Nearly 40 years after Smoothie King in New Orleans opened as an alternative to other fast food restaurants, Wan Kim and a group of investors bought the company from founder Steve Kuhnau. The move made perfect sense for both the brand and Kim who opened the first Smoothie King franchise outside the United States in 2003. Within a few years there were 130 stores in South Korea and today the company is continuing to expand with 700 existing locations in the United States, South Korea and Singapore. BusinessNewsDaily interviewed Kim via email about what drew him to the brand, the importance of having a vision in business and the best advice he has for fellow entrepreneurs.
BusinessNewsDaily: What did you want to be when you grew up?
Wan Kim: I had always wanted to be a businessman, particularly, a brand owner. I always thought being involved with one brand and being completely immersed in it is the way business should be.
BND: What did your parents do for a living?
WK: My father owns an electronic manufacturing company that has been listed on the Korea Exchange for 20 years.
BND: What's your favorite part of owning your own business?
WK: I truly love Smoothie King, from the products we offer to the people that make up the company. As our brand continues to expand, I love introducing new consumers to Smoothie King. Communities get really excited when we open a new store! It doesn’t take long for local residents to adopt our products and incorporate them into their active, healthy lifestyle.
BND: What's the biggest mistake you've made as an entrepreneur?
WK: I've made plenty of mistakes as an entrepreneur; I am not sure whether I can pinpoint one. But whatever the mistake, it’s always important to learn from it. I appreciate that I haven’t had a huge mistake that could have ruined the business. It does happen to some!
BND: What was your main motivation in starting this business?
WK: The high-quality, healthy products that Smoothie King offers. It’s so great that I can recommend the products we sell to my family and employees every day. If I sold burgers, pizza or fried chicken, it would be very difficult for me.
BND: What previous experiences helped you in that journey?
WK: Because I have traveled so frequently, I’ve been able to experience different cultures and learn that just because things are different, doesn’t mean they are wrong. That way of thinking has helped me in my journey with Smoothie King: first as a customer, then as a franchisee and, now, as global CEO.
BND: What was the biggest challenge you encountered and how did you overcome it?
WK: A lot of times, people in an organization don’t believe what the owner believes. At Smoothie King, I try to communicate often how far we can go. It’s important for everyone to have the same vision in the organization and truly believe it.
BND: What is the best bit of advice you have for other entrepreneurs?
WK: Please believe in what you do. You have to stick with one direction and keep looking ahead. It will be a lot easier to stay in one direction if you truly believe what you do.