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Jamba Juice – A Recipe for Success

19 August 2009 20,147 views 2 Comments

Have you had a Jamba Juice? If you haven’t, then you’ve been living in a hole for quite some time! It’s kind of neat that 2 of the founders of Jamba Juice, Kevin Peters and Joe Vergara, were students and graduates of Cal Poly State University (the college I attend). The 3rd was Kirk Perron who was a young entrepreneur who graduated from Cuesta, a junior college near Cal Poly. Their very first store was known as the Juice Club and it opened in April 1990 on Foothill Boulevard near our campus. The idea to open the first Juice Club came from Kirk Perron.

The First Juice Club
After deciding to open the first Juice Club, Kevin Peters and Kirk Perron realized that they needed help planning menus, creating drink recipes, and blending the icy fruit drinks. They ended up hiring Joe Vergara (the 3rd founder), who was then a manger of another local fruit juice store. Kevin Peters helped open and run the first store, eventually documenting the systems and training personnel for future expansion.

What Mattered Most
The first fruit blends were named Banana Berry, Berry Lime Sublime, Peach Pleasure, Razzmatazz, and Strawberries Wild (one of my favorite). Kevin Peters said, “Our visions were pretty grand, but our initial focus was on the first store.” They also say that dedication, attention to detail, and a passion for people were also key factors to their success.

A Legendary Expansion
Once the trio of men considered the thought of expanding, they hung up a map of the United States to plot potential sites. It wasn’t long before customers around the nation were clamoring for more locations. “Tourists began asking for stores in their hometowns. Fast-food executives started arriving in groups, and the competitors started popping up.”

In 1992, still known as the Juice Club, the company began to franchise and the response was phenomenal.

A Fourth Member of the Crew
In 1992 the Juice Club needed more staff members to handle the fast growing business. A lady by the name of Linda Ozawa-Olds was brought on board, who eventually rose as the vice president of marketing. Linda states, “What attracted me to Juice Club was not only the concept, but the people. After a three-hour interview with Kirk, then meeting with Kevin and Joe, I knew this was where I wanted to be!”

A Search For a New Name
In 1994, the franchising stopped when the Juice Club hit the radar screens of venture capitalists including Howard Schultz, chairman of Starbucks, and John Mackey, chairman and CEO of Whole Foods Market. Both of these men were recruited to serve on the board of directors. And soon after, a new name and a new brand had begun. Peters explained, “Although the Juice Club was a trademarked name, it was composed of words that were not totally proprietary. Numerous competitors with the word “juice” in their names were diluting the Juice Club brand.” Everyone agreed that a new name and logo was needed.

The trademark Jamba Juice whirl came first. Linda stated, “During a brainstorming session, we were discussing the actual whirl created inside a blender as a smoothie is being made. If you saw the whirl, you knew the smoothie was just right.” They took their ideas to an agency in Seattle, who developed the recognizable logo.

They all claimed that creating a new name was a lot more complicated. Linda said, “After hiring professionals, hearing rounds of names that didn’t resonate with us, and spending thousands of dollars, we decided to take matters into our own hands.” Kevin, Kirk, and Linda all went to Cal Poly’s Kennedy Library and agreed to meet each other 3 hours later with lists of potential names.

Branding Jamba Juice
They had a big job ahead of them. They wanted to grow Jamba Juice into a brand of many choices: breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snack. They had to carve a niche in the marketplace and get people to understand that a smoothie is a healthy alternative to fast food. This worked without difficulty.

Jamba Juice Around the Nation
Jamba Juice now has some 600 locations throughout the United States and has future plans to go international. Earlier this year (2007), Jamba Juice went public when it merged with what is called a blank check company according to Peters. He explained: “A group of investors, one of whom started Blockbuster, got together and formed a company, registered it as a public entity with tradable stock, then went looking for a concept to purchase, allowing the blank-check company to use its resources to capitalize on the new concept’s potential. Jamba was that concept and, roughly speaking, it became public upon the successful merger of the two companies.”

What Are the Founders Up to Now?
Perron and Peters now have varying degrees of involvement with the company. Perron, who left a few years ago, acts as a consultant for Jamba Juice and served on its board. He is also spending a lot of his time traveling. Peters left Jamba Juice in 2001 and now runs the business side of one of the West Coast’s largest private residential interior-design firms. Ozawa-Olds and Vergara are both living on the Central Coast, and were partners until recently, in 10 Jamba Juice franchises from Paso Robles to Camarillo.

All four partners still have the same respect and admiration for each other when Juice Club was first starting out.

“Kirk, Kevin, and Joe were my partners in crime. They pushed me, pulled me, appreciated me, and loved me. Together we shared a passion and a vision that had kept us united through good and bad times. It was Kirk’s initial vision, focus and determination that took us beyond one store. Jamba Juice would have never gotten off the ground if it weren’t for Kirk and his ability to build a strong teams.”

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