don’t have. I know at least one store that has chia seeds.

What makes for a successful Planet Smoothie franchisee?
They have to be passionate about nutrition. I know a lot of people get into the smoothie business for the money, and God bless them because they see the profitability in it because of how America is changing the way it eats. For me, if we are talking about someone I would like to mentor, it would be someone serious about the nutrition aspects of the business. When a customer has had weight battles and they feel lost, we want them to be able to walk into our store and know that we have their back. We know what we are doing and we know how to help.

What are your goals as a Planet Smoothie owner?
I want to make a lot of money! I want to be healthy and wealthy! You can be healthy, but if you’re struggling financially it’s stressful. You can be wealthy but if you’re in bad shape and can’t enjoy life it means nothing. But it’s awesome to have both! The money is here, most definitely. I don’t talk about it that much but we wouldn’t be opening our second store if it wasn’t here. We didn’t have the second store in our original plans but it’s happening.

Planet Smoothie’s leadership team has more than 100 years of combined experience helping franchisees launch businesses. Contact Planet Smoothie for more information.

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