Start to Finish: What Inspires Execs | October 2014

Start to Finish: Wan Kim

CEO of Smoothie King
Fast food beverage brand Smoothie King run by executive passionate for health.
smoothie King

When I started to look at this business, what I truly found beautiful was being able to bring my family every day. I am able to feed my children the very same products I strive to sell to the world. I love the foodservice business for that reason, but specifically Smoothie King for allowing me to have that feeling of satisfaction when offering my family the product we sell globally. I remember being in college and always looking at a late-night smoothie as a “sin-free” food. Like so many others, my friends and I weren’t eating regular healthy meals on a daily basis, but none of us felt bad after a smoothie. After college and developing more than 120 stores for the brand, I bought Smoothie King two years ago and couldn’t be happier.

I really believe that we can change the world. A lot of people might scoff at that, but it is truly what motivates me every day. If our brand was the size of McDonald’s, I believe that the world, health- and nutrition-wise, would be a better place. This is our true mission and vision for the brand, and we’re continually striving to reach that goal. We are launching products that align with our vision of change, such as our veggie smoothies, and these products have allowed us to have a 20 percent increase in sales while lowering costs down an additional 3 percent over the past two years. This in turn causes our franchisees to be happier and experience better quality of life, which then translates into more satisfied customers. I could not be happier with that type of outcome.

For me, my vision is my motivation. I hope that my team would remember my always driving in the direction of that vision, that I led them to reach that goal. I always want to move forward. The foodservice business is a tough one. What I’ve found is that everybody is capable of making a comment, and the ones who are heard the most aren’t the experts. There are a lot of opinions out there, and it’s hard to stay on course. This isn’t an easy business when it comes to staying focused on the future, because you constantly have to listen.

What was your first job?

I worked for my father at his electronic manufacturing business in South Korea.

When did you first enter the quick-service industry?

I started in the industry in 2003 when I became a Smoothie King franchisee. I opened my first store in South Korea and grew my business to more than 100 locations before purchasing Smoothie King in 2012 and becoming global CEO.

What is your favorite product at Smoothie King?

I have three: Almond Mocha High Protein for breakfast, Lean1 Chocolate for lunch, and Apple Kiwi Kale for a snack.

What is your favorite restaurant or type of food (excluding Smoothie King)?

My favorite food, other than Smoothie King, is sushi.

What are some of your interests outside of the business?

When I’m not in the office, I like to spend my free time outdoors cycling or playing golf.

Who are some leaders that inspire you?

Steve Jobs, founder of Apple, and Ju Yung Chung, founder of Hyundai Group. They are both entrepreneurs who built companies that are well known and respected worldwide.

What is the best piece of advice quick-serve executives should hear?

Like what you do and believe in it.


New 'Veggie Smoothies'....great idea....looking forward to enjoying them...Len American Vegetarian Association(AVA)

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