The impact of September 11 was felt around the world. I was one of the lucky ones—not physically harmed but also not without consequence. Life in NYC after that fateful day was never the same. I had spent many successful years as an Institutional Derivatives Trader, but the appeal began to wane. I yearned for a change.

In 2004, my wife and I, and our two young children, relocated to Colorado. I made a 360-degree turn in my career to focus on a new mission—establishing a dynamic business that provided quick, nutritious meals on-the-go. Rush Bowls began as the area’s first all-natural bowl/smoothie bar that offered a healthy alternative to common college fare. We swiftly became a popular destination among both students and Boulder residents.

Once we began franchising, I enjoyed seeing franchisees with different backgrounds and in different cities all embracing Rush Bowls and believing in our mission. With a passion and appreciation for entrepreneurship, it’s been a blessing to see new locations open and create successful local fanbases. Ultimately, improving access to healthy food for communities, both small and large, across the country is our goal.

When I first launched Rush Bowls, I could not fathom how large our brand would become. There was a steep learning curve, but gradually, it became crystal clear that this new venture posed a significant opportunity. The business has enjoyed brisk, steady growth and today, we have an expanding franchise system in 22 states, with over 45 stores open and 100 more in development.

One of our key differentiators and a quality I’m very proud of is our ability to handle almost any allergy or dietary restriction. That’s all possible due to our bowls and smoothies being made to order. We also don’t use any pre-made scoops of sorbet or filler products as the base. Instead, we use real, flash-frozen fruit. Guests can see what they eat, from beginning to end with transparent ingredients, and they love the taste, embrace our brand and keep coming back for more. We represent innovative, clean, and nutritious food on-the-go, without long waits. We were novel 20 years ago and are still innovating and growing. It’s been quite a ride!

Looking ahead at the future of Rush Bowls, I hope to grow to over 100 stores in the nation, eventually having a presence in every state. Health and wellness trends will only continue to grow in today’s food and beverage industry, and I’m proud to have a brand that’s been at the forefront of that movement. I look forward to working with my team to build upon our existing menu to bring more delicious, health-conscious items to our guests.

What was your first job?

I landed my first job when I was 15 years old. I cleaned an office building, which required me to vacuum floors, scrub bathrooms and wash desks. Years later after graduating college, my first professional job was a management trainee for Bear Stearns.

What’s your favorite menu item at Rush Bowls?

It’s hard for me to choose, since I love many of our bowls and smoothies. If I had to pick just one, it would be our Summit Bowl—a blend of acai, cherries, strawberries and raspberries—which I’d top with extra honey.

What’s your favorite cuisine aside from Rush Bowls?

As a native New Yorker, incredible food was easy to find. I always favored Italian and French cuisine. A delicious chicken parmesan definitely tops my list.

Who inspires you as a leader?

I am extremely inspired by my team. They are deeply committed to expand our vision, to learn, to build and to execute in order to collectively reach our objectives. It’s a daily grind for us all, but exceptionally motivating as well. I’ve also always been inspired by Richard Branson. He’s unique and exceedingly creative, as well as open-minded and willing to take risks to achieve his goals. He is also known to have an inclusive and open leadership style and effectively listens to those around him.

What’s the best piece of advice that other restaurant executives should hear?

The restaurant industry is challenging, so persistence and community outreach are key. Listening to customers is essential, but you have to be careful how you utilize their feedback. You need to remain fluid and flexible, but also be consistent and true to your brand and strengths.

What are some of your interests outside of work?

I enjoy traveling, reading, skiing, hiking, and diving. I also like spending my time assisting in the development of other entrepreneurs via the Ben Network and Silicon Flatirons.

Fast Casual, Start to Finish: What Inspires Execs, Story, Rush Bowls