Manuel Chavez was never a 98-pound weakling, and as far as he can recall, no one ever kicked sand in his face. But like a lot of young men, Mr. Chavez struggled to put on weight, tipping the scales at between 135 and 140 pounds when he finished high school.
That's when he discovered "The Hulk," a weight-gain drink sold at the nearby Smoothie King. "I went to Smoothie King to get this drink, and it actually helped me go up in weight," says Mr. Chavez, 27, who now owns two Smoothie King stores and plans to open a third.
Thanks to "The Hulk," a healthy diet, and regular exercise, Mr. Chavez now packs 175 pounds on his 5-foot-10 frame. He also packs in Smoothie King devotees at his two Houston-area stores, where he and partner Walter Puzyk preach the Smoothie King gospel to converts and newcomers alike.
Smoothie King, still relatively unknown in some areas, combines the often dissonant concepts of snacking and health and fitness. Customers can choose from approximately 50 drinks made from fruit, natural juices, and nutritional additives such as vitamins and minerals. Smoothie Kings also offer nutritional supplements and healthful snacks.
"We still get people constantly who don't know what a smoothie is," says Mr. Chavez, who was born in Mexico and grew up in Houston. "Because we have a very new product, we have to do a lot of sampling and promoting. We have to get the word out about what a smoothie is."
That is accomplished through numerous product promotions at athletic events, fitness centers, schools – anywhere people might be interested in sampling a tasty, nutritious drink. "We knew if people tried the product they would like it as much as we did," Mr. Chavez says.
He and his partner opened their first franchise in April 1996 after securing a $130,000 loan from the U.S. Small Business Administration. Gross sales have climbed from about $18,000 a month to $28,000 or $30,000 a month.
"We weren't very wealthy individuals," Mr. Chavez says. "We couldn't just write a check for everything. We got approved and got the loan for our first location, then our second, and we plan to continue using the SBA."
Mr. Chavez says the best part about his job is introducing people to this guilt-free treat. "A lot of people like the fact that it's not a bad drink for you. And it's not just a health drink, it's something that tastes great. They're amazed."
His advice for prospective franchise owners? "The key to success is doing something that you enjoy."
– Scott Williams
Business: Nutritional drinks and other health-related products
Date established: 1973
Number of franchises: 210
Total annual revenues: $50 million
Requirements: Single-unit franchises are available for $20,000. Total costs per franchise range from $90,500 to $198,500, depending on store size and real estate prices.
Where available: Texas to the Carolinas, Washington, D.C., New York, Kentucky, and Indiana
Contact: Franchise Development (504) 467-4006
Web site: www.smoothieking.com
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