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Young Ones To Watch: Landon Eckles, CEO of Clean Juice

Eckles spoke with 1851 Franchise about how he entered the franchise industry, what advice he has for up-and-coming business owners and more.

Before founding his juice bar franchise Clean Juice with his wife Kat, Landon Eckles worked for a boutique investment firm. After years spent traveling back and forth to Hong Kong for work, Kat and Landon decided they wanted to do something together to benefit the community they lived in. In 2015 the couple opened their first Clean Juice store in Birkdale Village, North Carolina and have since opened 99 more across the country, with 60 more in development.

1851 Franchise spoke with Landon as part of our Young Ones to Watch series in order to learn more about his story.

1851 Franchise: How did you get into franchising?

Landon Eckles: I don’t have any background in franchising. Everything I know I've learned through the building of Clean Juice. My wife and I wanted to go into business for ourselves, and we weren’t really finding anything that aligned with what we were looking to do, so we decided to open our own brand. We wanted to offer something healthy for our customers. After a year of doing really well, we decided to franchise. We didn’t really intend to at first, but people were asking, so we looked into it.  After opening a few corporate stores and proving a few times that it could be a good franchise model, we decided to take our business to the franchising market. Now, we have 100 open locations and 60 more in development.

1851: What do you love about the industry?

Eckles: I love the model because it’s a good one, and franchisors and franchisees are aligned in what they want — they both want the stores to do well. So, I love that the interests are fully aligned. In franchising we get to work with 80 different business owners aside from the folks at the office, and having that kind of portfolio to work with is incredible. Everyone’s interests are fully aligned, I don’t know that there’s any other industry model that allows for that. 

1851: What makes someone a good fit for the franchise industry? Are there traits that are shared by the most successful franchise professionals you know?

Eckles: At the franchisee level it’s a desire to be involved in their business in some way. Some people misinterpret what that is. It’s an opportunity to own your own business, and with franchising it comes down to how much work you’re willing to put into the business. Good franchisees are involved — they care, and they’re doing the work to spread brand awareness. They’ve got to be involved. 

At the franchisor level, it’s about making sure to choose the right franchisees. And it’s about site selection. The best franchisors spend the most time with their business and continue to develop their brand. If they can hit those things, then they probably have a recipe for success. 

1851: How do you feel about the industry's response to the coronavirus crisis so far? Are there challenges or opportunities that the industry still needs to address?

Eckles: It’s been good. I think because franchisees are a part of a system, they can share their concerns with a whole network of other franchisees and the franchisor. It’s been a lot of smart people working together to achieve a common mission. We’ve been able to help with PPP loans and with rent reduction. Of our 100 open locations, we only had to close one store. I think that it’s a lot easier to do it together and go a lot further when we’re able to do it together. That’s the beauty of the industry. 

As far as challenges, I think we need our guests to come back in the door. There are still some challenges out there, but we’re addressing them and delivering our products to guests in a clean, safe way. I think the healthy products category is really growing as a result of the pandemic as well. People are looking to have some type of immunity as they come out of this, there’s more focus on well-being. 

1851: What advice do you have for other young up-and-comers in the space?

Eckles: My advice would be to have a successful model that the franchisees can make money within — continue to invest in your business and in building out what you’re offering. It’s also good to remember you’re not going to be able to do it without a fantastic team. I hired people at a level ahead of where I wanted to be. I wanted to be able to look to them to help me grow the brand, because I knew I couldn’t do it on my own. Always invest in your operations and your team. Also, make sure your franchisees are like-minded. Sharing the same values and thoughts are really important.