The thought that eating an acai bowl or smoothie from SoBol could change lives is inspiring to me. Oh sure, they’re healthy and delicious, but it’s more than that. Six years ago, we began franchising my acai bowls and smoothie cafes. It was great timing as more and more people are interested in healthy eating and lifestyles. It’s no surprise that the health and wellness industry is a $52 billion dollar industry and growing.
I know numbers are important in business, but, to me, numbers don’t automatically add up to success. My idea of “success” may be different than others. I decided, early on, that it had a distinct meaning for me. My success means paying it forward. I created a culture with my company that we would do everything we could to serve up good food and make the world a better place. In fact, our mission is to improve people’s days with a company-wide shared value of being a positive force, caring for others, and being passionate. It’s just not all about the food to me — it’s what we do with our sales and growth.
I want to do more than serve up great food. I want to take it next level and help in any way I can. I’ve been given an opportunity, and I feel like you’ve got to do something with those gifts — you give back, you help where you can. But again, I don’t want to get lost in the titles, I just want to do the work.
Doing Our Part
What that work looks like is that we help in our own backyard—our local communities. Looking for ways to help is always on our agenda during our leadership meetings. In our six years in operation, our franchise locations and corporate stores have helped countless organizations like St. Baldrick’s Foundation — focusing on funding children’s cancer research. We’ve helped some other well-known charities, like The American Cancer Society and Toys for Tots, not to mention local PTA’s, fire departments, churches, and various other community outreach programs.
We do this in a number of ways. We provide gift certificates to local organizations that are fundraising with live or silent auctions, like St. Joseph’s College and the New York Blood and Cancer Center. We’ve also partnered with the Sayville Chamber of Commerce just this past June to offer discounts to groups of seniors from an assisted living facility.
Plus, we offer local groups the opportunity to hold “Bowl for Bucks” (get it? Acai bowls for bucks?) to earn a dollar for their cause with every bowl we sell during their four-hour fundraising event.
Is it good business? Of course. We scratch their back, they’ll scratch ours. We gain customers with each giveaway. But that wasn’t the goal, that was the byproduct of our giving. What happens is that we connect with people. That’s important, especially now. Fundraising allows us to create a community, it provides a platform and a location for people to gather with the goal of helping others. I mean, if I can give someone a good meal that healthy and it’s gonna send a few bucks to help where that money is needed most — then it’s been a good day. If we can’t help each other out like that, what’s the point?
If it means we can help put some money in the coffers to help with research for children’s cancer or help purchase life-saving equipment for a fire department or buy school supplies for children who would otherwise go without, that’s impactful and incredibly humbling because I am in the position to help.
If we can inspire others to give—even better.
My staff gets frustrated with me sometimes because I don’t say, “no.” Thus far, there is no policy in place, I just tell my team, “If we can do it, let’s do.”
As for SoBol—our franchisees are like family, and our customers know we value them, and I think they can feel our positivity. We have a great product, but that’s not the only reason they keep coming back. They trust us. They align with our values. We have a responsibility to our customers and the community. We are proud to do our part. I guess, if you think about it, every smoothie and every bowl we make could help change our little part of the world — and to me, that’s success.
Jason Mazzarone is the CEO and cofounder of fast casual SoBol.