Kimberlee Burrows was supposed to open her Clean Juice store — a national organic juice bar franchise — in March of 2020. Then the pandemic hit.
Relying partly on her own years of expert experience and partly on intuition, Burrows made lemonade out of some pretty unexpected lemons. In an interview, Burrows said that following her instincts about where she wanted her personal journey to take her has been key to her success as a franchisee, and in fact played a role in her decision to leave her high level corporate position and start a franchise in the first place.
“Just to be totally transparent, I was finding my motivation sort of waning in terms of what I wanted my next role to be,” Burrows said. “I’m a mom of three and so work life balance had always been important to me. I want to be a VP, but is that really going to be enriching to my life overall or am I just doing it to get the stripe because I was ‘supposed to’ take that next step?”
Following your gut
When Burrows did decide to take the plunge, she said that her first priority was to find a brand she’d be excited to work with every day, and one whose company ethos and culture mirrored what she wanted out of her own life.
“When I did my initial investigation into a brand that I wanted to be a part of, my gut check was, ‘How do I feel when I get up in the morning?’ And my first thought is, ‘I’m going to work for this brand, what does that feel like to me? Do I get energized by it or am I like, ‘Oh my God what have I done?’” Burrows said.
“I wanted to look for a brand that paralleled my journey and paralleled what I wanted the next chapter of my life to entail.”
Guided by faith
Burrows liked that Clean Juice is USDA-certified organic, as well as the company’s values.
“One of the aspects to Clean Juice that really excited me was being a faith-based company,” Burrows said, explaining that her Christianity is very important to her, and she liked how this element affects the company culture and brings a personal closeness and comfort to her interactions with customers.
“There’s a humbleness, there’s a shared sense of purpose that’s at play. And when people walk in the door and you say ‘Good morning, how are you feeling, what can I do for you,’ it gives you a little bit of license to connect with people on a deeper level and to use your life to help enrich their’s, no matter how small it may seem.”
One such personal connection is the prayer jar present in every Clean Juice store, where customers can write whatever they have on their minds and put this thought into the jar. “And after a certain time we empty out the prayer jar and talk about what people have written and you pray over it and you just sort of give it to God. And just reading those slips of paper helps me to put my life in context.”
Burrows noted that personal connections such as these are especially precious while living in such a turbulent era of history.
“Especially in times like these, having that shared connection of we’re all humans, nobody’s perfect, we all have good days and bad days — it really really helps when people walk in the door and they know that, [they’re] gonna be treated with a certain level of respect and a certain level of just love,” she said. “This is really the first time I’ve had the opportunity to just love on customers and it’s really a blessing for me.”
As blessed as Burrows feels now, her current success certainly didn’t come cheap. Because her store was supposed to open at just the moment the country began shutting down due to the coronavirus, Burrows said she had to put a lot of thought into when and how she would actually end up opening her store.
When she did eventually open in May, she said, “It was the right time, it was the right proposition,” adding, “I had an employee base that wanted to make money, that wanted to get back to work. And most importantly, our consumers really wanted healthy food. They had been couch potatoes for months.”
And in a twist of fate, Burrows’s store opening coincided with a growing support of the Black Lives Matter movement, when people were eager to support Black-owned businesses. “They really got to know me, know my family, really support a business at a deeper level probably than they had in the past,” Burrows said. “It was a bit of a perfect storm but I was able to come out all the better for it.”
Is this the right path
Just as Burrows followed her own path in choosing to franchise, she advised any would-be franchisees to think about their own lives, goals, and desires before embarking on this business.
“The most important thing is to just determine your personal ‘why,’” she said. “What’s the purpose of this next chapter of your career, of your journey?”
Along with consulting with a financial planner, choosing the right brand, and shoring up start-up funds, Burrows said it’s most important to consider the people already involved with the brand.
“Look at the brand and franchise concept and the leadership team,” she said. “Who are the players? A lot of it comes from your gut. Do you trust them? Do you like them? Do you find them credible?”
“And most importantly are the franchisees happy? That’s something that you will get a sense of right away.” She recommended talking to several other franchisees and get their take. “Are they happy? Are they thriving?”
At the end of the day, trusting yourself is the biggest thing.